Downtown residents’ association takes root

Group wants to promote advocacy, community in the heart of the city

  • Khris Lister (left) and Jomar Monzano (right) are two of the driving forces behind the Downtown Community Residents’ Association, which holds its AGM at the end of January. – Carson Hammond

“I love living on Broadway,” Khris Lister says from the warmth of one of the avenue’s coffee shops.

“When the trees are in bloom, I have picnics on the boulevard between both directions of busy traffic, and while I haven’t made a snowman yet, I’m determined to while I still have the chance.”

While Lister’s take on downtown Winnipeg living may sound like whimsical fun, getting the most out of a neighbourhood sometimes characterized, ironically, by its members’ sense of interpersonal isolation can be difficult.

That’s why Lister and a handful of other downtown dwellers decided to form the Downtown Community Residents’ Association, a fledgling group intent on bringing together neighbours from the area for conversation, advocacy and a good time.

Originally the brainchild of former University of Winnipeg Students’ Association president David Jacks, who has since stepped into a background role in steering the group, the association largely took root over the course of this past summer, Lister said.

“It’s a lot more personal and grassroots-focused,” she said. “We want to actually get to know our neighbours personally and work towards a stronger sense of everyone being part of a community.”

The group’s first annual general meeting is set to take place on Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Dalnavert Museum, where the association’s bylaws will be passed and its first board of directors elected.

Like Lister, Jomar Monzano has been actively involved in the organization throughout its formative process.

While residents of other core area neighbourhoods like West Broadway and the Exchange District are represented by similar groups, up until now, the DCRA’s designated area - bordered by Portage Avenue, The Forks, the Assiniboine River and Memorial Boulevard - has had no such representation established, Monzano notes.

Roughly 7,000 residents live in that area, according to the group’s research using recent census data.

“An association will help people identify with the neighbourhood more by representing its unique residential needs,” Monzano said.

Unique and often misunderstood, Lister added.

“There’s a lot of turnover in who lives downtown - it’s a transient neighbourhood,” she said.

“And that’s what a lot of people assume people living downtown are like - that you’re young, that soon you’re going to go buy a house with a white picket fence and move on, et cetera.

“But there’s a lot more to (downtown) than that, and I think a lot of residential needs get overlooked under those types of assumptions.”

Other specific issues that have come up in group meetings include night time safety and the scourge of urban atmosphere: surface parking lots.

“That one always seems to be a popular topic,” Monzano laughed.

Once its bylaws and board of directors are in place, the group hopes to help residents bring their concerns and ideas to the powers that be, engage with the local business community, organize social events and keep neighbours up to date on goings on in the area via their website and e-newsletter.

All residents of the downtown community are invited to attend.

The DCRA will hold its AGM on Sunday, Jan. 27 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Dalnavert Museum at 61 Carlton Street.

Visit downtowncommunity.wordpress.com.

Published in Volume 67, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 10, 2013)

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