Five ways to transform Portage Avenue

The woes facing Portage Avenue have been well documented.

With the Winnipeg Jets home opener set for Sunday, Oct. 9, I can’t help but be reminded of a concept for The Uniter‘s annual Urban Issue that I’ve been trying to push for a couple years now:

What are five ways we can transform Portage Avenue?

No doubt there will be a huge audience — nationally and internationally — watching the Jets on TV, as well as others coming to the city to watch the Jets. And when I think of that, I can’t help but be a little bit embarrassed the MTS Centre is essentially bordered by two low-end retailers in Dollarama and the Bargain Shop.

These stores next to what is one of North America’s busiest venues. These stores next to what will be a sold-out arena some 40+ times a year.

This is not what we need downtown. This is not what we need to show TV audiences about what exists in our downtown. This doesn’t attract suburbanites or tourists to come and shop. Portage Place can barely even do that.

Sure, there are options in the Exchange District, maybe The Forks Market, if you ignore the fact that a lot of the tiny shops on the second level are exactly the same. (Note: the Market and Johnson’s Terminal have some great shops.)

But this doesn’t mean Portage Avenue can’t and shouldn’t be a retail juggernaut packed with local, unique businesses as well as smaller, niche international stores.

With the Jets, more people will be coming downtown more often. There are already some great places to eat, and likely many more to spring up. Let’s get some better shopping options. Get rid of the Dollarama and replace it with something better — anything really, if you think about it — that can serve as a good anchor tenant to rejuvenating Portage Avenue.

This might be the best chance downtown has had in years.

What are some other ways you’d like to see Portage Avenue transformed?