Sunday, 16 December 2012

Winter Wonderland

With Christmas just around the corner (9 days and counting), and as my oldest son Connor turns sixteen, five days before Christmas, I’m reminded of when he was little and the fascination that he had with everything to do with Christmas.  At times I think he was more interested in Christmas than his actual birthday.  From decorating the tree to “helping” me wrap presents he was excited to do it all, and that excitement spread through the whole house. 

So as I watch the hustle and bustle of shoppers in The Forks Market and the little children getting excited about the Christmas lights, the big tree and Santa’s sleigh you can just feel the magic of the holiday season.

The smell of fresh baking coming out of the oven at Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company or the sound of the steamer at Human Bean Coffee and Tea making a latte are just the things to put you in the Christmas spirit. 

Walking through The Market Loft retailers on the second floor will definitely inspire you with fabulous one of kind gift ideas from personalized ornaments from Bayshore Gifts in Glass to hand made moccasins from Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique. With nearly 75 shops on site there is truly something for everyone while shopping at The Forks.

The magic comes alive every weekend with a visit from the big guy himself Santa Claus, and his lovely wife Mrs. Claus. Every child is welcome to come and see Santa, sit in his sleigh, and talk to their hearts content. 

Hearing impaired children can communicate directly with Santa in American Sign Language on December 15th and 21st. Then once they're done visiting they can head over to the atrium to make a special  ornament to take home and hang on their own tree. Happy Holidays!

-Andrea Clow

Friday, 7 December 2012

Warming Huts

We recently announced the winners of the Warming Hut v.2013: Art and Architecture on Ice. One winner from Cambridge, one from New York and one from Winnipeg. As well we rolled out our invited architect from Montreal and the U of M entry.

Warming Hut v.2013 Winners

New this year were two art pieces that have nothing to do with the competition but will be installed on the River Trail anyways. There are several other various art and programming pieces that are in various stages of creation and may actually be realized this winter. I can’t tell you much more, but they are all very interesting.

However what the most interesting part to me is how a relatively simple project like a skating trail inspires creative genius here and around the world. Creating a skating trail down a frozen river seems fairly simple and rather obvious in a winter city. It doesn’t take a great visionary to have that idea. However, the jolt that  this skating trail has given to the creative spirit is truly amazing. It has spun a whole other world of the human spirit. Recreation mashing with art.

It would have been hard to imagine when creating the world’s longest skating trail a few years back that it would have also resulted in the world’s largest outdoor art and architecture gallery. It’s hard to imagine that artists and architects the world over would take such a great interest in the project and compete far beyond the monetary rewards (we simply cover the cost of the builds) to be able to participate. We didn’t set out to do any of these things but they happened anyway.

Skating at The Forks

A simple idea creating complex thought and effort. Quite a spin off.

This year as you skate, ski, bike or walk and enjoy 15 different huts, several art installations, crazy events and  random acts of architecture take a moment and marvel in the creative spirit that is unleashed when people gather together to create things for no other reason than pure fun.

-Paul Jordan

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hempyrean : Your Eco-Friendly Clothing Company

It is easy to recognize the value of natural ingredients when it comes to food, health and beauty products. But what about the value of natural clothing? While most people know basic types of fabric, not many concern themselves with the impact that their clothing makes on the environment. Wearing natural clothing is just as important as eating natural food products. Luckily, The Forks’ Hempyrean carries a variety of styles in natural organic fibres to meet your fashion needs while also being environmentally friendly.

At the forefront of the Hempyrean is Mike Carriere. His story began 10 years ago when he decided to open up his shop at The Forks. Before launching Hempyrean, Mike Carriere researched the benefits of hemp. His research revealed that hemp was extremely versatile, which fully convinced him that opening a shop was the right idea.
Next up was to decide what type of product and styles the Hempyrean would carry.

Carriere states “We wanted to use this amazing fabric, but knew that it needed to be moved towards something softer that we could use for our cross-over urban/tribal styles.

The store supplies a variety of designers to keep stock fresh, stylish and accessible. Brands carried include Nomads and Hemp Hoodlamb. Hemp Hoodlamb specializes in jackets for men and woman. With a fashion forward approach, Hemp Hoodlamb provides stylish outerwear products for both casual and formal occasions. The Ladie's Long Coat and the Men's Classic Coat are ideal for day to day wear, providing clean straight lines with a faux fur hood lining for warmth and comfort. If you are looking for a jacket to wear to more formal events, the Men's P Coat is classy and practical.

Hemp Hoodlamb
For a sportier look, Nomads offers a number of sweaters, hoodies and jackets. The menswear Zephyr Jacket is a great layering piece for winter. The Aquarius Hoodie for women features slimming lines and a lined hood to stay toasty. Keeping with their casual and laid back vibe, the Nectar Tunic hugs your curves without being constricting and looks great paired with other comfy-favourites like leggings.

Hemp is only one of the natural fibres that Hempyrean carries. You can also find clothing made from bamboo, soy, organic cotton and tencel. In addition, the store supplies a variety of health and food products such as shampoos, lotions and seed oil.

The Forks was the clear winner when it came to picking a location for his shop. Mike Carriere was attracted to The Forks because of the relaxed yet energized atmosphere and the environmentally aware visitors who shared in his vision for natural products.

Next time you visit the Forks, be sure to stop by Hempyrean on the second floor of the Forks Market and support the vision of sustainable, green fashion.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Soul of The Forks

It’s been almost 20 years since my mother’s sister last visited her home town Winnipeg.
During a family visit this past summer my aunt, a former antique shop owner and now an aspiring poet, story teller and writer, recalled how she always enjoyed “the shops in those old warehouse buildings” at The Forks

And so, on our way to the site this summer I decided to give her a different view of The ForksWe parked the car beside the Basilica in St. Boniface and walked across the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge.  Needless to say she was quite surprised to see the iconic architecture of the “new” bridge and the CanadianMuseum for Human Rights.

We strolled along the riverbank pathway through the national historic site and behind the Children’s Museum before stopping at the grassy bowl amphitheatre known as Oodena (Ojibwe for “heart of the community”).   

I told my aunt that a local architect (Gary Hilderman) was commissioned to design this space as a “spiritual heart” within the hustle and bustle of The ForksThe concave space recalls the ancient ties between early humans and their environment as the three meter deep excavation unearths the ground Aboriginal people walked upon 3000 years ago. Oodena acts as a naked eye observatory.  Its steel armatures mounted on the cobblestone monoliths define precise sight lines for visitors to view specific stars.  Stories and images from various cultures are presented on interpretive panels and sandblasted into the monoliths.

With seating around the grassy bowl this is a special place for Aboriginal and cultural celebrations (not to mention a popular spot for sunbathing).  Live plays, storytelling and some great musical performances, including John Hammond Jr. and the Blind Boys of Alabama, have taken place here!

Next to Oodena is The Forks Prairie Garden in full bloom.  My aunt does a fair bit of gardening and was quite impressed with the naturally wild garden with over 150 plant species, including prairie plants such as prairie crocus, wild iris and purple prairie clover. I explained that the garden was actually above an archaeological preserve.  After people had camped here thousands of years ago, the evidence of their campsites would be covered by mud from one of the many floods that took place at The Forks, preserving the artifacts beneath the new soil.

The first peoples were bison hunters. Two 6000 year old hearths (camp fires) discovered near the Forks Market containing catfish remains and flakes from making stone tools are the earliest evidence that people camped at The Forks.  The hearths were uncovered at a depth of 20 ft.

At the Prairie Garden location a 3000 year old campsite and trading centre was discovered 10 feet below the surface.  The different styles of arrowheads confirm that people from the north, the plains, and the west met at The Forks.

The Forks was continually visited by different Aboriginal groups. They had many varied ways of life – prairie people hunted bison, fished and farmed; people of the forests relied on moose, fish and wild rice; and people from the Great Lakes area hunted deer and fished.
Because of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, it was easy for people to come together to trade their special products with others. Aboriginal Elder oral history tells of a Peace Meeting of several tribes held at The Forks over 500 years ago. Intensive hunting and fishing occurred in conjunction with the important trade and territory discussions. 

My aunt noticed the Healing Rock, across the pathway, a massive granite stone weighing about ten tonnes and estimated to be millions of years old.  I told her a Metis artist Natalie Rostad Desjarlais created this as tribute to the Aboriginal community, using her talent to highlight the hidden images within the rock.  Gazing closer my aunt could see images of an eagle, and human faces. 

The rock originates from St. Francis Xavier.  A number of years ago The Forks was contacted by the artist looking for a place where more people would see it. We made arrangements to truck the Healing Rock to the Forks. 

Next up was the colourful mural painted by Aboriginal artist Mike Valcourt on the Historic Rail Bridge’s counterweight.   The mural pays tribute to Cree artist Jackson Beardy as well as the other members of the 'Indian Group of Seven'.  In the words of the artist, “Beardy painted the legends of his culture and became a legend himself.”

We crossed the bridge to the South Point where some historians believe Fort Rouge (1738-1749) was established by La Verendrye.   La Verendrye was the first European to meet the First Nations peoples camped at The Forks.    

What’s in the future for South Point ?. The Forks is presently working with a group called The Treaty Legacy Foundation on an intriguing concept for this site. Their goal is to create a venue and program that builds public awareness about treaties and the relationship of treaties to present day issues affecting both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.  The group’s planning includes the commissioning of a feasibility study and preparing design concepts for the project.

Our walking tour ended with some shopping in the Market and some delicious fish n chips. Later that evening while relaxing and reflecting on the day’s activities my Aunt commented on how much she enjoyed the stories behind The Forks…”it’s what gives the place “soul”. It’s been 25 years since renewal of the abandoned rail yard began.  My walk that day was a reminder of how important it is to share the stories behind this historic site.

-Toby Chase

Monday, 5 November 2012

Taking Green to the Next Level

We’ve got an impressive goal with our Target Zero initiative: zero garbage, zero water consumption and zero carbon emissions. This year, we saw some real green when it came to this initiative, both environmental and cold, hard cash. 
There are some pretty cool statistics that go along with our savings:
·       Geothermal – Last year we saved $100,000 in heating bills due to the installation of the geothermal heating/cooling system in The Forks Market. As a direct result nearly 1 kilotonne of greenhouse gas emissions were not put back in to the air.
·       Water – Since The Forks began its water conservation/matching use program, 7.5 million litres of water have been conserved in The Forks Market at a savings of $22,000.
·       Waste – In 2005, The Forks paid $75,000 to put waste into the landfill. Last year, only $30,000 was paid and revenues from other tenants totaled $20,000.
·       Fuel – By converting fryer oil and powering site equipment, 22,000 litres of “veggie oil” were used and $30,000 was saved. That’s why our Zamboni smells like French Fries!

But, we’re not stopping there. We’ve been meeting with active living and recreational groups to find out how they use our site. We met everyone we could think of: biking, walking, hiking, kayaking, running, winter and skateboarding groups. We want to come up with a strategy for everyone that could improve amenities, communication and use.

We also just launched a really cool walking tour for school kids that teaches them about our stuff and then encourages them to think of things they can do themselves. The Target Zero Eco-Kids Tour, presented by MMSM, is led by two great actors from Green Kids Inc.

Inside The Market there’s now a green store too. The aptly named Generation Green specializes in eco-friendly bio-degradable items for household use. They have laundry detergents, baby stuff and tons of cosmetics.

And, we’re not slowing down either. We really do believe that we can make a difference by continuously looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. No greenwashing here either. When we do it, we do it the best way we can. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Chilean Corner

For over eight years now Marta Reyes has been serving up exceptional Chilean cuisine at The Forks Market. Those who have had the pleasure of enjoying her Chilean creations know how gifted she is, those who haven’t, are simply missing out. Traditional Chilean cuisine incorporates a variety of Spanish-influenced dishes while featuring common Chilean ingredients including seafood, grilled meats, corn, beans, potatoes and tropical fruit. It is known for its delectable variety of flavours and its vibrant colours, thus setting it apart from any other cuisine in the world! Marta captures these elements in the food she prepares and displays them beautifully for the customers and patrons of The Forks Market.
Growing up in Chile, Marta began cooking for her family and friends at a young age, inheriting recipes and cooking methods from her mother and other women in her neighborhood. She started by using her food as a way of contributing to her community; it wasn’t until she moved to Winnipeg in 1991 that it became a feasible business opportunity. Over time, she has been able to perfect her process.
She wanted to provide people with an alternative and felt that Winnipeggers shouldn’t have to wait for Folklarama to try Chilean food. So she opened up the Chilean Corner and made a significant addition to the mosaic of ethnic delights the Forks Market has to offer. “It is a perfect place for people like me to share their culture” she states.
Chilean Corner is known especially for its empanadas, which are stuffed pastries consisting of meat, vegetables, fruits and spices. Other notable dishes include Charquican, a Chilean beef stew, Chilean Completo, which is essentially a Chilean spin on the traditional hot dog, and Charcarero, a beef and tomato sandwich.
Even with most of her free time going towards her store, she still plays a very prominent roll in her community, “I make lots of homemade soups for a lot of people in my area; I guess you could say it’s made me quite popular”.
It is Marta’s passion to present her culture’s cuisine to the people of Winnipeg, but it’s not always that easy. Marta states, “People are afraid to try something they’ve never had before, which in this case, is my cooking”. She won’t let this discourage her and she remains confident that people will love her food as soon as they try it. So if you’re looking to try something new on your next lunch break give Chilean Corner a try, you won’t be disappointed. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Waterfront

As many of you may know we are working on a long term plan for Winnipeg’s downtown waterfront – really a 20-30 year vision of what can be done to celebrate Winnipeg as a river-city.  We’ll be providing an update on the plan at our upcoming AGM on October 31*.

The idea for creating such a plan evolved over the last decade or so through a variety of discussions with people from throughout North America (and beyond) at the WaterfrontCenter annual conference. When I chaired the awards selection jury at this US based organization it became quite clear that the creation of a long term vision is an early and important step in city-building.  It was equally clear that Winnipeg has a great opportunity waiting to happen.  So discussions began with senior city, provincial and federal officials and the idea was embraced - create a river-front plan that celebrates Winnipeg as a river-city.

With developments at The Forks we have taken a very important step in that direction. In fact, Winnipeg has received three Waterfront Centre awards including the Riverwalk (Forks to Legislature), The Forks Historic Port and River Trail/Warming huts.  Winnipeg and The Forks have become well recognized at these conferences.

A long term vision needs careful thought and consideration.  Participation in meetings and work-shops at those conferences, where we hear examples of what works and what doesn’t develop prepares us with new insights and knowledge.   

Two weeks ago I attended the 30th Annual Waterfront Center Conference in Washington DC. Although attendance was lower than usual with approximately 150 participants, it had representation from many parts of the world.  I had the pleasure of chairing a panel on mixed-use development with some very smart people from NYC, Vancouver BC, and Duluth.  Different stories from different places with some very similar messages.

Some of the highlights that hit home are:
  • ·       Plan for the big-picture but don’t be overly prescriptive.  Be open to take advantage of new ideas and new opportunities as they arise.
  • ·      Although it is big attractions that often draw people to the waterfront we were reminded by our NYC panelist, who designed Battery Park, that the most compelling element is the relationship with the surrounding environment and making the waterfront part of everyday life.
  • ·      Big is not always better and it is important to take full advantage of small green spaces that create intimate natural settings for leisure and relaxation.
  • ·      Waterfronts are a life’s work and need continuous care and improvement (we experience this at The Forks).
  • ·      It takes time and often a number of plans before projects are adopted and built so diligence and determination are required. (Interestingly those we speak to are impressed how quickly The Forks transformed a rail-yard into what exists today – it seems like a long-haul to us.)
  • ·      Connect the waterfront to the people first, not the buildings.  And acknowledge the gaps, ensuring linkages to the adjacent neighbourhoods.

These are good lessons many of which we have tried to incorporate into or planning process.  We are appreciative of those that share their stories at conferences like this but are equally receptive to local Winnipeggers sharing their thoughts and ideas. 

-Jim August

*The Forks North Portage Annual General Meeting is being held on Wednesday, October 31 from 8:30 am to 10:00 am at the Children’s Museum. It is open to the public. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Yudyta's Ukrainian Food

When Judy Woligroski opened Yudyta’s Ukrainian Food in The Forks Market in 1989, she didn’t even know how to make a perogy.

The only thing Judy knew for sure was that she liked The Forks because it was a “cool place to hang” and saw potential in its daytime traffic and diverse clientele.

Initially her plan was to open a retail store but a hungry family member suggested a food kiosk. She would take the advice, but would need her mother’s traditional Ukrainian recipes, and more importantly she would need her mother’s help.

Luckily for Judy, her mother Caroline adored The Forks. She loved the morning commute, the wildlife, the trees and the overall atmosphere of the area. They both knew it was a special place and wanted to be a part of its bright future.

So, together, the Woligroskis began pumping out delicious perogies, cabbage rolls, garlic sausage and borscht gaining a reputation throughout Winnipeg as a premiere perogy palace.  As demand for their product grew, so did their operation.They began catering special functions from office parties to weddings. They couldn’t make perogies fast enough during the holiday season, as they became an extremely hot commodity.

To the Woligroskis, The Forks Market is a second home and its tenants a second family. They support one another; if someone runs out of oil or potatoes they are quickly taken care of. It’s a community of caring and cohesion coming together for a common goal of making The Forks a Winnipeg destination.

This family element was especially evident in June when Judy’s mother tragically passed away. Again, Judy needed help, and The Forks community gave her the support she needed to continue the Yudyta’s legacy.

Although Judy has had challenges to overcome, mostly related to replicating her mother’s borscht recipe, you can still find Judy behind the counter at Yudyta’s. Still serving up exceptional Ukrainian cuisine and tremendous customer service.

So if you find yourself at The Forks on an empty stomach go see Judy at Yudyta’s Ukrainian Food. Never tried a cabbage roll before? She will treat you to a free sample. What to learn how to make a perogy? Wash your hands and put on an 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Warming Huts Jury

 It is always an interesting mix when you have a group of artists discussing a project with some operations guys.

This past Saturday the warming huts jury, with nine established and creative architects and three operations people, met to select this year’s winning warming huts. Five huts needed to be picked out of 100 submissions from all over the world.

The day started early as the jury who hail from as far away as Halifax, Albuquerque and New York came together to start plowing through the stacks of drawings hoping that the winners would pop out right away. No such luck. This year’s submissions were of high quality. After three years of competition teams are starting to really go for it creatively.

The first cull by the jury took two hours and all they were able to eliminate was 25 submissions. The jury realized at this point that they were going to have to be ruthless if they were going to get it down to the top five by day’s end. Another cull and another ten were out.

The jury then broke onto three groups and were instructed to come back with their top five. After a few more hours they were down to the final fifteen. Now the debates began in earnest.

This is the point where the operations guys, including me, start to get really nervous. Although we can’t vote or influence the jury, we are going to have to try and build what they select. There was lots of nervous whispering amongst us as the jury got down to the final five. We agreed that as long as one particular entry didn’t make it we would be ok. Of course, it came in at number three and my brain started to hurt just thinking of how the hell we were going to build it. It’s going to be an interesting six weeks as we try and figure it out. We’ll give it a good shot and if it can’t be done we have two really strong alternates that we can default to.

The three entries that were selected are interesting this year. They will be far more subtle then past winners and all of them explore a deeper sense of winter and nostalgia.

As always I learn a lot about how other countries perceive us. Our climate, our tremendous isolation and the unbelievable uniqueness of building something that rests on a frozen temporary environment intrigues creative minds from all over the planet.

The Warming Huts v.2013: An Art and Architecture Competition on Ice is entering its fourth year. The entries chosen last weekend now go through a due diligence phase to ensure they can be built. Winners will be announced in mid November. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Forks North Portage Blog

We have been talking about a blog for ages but haven’t gotten down to actually writing one.  So, here we are.  

The Forks Arial Shot by Dan Harper
As most of you know we have a lot going on around here and we have great stories to tell and ideas to share.  We will be discussing The Forks and the seasonal programming that takes place, sharing some stories about the North Portage neighbourhood, as well as what goes on behind the scenes.  Hopefully we can give our readers some insight on how we operate and what is important to us and ultimately to the broader community.

It is our intention to do a weekly entry. I plan on writing many of them, but our management group and even our tenants will be doing some of the pieces.  The upcoming entries will be diverse and cover a breadth of topics and subjects that are of interest to us and you.

Warming Hut Under Construction @ The Forks
Over the next few months we will discuss some of the headway we are making on our recent (2011) Ten Year Concept and Financial Plan. We have some significant planning challenges as we take a closer look at the Railside development concept identified in that plan.  It’s not only challenging from an economic and development perspective but we are very aware that the community has strongly held opinions on what should and should-not occur on that site. We need to make the economics work and do what is best for The Forks as a site as well as for the visitors.

We are also completing the downtown waterfront vision document and hope to have something to share at our AGM in late October.  This is a very exciting, albeit long-term, vision that we have been working on for the previous 18 months with the City of Winnipeg and other key stakeholders.  

There will be much to talk about as we plan for the winter programming at The Forks and we will provide an overview of the behind the scenes process that is underway for the now internationally recognized Warming Huts program.

We encourage our readers to share comments and opinions on what we write.  We want to start conversations on your thoughts and ideas on The Forks and other related downtown topics.  There will be future opportunity for guest blog spots,  and we are always interested in writing about topics suggested by our readers so feel free to contact us with ideas!

Written By: Jim August
 Chief Executive Officer