Local Needs and Global Aspirations: Planning Choices for the North Logan Community, Winnipeg

Local Needs and Global Aspirations: Planning Choices for the North Logan Community, Winnipeg

Prepared for the 1996 Planners Network Conference, “Renewing Hope, Restoring Vision: Progressive Planning in Our Communities.”

by Richard Milgrom, York University

Saskia Sassen points out that new patterns of urban growth are becoming apparent with the formation of a network of “world cities.” Citing European examples, she discusses the latest wave of growth that is occurring in major cities that are emerging as strategic locations for the control of global capital. At the same time, growth in smaller cities, and those that have suffered a decrease in importance (old sites of manufacturing and most port cities), has slowed, and in some cases the cities are declining in population (Sassen 1994, p. 40). Observation suggests that a similar situation is present in Canada.

City planners and designers have always been interested in the growth of cities, in fact, growth in western industrial cities has largely been accepted as a given. My concern here is with the potential damage that is caused by unsuccessful attempts to encourage growth. This interest arises from my experiences in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a regional city that, while affected by forces of globalization, has few links to strategic centres of power. With the exception of periods of immigration following the World Wars, Winnipeg’s population has stagnated, growing at less than 1% per year for the last three decades. The city has had trouble attracting new economic activity because of its isolation (the closest major centre is not another Canadian city, but Minneapolis, Minnesota, a nine hour drive to the south) and its narrow economic base (Levin 1980, p. 3).

This paper will present a case study from recent Winnipeg history in which aspirations for growth and participation in the global economy appear to have taken priority over local concerns. Typical growth incentives offered by the City of Winnipeg to potential developers in the 1970s and 1980s included pre-assembled tracts of vacant land. In the early 1980s, a neighbourhood in the core area of the city was slated for expropriation in order to assemble land suitable for a high technology “industrial park” that would provide employment for core area residents. The emphasis on attracting new industries (as opposed to the relocation of existing industries within the region) suggests that this proposal was not only about creating jobs, but also concerned with promoting growth; the emphasis on emerging technologies suggests that it was also an aggressive effort to connect with the emerging global economy, if not as a strategic place in the control of capital, at least as a site of production with strong links with the centres. The resident community, who had not been consulted about their future, fought the expropriation, questioning the decision making process that led to the expropriation and the assumptions made by the expropriating authority. “Save North Logan,” the community’s campaign, produced a compromise plan for the neighbourhood that attempted to balance neighbourhood concerns with the objectives that government initiatives in the core area sought to achieve.

Save North Logan

Mayor Bill Norrie assured the executive policy committee that residents in the expropriated area will have a say in the development once the project has been approved by council and the agreement has been signed. (Rubin 1981) Until the 1990s, the position of Winnipeg City Councillor was a part-time position. Many councillors, while in office, continued to hold positions in the real estate and development sectors. North Logan’s urban history began on this note. Alexander Logan, a land speculator in the late 19th Century, bought and registered land in the area. Later, while mayor, Logan helped convince the Federal Government that the westward route of the expanding Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) should run through Winnipeg. The location of the new rail right-of-way was located along the north side of Logan’s property that had been subdivided into small plots suitable for new arrivals with limited means (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 5).

In the early years of this century, no restrictions were placed on land-uses in the area and industry was attracted by the railway. Since the Second World War, most zoning studies have concluded that, despite the presence of a residential neighbourhood, the area should be zoned exclusively for industrial purposes and residential construction was strictly prohibited (City of Winnipeg, Province of Manitoba et al. n.d., p.3). Although people continued to live there because of its proximity to downtown and its affordable housing (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 1), the imposition of industrial zoning regulations prohibiting new residential construction inhibited the neighbourhood’s capacity to renew itself.

In response to deterioration of the urban core in the 1960s and 1970s, the three levels of government started to explore measures aimed at rejuvenating the inner city. In 1980, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the City of Winnipeg, the Progressive Conservative Government of Manitoba, and the Government of Canada establishing the Winnipeg Core Area Initiative (CAI). All three agreed to share resources and costs in an attempt to: provide increased employment opportunities [for core area residents], to encourage appropriate industrial, commercial and residential development in the core area and to facilitate the effective social and economic participation of core area residents in development opportunities (City of Winnipeg 1980, p. 1). Logan-C.P.R., as North Logan was called in CAI documents, was identified as a site to help fulfil the first two objectives (notably the third was not addressed). The expropriation area is briefly described under the Industrial and Commercial Section: Undoubtedly, the most deteriorated residential pocket in the entire city is the area bordering the C.P.R. Yards. To this date, available programs have been insufficient to address the requirement for redevelopment of this area. In an area of this nature, special attention must be paid to the housing requirements of residents and to the opportunities to attract and develop a commercial and economic base (City of Winnipeg 1980, p. 9). The original plans for the redevelopment of the area called for the demolition or removal of all the houses and most businesses and the relocation of displaced households under the housing program of the CAI. The cleared area, approximately twenty acres, would then be assembled into three or four sites for medium to large high technology factories (e.g. electronics, biotechnology). Large serviced sites were regarded as essential to the project to overcome difficulties usually experienced by private interests attempting to assemble land in city cores. It was suggested that these factories would create between six hundred and a thousand jobs, 60% of which would be appropriate for the core area residents, including those residents with “special needs” (Shapiro 1982).

The decision to expropriate was explained in terms of the site’s zoning history, the increase in large scale industrial activity on near-by sites, the conditions of the existing residential housing stock and the poor maintenance of services to the area (City of Winnipeg, Province of Manitoba et al. n.d.). While this data was supported empirically, perhaps the final condemnation of the neighbourhood came in the form of value judgements. For example: “[T]he railway-related industrial activities on [the north side of the site], together with a growing commercial/industrial corridor along [the south boundary] wedged the remaining mixture of single-family residential units and businesses into a narrow strip, without parks or major neighbourhood identity” [italics added][City of Winnipeg, n.d. #2]. This lack of identity was ascertained without speaking to anybody who lived in the area. Although the CAI consulted with community organisations serving the whole inner city, most area residents only learned that their neighbourhood had been expropriated “from newspaper reports published after the project was officially unveiled” (Rubin 1981) and when a door-to-door survey was conducted in May 1981 asking them how they felt about the expropriation (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p.13).

In June 1981, the Logan Community Committee (LCC) was formed to provide area residents with a united voice. It met with various political committees, including those of City Council and the CAI, requesting funding to hire a lawyer, and an inquiry into the expropriation. Although they were assured by the Mayor that the “management board will involve your association in the development of plans for the Logan Area” (Shapiro 1982, p. 6) consultation was not forthcoming. North Logan’s luck changed in November 1981 when the provincial elections were won by the New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP suspended the expropriation process and appointed a Commission of Inquiry to determine whether the “expropriation was reasonably necessary and fair for the achievement of the objectives” of the CAI (Shapiro 1982, p. 7). Funding was also provided to the LCC to cover costs, including those incurred to retain consultants to prepare an alternative plan for the redevelopment of the neighbourhood.

Within the short time allowed, the LCC undertook a community-based planning process that, they felt, had broader implications than simply saving a neighbourhood – it was “also an inquiry that will indirectly make decisions about the quality of our life — the rights of our citizens, the value of our communities, the purpose of our employment, and the nature of our education” (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 31). They also produced a statement of beliefs:

  • We believe that the destruction of the intangible resources of the history, the identity, and the mutual care and support in an older neighbourhood is short sighted in an alienated world that craves a sense of community.
  • We believe that in order to fully regenerate our inner City it will be necessary to give citizens the opportunity and responsibility to plan for their future in order to strengthen a sense of personal dignity and investment in meaningful community.
  • We believe that it is necessary to direct civic planning in Winnipeg to the regeneration of old residential neighbourhoods and the creation of new residential neighbourhoods in the inner core of our City as rising servicing, transportation and energy costs decrease the desirability and feasibility of suburbs.
  • We believe that the preservation and regeneration of residential neighbourhoods surrounding the CPR tracks will enable the City to integrate these vacant lands into a valuable residential resource that a wall of industry would prevent in a potential rail relocation.
  • We believe that a dynamic neighbourhood is one where housing, industry, commerce and amenities are blended into a balance and integrated unit. (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 31)

The committee questioned the criteria used in the planning studies quoted by expropriation proponents. Regarding housing conditions, the committee argued that data gathered by the City were: a) subjective, based on the experiences of the inspectors who were unlikely to have any attachment to the neighbourhood; b) superficial, since conditions were determined by brief external surveys; c) biased against older homes, and therefore their neighbourhood, because the category definitions required that houses in “good” condition be of “recent construction”; and d) that the conditions determined were not related to the costs of improving the existing structures (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 36-7).

The LCC undertook its own housing inspection using the same criteria (with the exception of the “recent construction” requirement). Recognising that they, too, would bring their biases to the process, they hired a renovation and construction firm, familiar with the area and the type of renovation work that would be necessary, to evaluate a sample of the houses and provide cost estimates to extend the life expectancy of the buildings. The community, through this process reached their its own conclusions about which houses should be demolished. In some cases the community study suggested that houses that the City judged to be in “poor” condition (to be demolished) could be brought up to acceptable standards for less than the cost of demolition.

The LCC questioned other assumptions made by the CAI authorities about North Logan and inconsistencies about neighbourhood boundaries. Based on an earlier study, the background report for the expropriation noted that only 9% of the land was in residential use. The LCC pointed out this earlier study had defined “Logan-C.P.R.” as a two hundred acre area, including much of the adjacent railway lands, while the expropriation area was limited to twenty acres and included most of the housing for the larger area. Adjusting for the discrepancy, 34% of the expropriation area was dedicated to housing. In contrast, when attempting to show that the neighbourhood lacked amenities, City studies limited their neighbourhood analysis to the expropriation site. In response, the LCC provided an analysis of the amenities available within walking distance of the site.

In terms of potential employment, the LCC examined the nature of the existing businesses that would be displaced. The cheap rents attracted new businesses, making the area an ideal “incubator.” Twelve businesses, seven of which had operated in the area for more than five years, provided one hundred full- and sixty part-time positions and had been growing over the previous three years. Over 50% of those employed lived in the inner city (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 21).

As for the need to create a new industrial “park”, the committee’s findings also differed from those of the City. While the city argued that it was important to have contiguous sites, where related industries could locate in close proximity to each other, the LCC’s research into similar high technology industries found that they were particularly “location insensitive” and that although they may require reasonably large individual sites for allow for future expansion, proximity to other companies was not a significant consideration. The need for an industrial park was also questioned based on research that found five hundred acres of vacant serviced industrial land within the city limits, much of it easily accessible to the core area.

In early 1982, the LCC and its consultants held four public community meetings to discuss their vision of the future. The meetings were organised by three outreach workers, residents from the community who knew most of the local residents. Over the course of the meetings, forty-five households (about 50% of the total) and six businesses took part (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 58). At the first meeting, on a three dimensional sketch of the neighbourhood, participants coloured their place of residence or business, adding tenure, occupancy and building condition information to augment data that had already be collected. The completed housing survey was presented at the second meeting.

Over the course of the meetings, the residents of North Logan “came forward with a creative balance of complaints and dreams” bringing forth opinions that they had harboured for years but lacked the forum to express (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 51). There was general agreement that the truck traffic in the neighbourhood was a problem, and that without some new housing, the process of neighbourhood degeneration would continue — they were not concerned with the mix of commercial, industrial and residential uses. The community wish list included a small park, community building and some new shops.

The result of the process was a three dimensional representation, the “Composite Neighbourhood Plan” (Logan Community Committee Inc. 1982, p. 60). Three “cores” were proposed: a business core at the west end of the site that would continue to serve as an “incubator” for industries that have historically employed a high percentage of area residents; immediately to the east, across a major north-south artery, they proposed a residential core, relocating and consolidating those houses that were in habitable condition into a smaller area, while those beyond repair were to be demolished; and an industrial core at the east end of the site providing sites large enough for new, high intensity industries.

The Commission of Inquiry noted that the decision to expropriate had been reached based on: a) information from the City that indicated that demolition of buildings was necessary; b) the need for work opportunities for area residents, including those with ‘special needs’; c) agreement by the parties of the CAI that medium to large high technology industries would contribute to the provision of these needs (Shapiro 1982, p. 13).

In general, the Commission agreed with the LCC regarding the information provided by the City regarding the condition of the buildings. It concluded that city inspectors were biased by the intent of the inspection process, i.e. if the intent was expropriation, the inspectors were more likely to find buildings in poor condition. The City had also cited the deteriorated state of the utilities and infrastructure of the area as cause for demolition. Both the LCC and the Commission felt that was “blaming the victim” — if this were to be permitted “the City could rationalize demolishing any neighbourhood by neglecting to carry out its responsibilities to maintain adequate municipal services” (Shapiro 1982, p.34).

Although the Commission agreed that there was a need to provide job training and opportunities for core area residents, it was not completely convinced by the argument that the proposed new industries would achieve the goals set by the CAI. First, original estimates of five hundred to one thousand jobs had been based on an industrial park proposal of thirty rather than twenty acres, an oversight that the city had not corrected. In addition, based on the Commission’s own survey of high technology industries, only 22% (not 60%) of the jobs would be appropriate for “special needs” residents (one-two hundred jobs) ” (Shapiro 1982, p.68). This potential was not significantly different from the neighbourhood’s existing employment capacity. The Commission recommended that, given the uncertainty of the potential for appropriate job creation, industrial development should proceed with caution, perhaps one factory at a time.

Most importantly, the Commission also recommended that the redevelopment of the neighbourhood reflect the desires of the residents, creating a “‘mixed’ but balance community which can accommodate a residential neighbourhood and industrial/commercial enterprises,” a development model that was being promoted by planners for other areas of the city (Shapiro 1982, p. 95). Subsequent plans commissioned by the City presented alternatives on this theme (I. D. Systems Ltd. 1982). The implemented plan allowed for large industrial uses at the west end of the site, a residential core of about fifty houses in the centre, and sites for smaller commercial and light industrial uses at the east end of the site, accommodating many of the existing businesses.

While the third objective of the CAI was the “social and economic participation of core area residents in development opportunities” (City of Winnipeg 1980, p. 1) this was overlooked in the case of North Logan. The Inquiry noted that, had proper procedures been followed by the City and the Province, neither the expropriation nor the Commission would have been necessary. The City of Winnipeg Act of 1972 requires “City Council ¼ to review the Greater Winnipeg Development Plan at least every 5 years and provides that residents of the communities will have opportunities to participate in the evolution of plans effecting their communities.” The first public review should have been conducted in 1977. Three years later, while three levels of government were discussing the future of the North Logan community, “the Province granted the City a retroactive extension until 1983 to meet the requirements, thus eliminating the opportunity for the residents to have a voice in their area’s development” (Shapiro 1982, p. 39)

Return to North Logan

In 1996, I returned to North Logan for the first time since 1983 (I had worked for the architectural/planning consultant retained by the LCC but had little involvement with the project). One major industry had located at the west end of the site, a garment manufacturer, not particularly high-tech, but a fairly good employer of inner city residents including those with “special needs;” the housing core that was consolidated in the mid-1980s remains solid (wood frame houses were easily moved to new foundations, and several new infill houses were provided); the east end is occupied by predominantly light-industrial uses. Although the neighbourhood appears to have stabilized, with the exception of the large new factory, growth is not apparent, possibly reflecting the general stagnation of the city.

While I have since been involved with several other community-driven projects, the process that emerged in North Logan has provided a foundation upon which I hope to build. Three particular areas are worth mentioning here. First, the value judgements of outsiders do not define communities. It was assumed by planners and inspectors that North Logan did not constitute a community because it did not have the appearance of any community with which they were familiar. Residents of North Logan, however, felt very much part of a community as attested to by their strong united reaction to an outside threat. Second, when the community was consulted, individual members were not overly attached to particular sites within the neighbourhood (granted this may have been easier to achieve given that it was possible to relocate the houses themselves), the idea of community was generally stronger.

Finally, the community and its representative organization, were able to understand that, like the expropriation authority, they too operated from a biased position in the planning process. This acknowledgement allowed them to chose methods that would compensate for this perceived shortcoming, strengthening their case against expropriation by bringing in third party expertise.

Despite these positive lessons, I question whether a similar process would even be possible today. Funding for the community proposal was provided by a provincial government with strong links to grassroots organizations and it seems unlikely that that source will be available again in the foreseeable future (the same party elected more recently in other provinces has demonstrated that, like more conservative parties, it is more susceptible to the pressures those controlling capital than it was in the past). Funding will more likely come from non-governmental sources, and increasing demands are being placed on those organizations. The question remains, therefore, of how disempowered communities can afford the necessary professional expertise to propose alternatives to the designs of urban growth promoters.


  • City of Winnipeg (1980). Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Development of the Winnipeg Core Area Initiative. Winnipeg.
  • City of Winnipeg, Province of Manitoba, et al. (n.d.). Planning Background – Logan Expropriation Area. Winnipeg.
  • I. D. Systems Ltd. (1982). North Logan Redevelopment Plan Alternatives. Winnipeg, Winnipeg Core Area Initiative Corporation.
  • Levin, E. A. (1980). Winnipeg Inner City Development Initiative Study. Winnipeg, Department of Regional Economic Expansion.
  • Logan Community Committee Inc. (1982). Save North Logan: Alternative Plans for the North Logan Neighbourhood. Winnipeg.
  • Rubin, J. (1981). Logan residents resent expropriation. Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg: 1.
  • Sassen, S. (1994). Cities in a World Economy. Thousand Oaks, California, Pine Forge Press.
  • Shapiro, E. (1982). The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Expropriation of the Logan-C.P.R. Area. Winnipeg.

I would like to thank Dudley Thompson of the Prairie Partnership Architects in Winnipeg for his assistance finding the documents necessary for this paper.