Brandon has a lot in common with Winnipeg.
Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press reporter and author of "Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg," was in Brandon on Saturday to read from his book, which sharply pokes fun at the city’s foibles in a way only a Winnipegger can.
About 15 community members were in attendance at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba on Saturday as Kives delved into the notorious love-hate relationship Winnipeggers have with their city, as he does in the book that took him and photographer Bryan Scott on an exploration of the provincial capital’s history and trajectory.
Ambivalence isn’t confined inside the perimeter, he said, and can be felt in Brandon and indeed any city.
"There are many parallels between Brandon and Winnipeg," said the Winnipeg Free Press reporter-at-large.
"You have an older core that doesn’t see the same kinds of development on the fringes, so over the course of decades, through no fault of any individual person, you get this situation where you have services where land may be cheaper or easier for people in a car-centred culture to park at and you don’t have the pedestrian services that you’d have at a traditional shopping core."
Brandon, Winnipeg, and other North American cities are similarly hollowed out in favour of cheaper land with expensive services lying underneath, Kives said.
So, as one person at Saturday’s reading asked, what are successful cities doing to combat this trend?
In big U.S. cities, downtown developments are led more by the private sector rather than waiting on governments to take the wheel, Kives said.
"Something I’ve seen in successful cities is being honest about what the problems are and not just expecting things to turn around and be better."
Before rattling off a laundry list of Winnipeg mega-projects that brought with the hope of a renewed city core — MTS Centre being one of the newest on that list — Kives said such projects generally don’t deliver on the expectations.
"Sports and entertainment palaces tend to suck up a lot more resources than they even bring back," he said. "Mega-projects don’t work."
In downtown Brandon, some feel a major project like a casino will be the catalyst to breathe new life into the city’s oldest area, but Kives argued what gets people — and their wallets — downtown is residential programs.
He added Brandon has to stick to its guns and not allow anymore development in the river valley.
Winnipeg’s unbridled growth is finally catching up to the city, manifesting itself as potholes and frozen pipes and while Brandon’s growing pains aren’t nearly as acute, it has its fair share of infrastructure woes.
"Winnipeg is a city on the precipice of a momentous decision," wrote Kives in one of the book’s essays, "one that really amounts to the cumulative result of a series of smaller decisions. For now, it stands between two futures and potentially many more. Pray to whatever deity you like to ensure the right choices get made."
For some, these words could ring just as true in the Wheat City.
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