Two opposing forces are pulling at real estate developers in Winnipeg; the beautiful, uninhabited spaces on the periphery around the Perimeter Highway, and the close-to-business-and-the-Jets Downtown. The first development opportunity would occur in what we call greenfield land, that is, land that is untainted by contaminants or near any other buildings; it’s a green field, untouched by human hands (or sometimes used for agriculture). The other type of development, using land within Downtown or another established neighborhood’s radius, is known as infill.
Infill development is important for a wide variety of reasons. First, infill allows us to leverage existing infrastructure. When a greenfield development is created, new roads, water pipes, hydro lines and more can all be needed in order to build a viable neighborhood. Infill developments are already near established infrastructure, so a lot of dollars are saved by the city.
Infill is also a smart long-term strategy for a city’s development. When greenfield development is allowed in excess, it creates large neighborhoods that are far away from each other; each of these neighbourhoods will have commuters who have to travel a great distance in order to reach downtown, increasing pollution. The large influx of commuters each morning can also fill up the roads and highways, causing traffic congestion and jams. Greenfield development also causes problems for Winnipeg Transit; it becomes difficult to provide adequate service to all of these neighborhoods which are bound to be far from most major bus lines. I can tell you from experience that getting from Island Lakes to anywhere by bus takes some doing, let alone Sage Creek or Waverly West.
Urban sprawl, as excess greenfield development is sometimes called, also poses problems for city services. It’s much more difficult to dispatch police, fire and ambulatory services to far-flung suburbs than it is to downtown or other established areas; additionally, government services are generally focused in the core area of any given city. As sprawl continues, it becomes more difficult to access these services, which means the city and province must dedicate funds to expanding service and creating new infrastructure like police stations, or that services won’t be adequate to those areas. Either of these possibilities is regrettable, and infill is an excellent solution.
All in all, when infill is possible over greenfield development, it can be quite a good idea. The best forms of infill usually involve high-density housing; that is to say, apartment buildings! One marvelous thing about apartments in the downtown is that they usually use buildings that are already there; old warehouses in the Exchange District, for example, can and have been converted into apartment buildings. This allows us to keep the architectural history of our city intact while creating livable spaces for downtown residents. Downtown is absolutely booming right now; it’s at it’s best, with new restaurants, bars, and shops opening constantly. You can work or play in the downtown, and it’s great for urban development; there are downtown Winnipeg apartments for rent that will blow your mind. Infill development; good for you, good for the city, good for the environment.