I've been working away on a couple of things since Monday. This is one of them, but not the one I'd expected to finish first. Such is life!
Monday, as you'll recall, was the day that the Downtown BIZ decided to start posturing; the organization had been cleaning the place up since at least the previous Friday, if that caption on the second picture of the Free Press article is accurate, so they felt really confident in challenging downtown visitors to try and find any vandalism. Executive Director Stefano Grande -- who I really never intend to single out, but who keeps blurting out things he shouldn't -- would later add the claim that "You can walk around downtown for an hour and not see graffiti", to give you some idea of how committed they were to this.
So I popped out after working downtown that day to see if I might happen to come across any graffiti, and... well, I've been weeding photographs ever since, but despite my efforts there's still probably going to be at least a hundred pictures in the eventual album. The blog post about my exploration that evening is obviously still forthcoming, but the estimate I just gave you kind of foreshadows how that walk went.
That's what we've got coming up in the near future, if it sounds like something you might be interested in. But, hey, in the meantime -- let me tell you what I've got for you right now!
You see, going out and about downtown that day also gave me the opportunity to grab the last bits of footage I needed for an entirely different activity, one that I've had in mind since I found this online a while back.
ha ha ha oh wow
A little bit exaggeratory? Well, maybe a little. A little bit over-the-top? Yes, perhaps. (It was the '80s, after all.) But you have to realize, this was legitimately what people expected of Portage Place when it was built; the downtown shopping centre was a major source of excitement for the city, even hailed as the potential "salvation of downtown Winnipeg" when it opened in September of 1987.
(Holy crow, that video is a wayback machine just by itself. The 24Hours News Team! Mayor Bill Norrie! MP Lloyd Axworthy! Urban Affairs Minister Gary Doer! Man, what a trip.)
An estimated 250,000 (!) visitors flocked to the new downtown landmark that day, and the excitement generated by this major revitalization project ushered in a new era of prosperity and prominence for the city's downtown core. I mean, there's no possible way you just lose that kind of momentum without--
Okay, never mind, I guess. Everything fell apart for Portage Place within the first nine months (!!), with blame laid in a few different areas -- including low customer traffic along the skywalks, the absence of nearby businesses open during the evenings, and a clientele base who would just hang around for hours without ever actually spending money.
You know what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I know I may, occasionally, give the impression that I'm underwhelmed with business advocacy groups like the Downtown BIZ, but really I do try not to be too hard on them. I mean, Jesus, look what they inherited. This is what they get to work with.
Anyway, I just told you all of that to tell you this: straits have been dire for Portage Place since as far back as June of 1988, which means that I'm twenty-two years late to this joke. But sometimes a juxtaposition is just so poignant that you can't help but explore it, and my rigorous commitment to accuracy -- plus the surprise discovery that nobody else has done this yet (I mean, really?) -- finally baited me into updating the information on record.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you: the Winnipeg Portage Place commercial, 2010 Edition.
Kevin McDougald of The View From Seven recently suggested that the reduction or destruction of Portage Place would be a significant contribution towards improving the downtown, but admitted that the idea is considered "think(ing) the unthinkable". All's I'm saying is: maybe we could think about it a little. See what you make of it.