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"I am a fourth year Environmental Design student at the University of Manitoba, focusing my studies in Landscape and Urbanism. Originally from a little town in the middle of nowhere, BC, I moved to Winnipeg 5 years ago to pursue design. After a brief hiatus studying abroad in Denmark, I returned to Canada to finish my studies. I learned about Design Quarter a few months ago while searching for design non-profits in Winnipeg. I really like what they are trying to achieve here in the city, so I reached out to Zephyra and began volunteering in July 2017. It’s been a great opportunity, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it!" - Madeleine Dafoe, Environmental Design Student Blogger

"DQW memberS: COMMITTED TO INVESTING IN DOWNTOWN wpg" by madeleine dafoe

As Design Quarter Winnipeg turns two years old, we take a look back at its successes and growth. Design Quarter now has over 45 members who range from galleries and clothing shops to cafes and restaurants. The wide variety of stores who have committed to supporting Downtown Winnipeg as a creative destination for arts and culture creates a diverse community with which these local business owners can network and seek support. More and more new businesses that are moving into the downtown area are becoming members of Design Quarter.

We caught up with two of our newest members to see why they decided to join the Design Quarter community and what benefits they’ve seen so far.

Brock Coutts is the Principal and Owner of Patent 5 Distillery, a microbrewery that currently specializes in Gin and Vodka and will soon be selling Whiskey as well. Patent 5 is located on Alexander Avenue just off of Waterfront Drive, a short walk from both the Forks and the Exchange. Brock spent 5 years looking for the perfect location for his distillery and finally settled on the old Dominion Express livery stables in the Warehouse district of downtown, making Patent 5 the first distillery in downtown Winnipeg in over 140 years.

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This location is a key area that needs to be further developed in order to maintain walkability in from the Forks to the Exchange. As Brock states, “there is a perceived fear of what problems might exist downtown… but I believe suburban Winnipeggers are slowly learning what the Exchange District has, and how it is a distinct subsection of the downtown. If we were able to increase the flow of people - perhaps a concerted effort to 'extend' the Forks, that would expose more people to the Exchange. It is a culturally rich area of Winnipeg with so many opportunities to explore art, restaurants and other interesting businesses.” As an organization that encompasses and connects The Forks, Exchange District, and surrounding Downtown areas, we couldn’t agree more with Brock. 

Megan McGhie is the General Manager of Singletons Flagship salon in Winnipeg - Hair Co. The salon is located on Market Avenue just behind the Centennial Concert Hall. The vintage building has been updated with modern touches that make it feel light and airy but also cozy and lived in. 

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Megan spoke to the importance of vitality in Winnipeg’s Downtown. “I think that downtown Winnipeg has come as far as it has and will continue to grow as more people reside downtown and open businesses here. I think when people feel more personally connected to the neighborhood, they care differently. Instead of this just being a cool place to visit occasionally and on weekends, this is where we spend the majority of our time, and we care deeply that it's a thriving part of Winnipeg. I think as others continue to spend more time downtown, they'll feel more committed to growing it too.”

By attracting people downtown to showcase all of the local businesses, the great food and the arts and culture that are thriving here, people will learn to love and take ownership of Downtown Winnipeg. We can revitalize the old buildings, while being mindful of gentrification, and we can rejuvenate some of the lost vitality of the city. 

By connecting local businesses and creating networks and bonds between them we can create a framework on which Downtown Winnipeg can be supported and flourish. Design Quarter seeks to find members who believe in Winnipeg’s Downtown. As Megan says “as a new business, we wanted to join Design Quarter to join our neighbors who strongly believe in the potential of downtown Winnipeg. We wanted to be a part of a community that actively engages Winnipeggers to enjoy our downtown neighborhoods... It's a big reason we chose to locate our Flagship store and headquarters downtown; we're committed to making Downtown Winnipeg more of a destination for people.”

I think the biggest factor that will make or break our Downtown is pride. If we have pride in our Downtown then we can turn it into a vibrant, lively place. If not, it will quickly fall into disrepair. Over the last two years we have cultivated a community of local businesses and entrepreneurs that have pride in our Downtown and wish to help it grow. As Brock says, Patent 5 joined Design Quarter because they wanted to “be a part of something that locals and visitors can visit, and leave having learned something about Winnipeg, and if you are local, feel a sense of pride in what Winnipeg businesses are creating.”

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Downtown has been “steadily attracting more visitors and residents over the last few years,” according to Zephyra Vun, Executive Director of Design Quarter, “and it's great to see a variety of local businesses, especially those participating in creative fields, choosing to set up shop Downtown. It just goes to show that more and more people are seeing Downtown as a destination, not only to spend time recreationally, but also to do business. Initiatives like Design Quarter Winnipeg do a great job of promoting our downtown communities to both sides of that spectrum - visitors and business owners, alike”.

“The identify of any city exists in its Downtown”, Zephyra adds. “It is often the first place visitors explore, the most dense area of arts + culture, and it is the home to a diverse array of unique, local businesses (like our members!). Increased tourism in the Downtown will not only help people discover just what our city centre has to offer, but also start to shift the perspective of those who are less familiar with the area, proving our Downtown to be a truly vibrant and desirable place to spend time. Positive change happens from the inside out, so any efforts to build up our Downtown neighbourhoods will have far reaching, city-wide benefit.”

Design Quarter was nominated for two Tourism Awards in 2018, the Innovation of the Year Award for both the Tourism Awards of Distinction and the Manitoba Tourism Awards. “We have, and will always be, committed to our overarching goals of not only making Downtown Winnipeg a walkable destination, but also positioning Winnipeg as a whole as a true 'design city',” said Zephyra, “Now more than ever, as our population rapidly approaches 1 million, Winnipeggers need to realize the importance of design; not only at the scale of a cup of coffee or piece of clothing from one of our members, but also at the scale of a public space, a city street, or an entire downtown neighbourhood. Our members play a vital role in that realization, so we are always exploring different ways to promote these bigger-picture goals through the talents of our members.”

Design Quarter hopes to continue promoting and supporting local business and tourism in Winnipeg over the upcoming years. We also hope to meet even more new members who are doing amazing, creative things in Downtown Winnipeg, and who want to help us support the rejuvenation of this unique area. As Megan said, “as good as we think it already is, this is just the beginning for downtown Winnipeg!”