News / Winnipeg

Phoenix Rising walking tour puts West Broadway in the spotlight

A walking tour planned will discuss the evolution of the 130-year-old neighbourhood.

The Sherbrook Street Festival in West Broadway.

Metro file

The Sherbrook Street Festival in West Broadway.

A walking tour named after a flaming mythical bird born in ashes would have to take place in a neighbourhood with quite the story.

Robert Shaw, a long-time West Broadway resident, will guide what’s billed as a “two-hour ‘Phoenix Rising’” walking tour around his ‘hood because he feels the area he’ll plod about has just such a saga.

“I’ll probably make it three hours,” Shaw joked while talking about the story, which, spoiler alert, culminates with his conclusion that West Broadway today is one of the most interesting and diverse old neighbourhoods in Winnipeg.

“It’s got a wide range of people, it’s often viewed as a place struggling with poverty and social issues (but) in terms of education levels and in terms of employment it mirrors the rest of the city,” he said. “There are some misconceptions about the neighbourhood that it’s only folks struggling.

“There’s an element of that, but what makes it unique is that it’s people from newcomers to people who have lived there 40-years plus.”

It also has the “widest range of housing options” around, Shaw said. He has lived in rooming houses, rental homes, apartments and now owns a home – all within West Broadway.

The neighbourhood encompasses newer apartments, condos, old homes converted into duplexes and triplexes. Shaw notes very few of these dwellings are owner occupied, which loans itself to – and is surrounded by – a purposeful mix of some 5,300 people of all walks, a vibrant commercial strip and range of social services.

“People walk, live, work and play (here),” Shaw said. “It’s a community where you can do all of that for your entire life.”

The walking tour will set out on October 1 at 9 a.m. from 222 Furby Street.

Two walking tour stops explained

Milner House: The 1909 historic home built for an early Winnipeg Grain Exchange executive has been vacant since 1990. Shaw said it was nearly demolished, but has a new lease on life planned, as it will become a daycare. “That’s an (the spirit) here I want to share: with some imagination and often with community consultation, you can really make something old new and vibrant in the community.”

Crossways-in-Common: Built in 1911, the originally Methodist church was razed in a fire in 1987.  From the ashes of that tragedy, however, a place Shaw believes exemplifies West Broadway’s resiliency was born. “They deliberated for a while if they should rebuild… consulted the community… now it’s housing three different places of worship as well as a bunch of community organizations,” Shaw said. “This dramatic event—a fire for example—ended up reinvigorating the purpose of the building.”