WINNIPEG — The man who transformed Times Square in New York City was in Winnipeg Thursday discussing opening Portage and Main to pedestrians.
“I thought it was amazing, it so literally is a hub,” Tim Tompkins, President of Times Square Alliance said when he first saw Portage and Main. “One thing I’ve heard about Winnipeg coming through is, how enormously its changed in the last 10 to 15 years.”
TIMELAPSE: Traffic at Winnipeg intersection being debated on whether to reopen to pedestrians or not
The famous intersection has been closed to foot traffic for 37 years, part of a 40 year contract signed when shop owners agreed to move underground.
“There is finally political will to open it up,” said the area councillor Jenny Gerbasi. “I’ve always been for the idea.”
“We think it can (open), otherwise we wouldn’t be having these conversations,” John Kiernan, the Director of Planning and Property Development for the City of Winnipeg said.
Tompkins met with city planners, developers and councillors Thursday morning to discuss his experience of opening Times Square up to pedestrian traffic 15 years ago.
“Part of it is test things, look at opportunities, try it on a temporary basis, do some openings, do some closings, alter some traffic flows and people’s perceptions of it,” Kiernan said.
Councillors voted last year to get a traffic patterns study done on the intersection to see what is possible.
“It doesn’t have to happen all at once,” Gerbasi said. “I mean you can let people start crossing and then you can add infrastructure.”
But Councillor Jeff Browaty disagrees.
“That’s a vehicle hub, not a pedestrian hub,” Browaty said. “I think the best thing for our downtown is to keep Portage and Main closed to pedestrians.”
Tompkins also spoke with the four property owners at the corner, who in the past have opposed opening the intersection, but that’s changed.
“We feel it’s a phenomenal opportunity to bring new and vibrant business at the corner of Portage and Main,” said Leasing Agent, Gail Auriti for Harvard Development Inc., the owners of 201 Portage Avenue.
Tompkins also held a public forum at the Fairmont Hotel. It ran from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
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