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International conference looking at healthy downtowns shines light on Winnipeg

Urban experts from around the world are checking out the city and attending the International Downtown Association’s (IDA) 63rd Annual Conference and Tradeshow.

More than 600 delegates representing urban organizations and business districts are in Winnipeg this week for International Downtown Association’s 63rd Annual Conference & Tradeshow.

Bain, Jennifer

More than 600 delegates representing urban organizations and business districts are in Winnipeg this week for International Downtown Association’s 63rd Annual Conference & Tradeshow.

Hundreds of urban experts from around the world are in Winnipeg this week, trying to get to the core of what makes downtown great.

The International Downtown Association’s (IDA) 63rd Annual Conference and Tradeshow is running until Friday at the RBC Convention Centre. The event is welcoming more than 600 delegates from downtown organizations and business districts.

Winnipeg’s own story of revitalization is at the forefront, with 20 tours and mobile workshops introducing visitors to the city.

“We felt our city, our downtown, is definitely a living laboratory for everything that is required for a successful downtown,” said Stefano Grande, CEO of the Downtown BIZ, which is organizing the event with the West End BIZ and Exchange District BIZ.

So what makes a healthy downtown? A number of things, said Grande, including a strong pedestrian presence and a density of buildings, businesses and housing.

“We’ve seen an explosion of residential housing in our downtown," Grande said, pointing to development in the Waterfront Drive and Exchange District areas. "There’s shops and services that are springing up everywhere,”

This year’s IDA conference theme is “AuthentiCITY,” which organizers felt highlighted Winnipeg’s urban character, arts and culture, dining, entertainment and hospitality.

Grande said the city bid to host the conference about two years ago, beating out other Canadian and American cities. It's rare for the conference to take place outside the U.S.

“[The IDA] were totally blown away by our efforts in the downtown, and as a result they’re here today in our city as part of the annual conference,” Grande said.  

Speakers at the conference include Winnipeg’s Paul Jordan from The Forks, Ry Moran from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and mayors’ panel led by the Mayor of Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, alongside Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, and Regina Mayor Michael Fougere.

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