Value planning: Waterfront Drive

In the Spring of 1999, a volunteer Waterfront Committee was formed to investigate the potential of developing a scenic drive along the river in the historic Exchange District of Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). A compelling argument was advanced for the development of the derelict rail yard lands along the Red River waterfront based on increasing land values and stimulating private sector economic development. The area suffered building abandonment, a lack of basic infrastructure, elevated crime and site contamination. The remediation and renewal costs were greater than the City’s capacity to finance.

The Committee explored a vision for the area and suggest candidate investments sufficient to reignite private investment, reversing the trajectory of a declining tax base and increasing costs from law enforcement and repair.

Two years later the City of Winnipeg and CentreVenture Development Corporation moved forward to create Waterfront Drive. This signature street was designed to act as a focal point for new development, promote the re-emergence of the Exchange District and to present a positive image for the City.

Along with the design of the new Waterfront Park and Drive, the design team completed a management plan for the East Exchange District, including an inventory and analysis of the existing conditions of the area to underpin intent-based architectural guidelines for new development that would enhance the character of the Exchange District National Historic site. These guidelines promoted excellence over heritage reinterpretation as well as the inclusion of public art as part of improving the richness of the urban environment.

Since the launch of the investment strategy, the parkway has been completed and the neighbourhood has seen over $250 million in private investment including nearly 500 new housing units, 12 vacant or derelict building conversions, and numerous new restaurant and hospitality concepts.

This project was the initial effort through the Mayor’s office and CentreVentre Development Corporation to begin modelling the return on investment from civic improvements intended to reignite private investment and reverse a high and growing vacancy rate in the district.

​The projects and accompanying development incentives within this defined precinct provoked sufficient development and tax base growth to pay a return-on-investment municipality greater than the costs of the improvements. The success of this project launched the value planning methodology which has been further extended and refined.