September 13, 2017 4:25 pm
Updated: September 13, 2017 4:27 pm

Growing Pains: Winnipeg’s older neighbourhoods

Osborne Village seen in May 2017.

Zahra Premji / Global News / File
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Winnipeg is growing. It’s exciting. But it’s not happening without some Growing Pains. This is part two of our series on the bumps in the road to a city of a million people and what’s being done to smooth them out.

You can read part one of Growing Pains here.

Metro Winnipeg’s population has increased by almost 50,000 people since 2011, the highest rate of growth since Unicity.

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That influx and renewal is changing the face of some of Winnipeg’s established neighbourhoods – for better and for worse.

“It was a pretty rough place when I lived there. It was peak gang with houses burning down. Most apartment blocks in the neighbourhood seemed to have one unit that was boarded up because there had been a fire in there.”

Most people choose where they want to live, but Christian Cassidy ended up in the West End partially by accident. A North Kildonan kid, he moved downtown as an adult to be close to the action and to avoid a lengthy commute.

“I used to shop at what used to be called Harry’s Foods and there’s a little street behind [it]. There were three, cute little apartment buildings that had been vacant for years and boarded up. One day I drove by and there were contractors’ vans out back, which is usually a bad sign [because] that means they’re getting ready to tear them down. Turns out, they were converting them into condos so I ended up buying one of these condos.”

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He’s noticed the area change, especially over the last few years. Although he understands the need for new development, Cassidy’s sentimental side is resistant to change.

“It is a struggle. I don’t want to see bulldozers coming to my neighbourhood and it all become $300,000 condos.”

While many long-time West Enders fight back against the so-called hipsters and gentrification, another established neighbourhood is dealing with its own set of problems. Stephanie Meilleur, the executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ says they’re dealing with a bit of a garbage epidemic.

RELATED: Osborne Village going through growing pains, not decline: residents

“We don’t have enough garbage cans in the Osborne Village to service the amount of garbage that’s being produced. I mean this as general litter… coffee cups from a coffee store or take out containers when you grab your lunch to go. The city, unfortunately, doesn’t have any more garbage cans to put out. They don’t have the money to empty those [bins] so we’re basically told, there’s nothing we can do.”

On top of the litter problem, the last few months have seen more empty storefronts with the closures of American Apparel, TD Bank and Desart. Despite these setbacks, Meilleur says the heart of the Osborne Village hasn’t changed.

“These are all small time business owners that are in the Osborne Village and we’re still pushing forward, even though we’ve had these limitations. We’re always developing.”

Meilleur adds the area still has the upper hand compared to other neighbourhoods because of its walkability.

“[People are] using their feet more than anything. When they’re using their feet, they’re walking by your storefront, they’re walking by your storefront and that’s what the Osborne Village has over any other area in the city of Winnipeg.”

In spite of businesses shutting down, the excess garbage and recent neglect, overall, residents still love the Osborne Village. And when it comes to the future of inner city neighbourhoods, Christian Cassidy says if you don’t like change or hipsters, too bad… get used to it.

“Some people may grit their teeth but you just have a different mix of people and a different mix of housing, which has been great for Sherbrook with all of the new businesses that are on there. A lot of those businesses were boarded up or very unloved. [It’s] all part of a city growing up.”

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