Exchange District businesses rally in support of opening Portage and Main

Streets signs for the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Portage and Main intersection is considered the centre of downtown. Don Denton/The Canadian Press

Several businesses in the Exchange District rallied Friday in support of opening Winnipeg’s most iconic intersection to pedestrians.

The Exchange District BIZ, along with more than a dozen area businesses, will post signs and do outreach about why they believe bringing down the barriers at Portage and Main is good for the city.

READ MORE: Barriers a barrier to developing Portage and Main, property owners say

“Most people just haven’t been given a chance to understand the facts,” said Mike Del Buono of King + Bannatyne.

There’s an “unbelievable amount” of misinformation surrounding the possible opening, Del Buono told 680 CJOB Friday morning.

“I’ve already had dozens of conversations with customers who have changed their minds once they got the real information behind opening the intersection.”

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Del Buono said he’s talked to customers about concerns around the cost and most are surprised to learn the city will have to spend about the same amount of money to repair the barriers as to remove them.

The other issue he likes to talk to customers about is accessibility.

“We live in 2018 and the fact is we’re infringing on people’s human rights,” he said.

“That they don’t have the ability to cross that intersection is honestly infringing on their rights.”

While he encouraged people to read the Dillon report — the study into opening the intersection — for themselves, he said store and business owners do have a role to play.

“We’ve got to come together as businesses and educate people.”

Parlour Coffee owner Nils Vik agreed.

“Of course you’ll be against opening Portage and Main to pedestrians if you think it’s going to cause ‘carmageddon,'” he said.

“Who wouldn’t be? But that’s just not reality.”

WATCH: Businesses in the underground on how opening Portage and Main may affect their stores.

Click to play video: 'Portage and Main: Businesses below' Portage and Main: Businesses below
Portage and Main: Businesses below – Aug 29, 2018

Several of the businesses offered Portage and Main themed specials Friday.

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The agreement to keep the barriers up at Portage and Main expires in 2019. The businesses at the intersection’s four corners have agreed to let them come down. However, the city will decide what to do after a non-binding plebiscite along with the civic election Oct. 24.

It currently takes about four minutes for someone to navigate the underground to cross Portage and Main. For a person with impaired mobility, that number goes up to eight minutes.

Portage and Main Fact Sheet by on Scribd

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