By Trevor Suffield
Jan. 1, 2009
Scott Fielding has been the city councillor for the St. James-Brooklands ward since 2006, has lived in the area all of his life and has seen it go through many changes. Because of increased development around the Polo Park area, concerns about traffic are growing. Fielding recently talked with reporter Trevor Suffield about the area's past, present and future.
Q: Looking back on 2008, what were the highs and lows for the St. James-Brooklands area?
A: We were able to invest a lot more in some of our park amenities in terms of playground structures and also some park renewals. On a global scale, there's some bigger developments in St. James that are happening. Of course the development of the inland port, which is now being called CentrePort, is something that can really revolutionize the Winnipeg economy, and if we are able to do it in a way that makes sense for the community, it will make the CentrePort, airport, and St. James area really a centre for trade across North America that leads to India and China. For low-lights, on a city level we still have a big crime problem that we need to really take a bite out of, so those are things we still need to work on. We are going in the right direction and crime is coming down, but to a certain extent there is still way too much of it going on.
Q: What are your thoughts on the traffic problems surrounding Polo Park?
A: What has happened over the last 10 or 12 years since this development started is that there hasn't been a great transportation plan that has been in place, as you see some of the backlog on a Saturday or whenever you're driving to the Polo Park area. With the potential developments that people are talking about, we know for a fact that the old arena site is being developed into a lifestyle centre, and with the potential of the stadium site, both combined things could add close to a million square feet of retail space, if the projects proceed. So what I will be doing is asking for a transportation study that looks at exactly at how we need to update some of our transportation and route systems to make it more amenable for people to gain access to these points.
Q: Would you ever support a development freeze?
>A: I wouldn't support a development freeze in that area, but I think that as we move forward we need some proactive planning on how we're going to handle this extra traffic and transportation needs in this area. I think this is something that can be done before developments happen, as well as in conjunction with them, because I think it's a very important element.
Q: What do you think the area is missing?
A: What I would like to see, and not just necessarily in the Polo Park area, is to have some active transportation systems that lead into the Polo Park area, maybe some better routing systems for busses. And I'd like to develop an active transportation corridor throughout St. James that would have more bike trails and more amenities.
Q: What are your thoughts on the demise of the apartment buildings in North Kildonan?
A: I'm the chair of property, planning and development, so I voted in favour because I think we got to make sure we look at development when an outside investor comes and is looking to invest close to $50 million, and add close to a half a million dollars to the tax base. We really need to take a look at these, especially with apartment living, where there is a shortage of apartments in Winnipeg. With that being said, we do need to ensure that there is consultation with the public and with the community to make sure that these types of projects fit in to the community.
Q: How are celebrating the holiday season?
A: What we like to do is bunker down with our family and spend a lot of time with family and friends. Give thanks for what's been going on in the year past, and look forward to the new year. It sounds a little like a cliche, but that's what we do.