Downtown Winnipeg – Portage Avenue
I was out again last weekend taking pictures of buildings downtown here in Winnipeg. I already had some pictures from my trip down there a few weeks ago when I photographed the murals but I wanted to have some more to give you guys a pretty good picture of Downtown Winnipeg.
Before I show you Portage Avenue, let me first share this mural, which I’ve seen for the first time just last week at the corner of Main Street and Higgins Avenue as I was entering downtown from the North End of Winnipeg. I don’t go to this area that often but I had to accompany Reggie to his saxophone lesson in that part of the city. I was amazed when I saw this huge mural on our way back. This is titled Welcome to Downtown and according to The Murals of Winnipeg website this was just painted in 2001 and it was Mural of the Year 2002. The picture depicts the Copper Lady welcoming a newcomer with a map on his hands. You can view a larger image and read more about this mural on this page, or go to the site and browse the location 678 Main Street.
When I got off Portage Avenue on Saturday, I started taking pictures of The Bay. At first I thought that I looked silly taking pictures but I saw at least two people also taking snaps so I didn’t feel silly after that. I can’t remember if it was Señor Enrique or Sidney who said that we should try to be tourists in our own cities so that we could appreciate the beauty of our hometown, or something to that effect, and I guess that was what I have been doing lately.
Before I start, let me first introduce you to the Bears on Broadway as I will be mentioning them quite a bit in this and the next posts. In May 2005, CancerCare Manitoba set up 62 artistic polar bears on Broadway Blvd. The exhibit was a fund-raiser for CancerCare Manitoba in conjunction with sponsoring businesses who have paid for the bears to be decorated. All spring and summer long, Winnipeggers and visitors flocked Broadway Blvd. to visit the bears and take pictures. My family and I went there and took pictures of all 62 bears. You can view our Bears on Broadway album here. I just have to warn you. You might be sick of my face by the time you view all the bears. He he he. The Bears were removed from Broadway Blvd. in October 2005 to protect them from the harsh winter temperatures. They were moved to different locations all over the city and in some places throughout Canada.
To continue with the spirit of the Bears, now called Bears Beyond Broadway, new sculptures were placed all over downtown this past summer. This 10-piece temporary Public Art Display along Portage Avenue in the downtown core is called Art on the Avenue Sculpture Walk.
Now, let us start our tour of Portage Avenue at the corner of Memorial Blvd. This elephant structure, ELRT or Elephant Light Rail Transit, is just behind the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the building as my attention was focused on Portage Avenue. But you can take a glimpse of this triangular shaped building at this site. Last year, it was Bear’nard, A Work of Art, which occupied the elephant’s spot.
Across the street is The Hudson’s Bay Co., or The Bay as we fondly call it. It is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and the biggest department store here in Winnipeg. The goods sold here are a little more expensive than the ones sold at the shopping malls but they do have a better quality. It was here that Reggie finally found a watch that suited his taste after months of searching many stores. This teenager of mine has a very particular taste in clothes, shoes and other accessories. Picky, you might say, but Señor Enrique has mentioned that jazz musicians do have a sophisticated taste in clothing.
Standing in contrast against the old building of The Bay is the very modern Investors Group building with its glass windows. There’s a big red banner at the front which says, Manitoba Spirited Energy, a slogan we just started seeing this summer.
One of our favourite shopping malls is at the heart of downtown, Portage Place. It is a four-storey building that spans three city blocks. You’ll find most of the stores on the first and second floor. The third floor is the Entertainment Level where the Globe Cinema, IMAX Theatre and Prairie Theatre Exchange are located. It was at the Prairie Theatre Exchange where Reggie performed at the Manitoba High School Big Band Night in June 2005 and where they also had the Spring Jazz Concert in June 2006. The fourth floor contains mostly business offices.
The stores that we usually go to at Portage Place are Staples Home Depot, Payless ShoeSource, HMV, Hallmark Store and McNally Robinson Bookstore where I thought I lost Ryland last year when we watched a free jazz concert there. There is also a food court at this mall and a Baskin Robbins just next to the front door and where we usually buy ice cream cones after shopping.
In front of the mall is another one of the Art on the Avenue sculpture, called The Right Stuff (the police man). In this picture you’ll see one of a number of covered overpasses downtown, which we call Skywalk. They are very useful especially in the cold winter months.
Pictured below is one of the MTS (Manitoba Telecom Services) pay phones. There is one located at almost every other corner in the main streets of Winnipeg.
This is the MTS Centre. Eaton’s, another old department store, used to occupy this place but it has been demolished in 2003, much to the dismay of many old patrons, to give way to this new architectural delight as another step in giving downtown a more contemporary look. Construction of the new building took at least about a year and MTS Centre opened its doors in November 2004. Since then, it has been the host to many sports and entertainment events. The first time I entered its arena was when my two younger boys and I watched the Toronto Raptors play against the Portland Trailblazers in October 2005. The 2005 Juno Awards was also held here. It’s the equivalent of the Grammy Awards in the U.S. Some of the famous entertainers that had concerts here are Cher, Green Day, Black Eyed Peas, Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, BackStreet Boys, Paul Anka, Gwen Stefani, Bryan Adams, Crosby Stills Nash & Young. And most recently, Mariah Carey and Red Hot Chili Peppers. When I heard that James Blunt is coming on October 31, I almost bought a ticket, but it is on Halloween night and my kids, well at least my youngest one needs me that night to go trick or treating. So no can do. Well, anyway, I only really like one of his songs, You’re Beautiful. I just love his haunting voice.
This is Wind Wall, another Art on the Avenue sculpture. According to its young sculptor, “this multi-coloured wall is as reactive to the human touch as it is to the wind.” I think it was placed there strategically close to the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street, which I heard is the windiest part of the world.
That ends our tour for now. More next time.