"innovation at the forks" by olivia michalczuk

Winnipeggers no longer need a distant relative to drag them along to this local landmark because it is more than just a tourist destination, it’s a place where Winnipeggers want to spend their time. The Forks is a major downtown destination all year round, and why it has become such a sought after destination for business, including Amazon. Starting in April 2019, the Johnston Terminal houses the brand new AWS Thinkbox, an Amazon office space dedicated to developing technology for the entertainment industry. 

“AWS Thinkbox develops creative tools and intuitive solutions for studios and visual artists to complete complex tasks in high-performance computing,” said Joshua Burgin, GM of Computer Services at Amazon Web Services.

“We’re able to streamline the rendering process for animation and provide tools for digital artists to render and create assets that have proven difficult in the past, requiring hundreds or thousands of computers to deliver.”

If you haven’t been to The Forks in a while, you may be wondering why on earth an innovative technology company would call The Forks home, but over the past two years there have been dramatic changes to the space. 

The most obvious change is the The Common and The Forks Market Food Hall. The Common opened in June 2016 and has increased the appeal of the Forks, as well as provided funds to renew The Forks, as the revenue generated goes right back in to the space. The Common is a fully licensed establishment right in the centre of The Forks Market that serves a variety of beverages you can take with you as you explore.

The Common photos by Mike Peters.

The Common photos by Mike Peters.

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“We strive to tap craft beers that may not be available elsewhere in the city, and highlight our local craft brewers alongside the concepts that are coming out of the rest of the country and internationally,” said Larissa Peck, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at The Forks.

“On the wine front, we’re working to demonstrate that enjoying a nice glass of wine can happen in a totally unpretentious setting – heck, pair it with a hamburger and French fries if that’s what suits you!”

Putting The Common and The Forks even more on the map is the “500+ seat licensed patio area which opened in May of this year, giving people the option to enjoy a glass of wine or a pint and the view of the river together – a license that is totally unique in North America.”

Though The Forks is becoming the downtown hot spot for locals, it still remains a tourist destination. Inn at the Forks saw the potential to cater to guests visiting Winnipeg and to locals with their innovative 5 Green Key hotel, focusing on sustainable design.

“We have the city’s best location of any hotel and appeal to leisure and business travelers alike,” said Joel Waterman, general manager of Inn at the Forks. “Our amenities include SMITH Restaurant, with it’s craft cocktail program and locally infused menu, Riverstone Spa where all treatments are focused on harmonizing your body, mind and spirit, and more than 6000 square feet of meeting space.”

The hotel also offers guided 5K runs, grows produce outside the hotel which is used by award winning SMITH restaurant, and a fitness room available for guests to use.

Photo by Kristhine Guerrero

Photo by Kristhine Guerrero

In the Johnston Terminal, you can find Pulse Gallery. The gallery features emerging and established local artists. It is the perfect place to explore a diverse body of work created by Manitoban artists. Owner Lesly Dawyduk says the relationships between tenants at the Johnston Terminal foster an environment for success.

“These interactions can be the spark for the innovation required to achieve ongoing mutual successes. A supportive rather than a competitive environment exists, promoting a positive atmosphere and a ‘win-win’ attitude among the business owners,” she said. “The success of our fellow tenants is integral to our own and is a necessary component in ensuring continued growth and increased traffic for all of us.”

Photo by Kristhine Guerrero

Photo by Kristhine Guerrero

Also located at The Forks is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which opened in September 2014 and is a major tourist destination for its architecture and for their focus on human rights.

AWS Thinkbox is excited for the opportunity to be located at The Forks. “Working in such a culturally historic part of Winnipeg connects all of us,” said Joshua Burgin. 

“There is a great sense of community here, which can be seen in all the arts, events, music and great food, and it really does feel like we’re a part of a community here. The team can bike to work and grab a quick bite, all with the scenery that the river offers.”