Uncertain campus development sparks concerns from Spence community

Residents reluctant to support new RecPlex, related projects

To bulldoze or not to bulldoze? Whether or not the vacant house at 373 Langside will be torn down to make way for the U of W’s planned green corridor remains to be seen. Kevin Legge

As the University of Winnipeg continues construction on a pair of expansion projects on the west side of campus, community organizations and residents are raising concerns about the potential loss of housing in the neighbourhood.

Jamil Mahmood, executive director of the Spence Neighbourhood Association, told The Uniter he expects at least one house on Langside Street, being used by PCL Construction Company, to be torn down to make room for the UNITED Health & RecPlex, a multi-purpose recreational complex the university began constructing last fall.

“Hopefully, we don’t lose any more housing,” said Mahmood.

The university purchased 373 Langside St., a vacant house, which it wants to tear down as part of its planned green corridor to the Furby-Langside campus. The house still stands despite rumours of its impending demolition.

And although no homes in the area have yet been demolished, the SNA has engaged the university in discussions to ensure there remains adequate housing in the area, Mahmood said.

Mahmood said the discussions, which ended nearly a month ago, resulted in the university agreeing to consider its impact on housing in the area before proceeding.

Jeremy Read, senior executive officer at the university, is confident that the university is doing its due diligence to minimize the expansion’s impact on housing in the surrounding community.

“We are committed to bringing forward viable options to the university and surrounding community for input sometime in the next couple months,” he wrote in an email statement.

The university is exploring options of rerouting the Spence Street bus loop in a way that minimizes the university’s impact on housing, Read added.

He did not confirm whether or not the project would result in the demolition of 373 Langside.

However, the bus loop’s relocation, necessitated by construction of the university’s RecPlex, is another point of concern raised by area residents.

Hopefully, we don’t lose any more housing.

Jamil Mahmood, executive director, Spence Neighbourhood Association

Craig Fraser has lived on Langside for almost a decade and is concerned residents of the area have not yet been considered in the planning of the new loop.

“The major issue I have is that they decided to make the bus loop without consulting the community,” he said. 

“As somebody living on this street, I had absolutely no say.”

According to Mahmood, the university told the SNA they would conduct a survey to gather community input on construction of the loop, but have not yet done so.

He believes residents in the area are hesitant to support the RecPlex because they are worried it, like the Duckworth Centre, won’t live up to its promises of community benefit.

“The Duckworth Centre was supposed to be a community facility, then, in two years, there was no more community access,” said Mahmood.

Although the university indicates inner-city residents will have access to the facility through a “collaborative community charter,” Mahmood is skeptical.

“We saw the charter and it was not as strong as we would have wanted it to be,” said Mahmood. 

“They watered it down a lot from what was originally proposed.”

The SNA has proposed a number of revisions to the charter, but had not yet received a response from the university as of last week.

Published in Volume 67, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 23, 2013)

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