My husband Dave and I made a deliberate decision to live downtown in Winnipeg’s Exchange District when we moved back to Canada from Hong Kong in July. One reason was because we wanted to manage with one car and living right down town would make it easier to walk places or take the bus.
We love theatre, movies, concerts, museums, sports and art galleries and so living within a few blocks of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, many cinemas, the Centennial Concert Hall, the Warehouse Theatre,the Winnipeg Art Gallery, The MTS arena and the Goldeyes Stadium was very appealing. We are also an easy walk from the river paths, shops and restaurants of The Forks and Winnipeg’s nearly completed Human Rights Museum. Within two blocks of our home I can access the overhead and underground walkway system which allows me to stay indoors and walk to the Winnipeg Millennium Library, Portage Place, the Bay, the MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Post Office, the YMCA and the University of Winnipeg. We are within a few blocks of Winnipeg’s China Town where we have already discovered at least one small shop that serves Won Ton Mein almost the way we remember it in Hong Kong.
I was surprised therefore when so many people asked me how I could live in the Exchange District. Wasn’t I scared? I admit there are shootings and robberies in our area, but these happen every where in Winnipeg. I know many people in the suburbs who’ve had their cars broken into while they were sitting right on their driveways.
The bar Alive across the street is hopping till the wee hours and the busy Hermanos Restaurant in my building is open till well past midnight, which means there are always lots of people out and about, and so I feel safe even if I do come home at a later hour. By 7:00 in the morning on a weekday the streets are already alive with cars and pedestrians hurrying to their downtown offices. On the weekends the Ashdown Warehouse employs a security guard who is on duty all evening and night. He makes sure only tenants and their guests are in our building. Almost every time I go for a walk in our area I see one or two or even more Down Town Watch ambassadors in their easy to spot red uniforms, or police officers in cars or on foot, or security teams from various businesses and malls. I think our area is probably more closely monitored by security people than most in the city.
Last week within one day four different people commented on the dangers of living in the Exchange. “Wouldn’t you be happier living in an area like Lindenwoods or Bridgewater Forest?” suggested one person. A friend told my husband he’d love to live in the area we do but his wife would just be way too scared. “I have a relative who is a police officer and he says down town Winnipeg is even more dangerous than the media reports,” someone said. Hearing these kind of things repeatedly does give one pause, but isn’t enough to make me want to move anywhere else.
There are too many pluses to living in The Exchange, to even consider exchanging our home here for one somewhere else in the city. I think if you take sensible precautions it is no more dangerous a place to live than anywhere else in Winnipeg. There are more and more residential spaces being built in down town Winnipeg all the time. The more people who move here and make their homes in apartments and condominiums here the safer the area will be.
Maybe I need to start asking people why they live in the suburbs when they could be living in The Exchange down town.