*Winnipeg Foundation in giving mood as 100th birthday nears *
HERITAGE and cycling advocates are celebrating the Winnipeg Foundation’s most recent birthday invitation.
Two civic capital projects — renovation of the former William Avenue library and construction of a cycling and pedestrian bridge across the Assiniboine River — could be one step closer thanks to an offer of financial support from the country’s oldest community fund.
The Winnipeg Foundation announced Tuesday it is offering the City of Winnipeg up to $5 million to leapfrog the two projects forward in the civic budget process, so they would be completed in time for the foundation’s 100th birthday in 2021.
However, there are strings attached: the funds are being offered only in support of the two proposals.
The former William Avenue library opened its doors in 1905, thanks to a $75,000 grant from American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It last served as the location for the city’s archival collection until a rainstorm damaged the roof during renovations in 2013. It has been empty since.
Last year, the National Trust for Canada placed the building in its 2018 top-10 endangered places list.
The proposed pedestrian and cycling bridge would link Osborne Village to the Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood and the downtown. It would be constructed between McFadyen Park and Fort Rouge Park, roughly midway between Osborne and Donald streets. Possible options would be to build it as either a girder, suspension or cable-stayed bridge.
“God bless the Winnipeg Foundation,” was the reaction Cindy Tugwell, executive director of Heritage Winnipeg, said she had when she heard the organization wanted to assist in the proposed renovation of the former William Avenue library. “They want to save heritage when nobody else does... The Carnegie library was well underway to being renovated when the rainstorm came in the summer (of 2013). If not for the rainstorm, the archives would have never left the building.”
As for the bike and pedestrian bridge potentially being pushed to the front of the line, Mark Cohoe of Bike Winnipeg said: “That’s amazing.”
“This really takes this project from the realm of ‘If we’re lucky,’ to something more doable and realistic,” he said. “It is exciting news.”
Cohoe said the bridge has long been dreamed of by local bike advocates.
“It helps create access across the river and into Osborne Village,” he said. “It also creates a city landmark... It would make a huge difference. It would encourage a lot more people to get out there.”
Rick Frost, chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Foundation, said in a statement the foundation’s centennial projects proposal acknowledges the past and gives a nod to the future.
“For all citizens of Winnipeg, it is critical we preserve, embrace and learn from our past if we are to build a better future,” he said. “The second half of our proposed centennial project looks to the future of our city — bringing people together and spanning lines that often divide.
“A new pedestrian and cycling bridge... will provide a direct, safe and convenient connection for walking and biking that plugs into the city’s growing Active Transportation Network.”
Frost asked Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and city councillors to look at its proposal favourably during the upcoming 2019 civic budget process.
The library, the city’s first and its main branch, was closed in 1977, when the Centennial Library (now known as the Millennium Library) opened. The William Avenue library reopened a year later, and was home to the city’s archives until 2013.
While city administration has asked the building be renovated, and include a temperature and humidity controlled vault, the plan has since been rejected by civic politicians.
A spokesman for Bowman said the mayor is aware of the Winnipeg Foundation’s proposal. “He has recommended to them that it be raised, discussed, and considered as part of the 2019 budget preparation process, which is a trajectory the Winnipeg Foundation has indicated they’ll follow at city hall,” the spokesman said.
“The mayor believes any city-building proposal and partnership merits consideration, and looks forward to reviewing this proposal and any others as part of the open and transparent 2019 budget discussions.”