We in North St. Boniface have long dreamed of exciting possibilities for our neighbourhood.
We dream of a bustling and exciting Provencher Boulevard, with thriving businesses. We dream of a pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly neighbourhood. We dream of an open and accessible community where people from all backgrounds, wealth and language can live together. We dream of a strong and enduring francophone community to pass along to the next generation of french speakers for them to call home.
St. Boniface needs growth and density. We need people living in our great community, volunteering, shopping, and building lives here. We need appropriate and ambitious development for this community to realize its full potential.
Many young people and those in the millennial generation desire different traits in a community than some of their parents and grandparents. They want an urban neighbourhood, they want to live in a city. They do not want to be dependant on their car, and they will choose to live, work, and invest in a community which offers that way of life. St. Boniface must embrace the next generation of leaders, businesspeople, and community members who will make its future, while preserving its history and heritage, and ensuring there is a place for everyone.
Projects like this one are what will help St. Boniface realize its full potential.
However, the people of St. Boniface have cause for concern, if we do not seize this future.
Since the last census in 2011, the population in North St. Boniface declined. Francophone youth and new families have found themselves slowly being priced out the neighbourhood, and have scattered across Winnipeg, hurting the critical mass needed for the French language to be a part of everyday life in St. Boniface. Likewise for our French as a second language friends.
New Canadians, such as West Africans, Arabs and others, are drawn to Winnipeg and to St. Boniface in part because of its strong Francophone heritage, services and institutions. They too are often excluded due to the shortage of affordable housing and the lack of diversity in housing options.
Projects like these reverse the trends which threaten our unique community’s future.
My wife and I have done our part having a couple of kids in the neighbourhood, but we can’t increase density in the neighbourhood all by ourselves. We need to have a range of housing options in Old St. Boniface so a senior who no longer needs a full single family home has the option of moving to a condo, so that house can be a new home for a young family. We need to have housing options for young people who can’t afford a single detached house. Young families are living right now in the new condos on Tache and say that they are proud members of the community where their children go to Tache School.
Some members of the community came out to voice their opposition to this park and residential project, while project supporters did not necessarily have the time to show their approval. We are a growing city, and we will have many more discussions like this one as a community. Properties that are ripe for development include the Old Parmalat site which is begging to be converted from Industrial to some form of of residential, empty lots remain on Provencher which are becoming more valuable with time and that will develop soon. These are two of what I hope will be many exciting developments to come.
I want to see a neighbourhood that is walkable, that is ideal for cycling, walking downtown with good access to bus service. We have a university and a hospital. I want to live in a City that has the amenities that a city has to offer; restaurants, public transportation, shops, things to do and other activity. Old St. Boniface almost has everything it needs to be a complete community. The last ingredient is people.
I remember when the news came that IGA on Provencher was closing. This would not have happened if demographic trends had been heading in the right direction. I want a St. Boniface where businesses are opening and competing with each other, not closing down because they don’t have the customer base for their businesses to be supported.
I believe we are moving in the right direction, that we need to keep working as a community to develop St. Boniface in a responsible way where the community is an active participant in discussions. I heard Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States of America say “If I live the rest of my days not having to live through another zoning meeting, I will die a happy man”. Well, Joe said that towards the end of his career in politics. I hope to sit through many zoning meetings in the years to come, and I welcome all feedback coming forward from the community. I’m looking forward to continuing to build St. Boniface together.