In a lot of ways, 2023 was a year of celebration and the biggest party of all was thrown for Eveline Street. Actually, the reconstruction was celebrated twice with awards from the Association of Consulting Engineers Companies (ACEC) and the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC).
The ACEC 2023 Award of Excellence in Transportation was presented to consulting firm J.R. Cousins and to put a point on what a big deal the award is, Selkirk CAO Duane Nicol put it this way:
“The awards are like the Manitoba engineering Oscars,” Nicol said.
“We’re honoured that J.R. Cousins selected the Eveline Street reconstruction as their entry for the award. Of all the work they did in 2022, they chose this project as the one they wanted to submit, so that in itself is an indication of how proud they are of the work – it’s an example of their best work for the year. Congratulations to J.R. Cousins, and to city council for their vision, and staff for their commitment to always striving for the best for the city and its citizens.”
The $7.2 million project has transformed the riverside street and made it another jewel of Selkirk’s downtown. The desire to make the downtown – and the entire city – safer, more walkable and more climate resilient, fed into all decisions during the rebuild.
When it was revealed in May that the street had won the TAC 2023 Small Municipalities Award – edging out the City of North Vancouver and Kamloops – Mayor Larry Johannson was understandably enthused.
“I offer a big pat on the back to everyone involved in the reconstruction of Eveline Street. This is a national award, and though it says small municipalities in its title, the competitors we were up against are by no means small, so the fact that our little City of Selkirk can compete in the company of relative giants is just incredible,” Johannson said.
There was more reason to celebrate with the return of summer events to The Waterfront after a pandemic-induced absence of two years and last year’s construction on Eveline. Canada Day, Selkirk Port Market and the Summer Concert Series were all back where they belong, and happy crowds were there to receive them all.
Engagement on Selkirk’s new Regional Park
Back in 2019 the city made a strategic move and purchased 326.5 acres of land in the west end so that it could, as the Community Strategic Plan calls for, take firmer control of its economic destiny. The land will be developed over the coming decades with a mixture of commercial and residential and include the city’s second regional park.
In March, the city surveyed residents about what they wanted to see in the park, which will be just under 90-acres in size.
The plan is for the park to be a self-directed and nature-based space with self-guided programming. There will be space for walking and hiking and a large water feature will serve a dual purpose – as a storm water retention pond and a recreational spot for those who want to do things like canoeing or kayaking.
A park management plan is being developed.
Selkirk seeing huge growth with residential and commercial builds
New development was another reason to celebrate in 2023. Construction commenced or was completed on more than 350 new residential units in the city.
Seymour Pacific’s expansion of its Manitoba Avenue development was completed this year, providing 167 new units that are available right now. Skylark Homes completed streets and infrastructure for its subdivision on Annie Street and 109 homes – both single family and duplexes – are starting to go up with several building permits issued. A multi-family building will also be part of the plan.
A 75-unit building on McLean has its zoning in place and the building is expected to start going up in mid to late 2024. Construction of a 65-unit apartment off 800 Vaughan has begun and will be completed next year.
The Manitoba Metis Federation 55-plus building is well underway on Eveline and will feature 49 residential units and two floors of commercial and office space. The building will also feature underground parking.
Piston Ring is building a facility on Main Street in 2024 and the expansion of the Selkirk hospital should wrap up next year as well.
Tim Feduniw, Director of Sustainable Economic Development, says the growth is a sign developers and investors have confidence in the city.
“2023 represented a successful year for Selkirk in many ways,” Feduniw said.
“There was significant building activity and that speaks to the success of the city’s new planning division as well.”
Planning providing superior service one year in
Selkirk’s planning division turned one-year-old in 2023, and it’s received praise from those who use the service, including Rob Robson, the President of Lionheart Developments, who is constructing the 65-unit apartment building on Vaughn Street.
“My experience with Selkirk has been great. There is a person who answers the phone when you call. It’s sort of a yes first philosophy, which I really appreciate,” Robson said.
“E-mails are promptly responded to and just the small touches. I’ve received emails that clearly show that people in the planning department are thinking about me and my needs along with how the city is growing. I feel like I’m a piece of the puzzle, so to speak, which is a nice way to feel.”
Nicol said that’s the response the city was striving for.
“The Selkirk Planning Division has been offering superior service to our community which is what we set out to do from Day 1,” Nicol said.
“We make personal connections and pay attention to the individual details, and we strive for efficiency within our process, and those efforts have been paying off for both residents and builders.”
2.6 million invested into pipes, roads, pathways and trees
The city’s yearly infrastructure projects are determined by its Capital Asset Management Program (CAMP) and in 2023 $2.6 million was invested into the pipes, roads, active transportation pathways and urban canopy.
Sutherland Avenue saw an investment of $1.5 million into the 300 and 400 blocks for a full reconstruction with new street surface, sidewalks, watermains, sewer and storm sewer separation, furthering the city’s separation of combined sewer and building towards a more climate resilient city.
Separation of combined sewer lines, a critical objective of the city’s award-winning Climate Change Adaption Strategy (CCAS), greatly decreases the chances of sewer back up during heavy rain events for the homes and adds capacity to the city’s storm water system. The 200 block of Sutherland had its sewer lined as well, to extend service life.
Purvis Boulevard saw a street renewal between Belanger Place and Bell Bay which was cost-shared with developers operating in the area.
The Main Street Reconstruction Project, a partnership with the Province of Manitoba that was proposed for summer 2023, included road resurfacing and improvements to boulevards, medians, and crossings. It was postponed and will take place in 2024.
Expanding our urban canopy
Dozens of trees were planted on medians and boulevards on both Sutherland and Main, with funding the city received for trees from the Investing in Communities program, a matching grant of the Provincial and Federal governments. Trees help to enhance and improve other infrastructure by providing shade, cooling, and helping to manage stormwater. Studies have shown that asphalt road surfaces that are shaded from direct sunlight last longer.
Expanding our Active Transportation Network
The city continued to improve and expand its Active Transportation network this year with an investment of $140,000 into the new Eveline Street multi-use AT trail. It was extended and allows those on foot or on bike to safely get from the entrance of Selkirk Park to the dog park and campground. Also, $50,000 was spent on a new accessible pathway from Eveline Street to the Waterfront, providing a safe and gradual entrance, aiding those with mobility issues and allowing safer access to one of Selkirk’s finest attractions. Detailed design for the pathway was included in the Eveline Street Reconstruction project.
Utility fleet now 50 per cent electric
Selkirk’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint continued in 2023 and was evident in all city departments. The practice of replacing gas vehicles with electric or hybrid continued with the purchase of a second Ford F150 Lightning EV and a third Hyundai Kona EV. The city’s utility fleet is now 50 per cent electric.
Dutch elm management
Exceptional management of Dutch Elm Disease meant provincial grant money for tree removal in 2022 was reallocated to go towards equipment purchases in 2023 for the Parks and Rec Division.
Mihali Schindle, the city’s Urban Forestry and Naturalization Coordinator, said part of the grant money was used to purchase electric motorized equipment including a chainsaw, pole saw and hedge trimmers to replace gas-powered equipment.
Schindle says electric motors are not only easier to maintain, but far better for the environment.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to purchase some new equipment. Some of the old gas-powered equipment we have is starting to reach the end of its life so it’s perfect timing to upgrade. Also those small two-stroke motors that you find on chainsaws and hedge trimmers are probably the highest polluting combustion engines out there,” Schindle said.
“Even though they’re small, a little two-stroke leaf blower emits way more volatile emissions than an average car does. To go from two-stroke to electric, that’s a pretty good environmental upgrade.”
Becoming the greenest utility we can be
The city’s water treatment plant made the move from fossil fuels to geothermal for heating and cooling this year, taking a big chunk out of Greenhouse Gas emissions produced by the city.
“We’re working our way towards being the greenest utility we can be,” said CAO Duane Nicol.
“From a GHG perspective, the water treatment plant was the second largest point source of emissions in the city, with the old wastewater treatment plant being the largest contributor. The new state-of-the-art wastewater plant is fossil fuel free in its operations and now uses heat pumps and electricity to heat and cool the entire building, while the water treatment plant uses geo-thermal.”
Naturalizing our city
The city also started four pilot projects that will inform future decisions on naturalizing boulevards, medians and park spaces. The test plots are in Selkirk Park and have wildflower meadow, tall grass prairie and organic sports turf. Wildflower and tall grass prairie require far less maintenance and reduce the amount of mowing for the city and they dramatically increase biodiversity and habitats for wildlife and pollinators. The sports turf is a mix of existing turfgrass, drought tolerant fescue grasses and micro clover.
It was also a year to celebrate the Garry Theatre, which the city purchased in 2021.
The theatre was officially opened in November 1948 and was much loved by the city’s movie goers. We learned in February 2023 that it still holds a significant place in Selkirk residents’ hearts after a whopping 1,100-plus completed a survey to give their opinions about what the space should be used for.
The response blew away the folks at Urban Systems, who helped the city with the Garry’s business plan.
According to Jeff Palmer, a community planner with Urban Systems, with surveys a large number can mean one of two things.
“Usually it means that you feel very strongly about a project – either you love it or hate it. Most often in our line of work, it means you’re really opposed to a project. But in this case, it was the complete opposite. It was overwhelming support,” Palmer said.
“I don’t recall hearing from anyone that they thought buying the theatre was a bad idea. There was very strong support for purchasing the theatre, regardless of what it becomes, so that’s good. It was an ambitious move and so we applaud the city for taking that initiative.”
Ellie Longbottom, the city’s Culture Coordinator, agreed the interest in the Garry is impressive.
“The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and it showed what we suspected was true, that the Garry is an important piece of the history and culture of the City of Selkirk and people want to see it continue as a community space.”
A follow-up survey in August asked for thoughts on the draft business plan, which suggested the theatre play movies primarily but add other revenue streams to keep it afloat. Long-term financial support from the city or other funding bodies would be required. Responses were again overwhelmingly supportive and more than 80 per cent said they’d go to movies at the theatre and were in support of the business plan.
Overall, another successful year
Selkirk’s Fire Department got a new pumper this year and it features Smart Apparatus Manager (SAM) technology that manages the vehicle’s pump, tank, intakes and discharges. The city’s Fair Trade committee hosted its first event since the pandemic and is working hard to find members to join the committee to help remind people that Selkirk is a Fair Trade Town and products are available at several businesses in the city.
Friends and family gathered with the city and Legion representatives to unveil a new interpretive sign honouring the Dufferin Gang at the corner of Dufferin and Main Street so their legacy has one more opportunity to never be forgotten.
Overall, Mayor Johannson said 2023 was another in a series of successful years for the growing City of Selkirk.
“2023 has been a difficult year globally. There is lots of turmoil in the world. War and economic insecurity. We are all lucky to be living in Canada and in Selkirk specifically. We continue to work hard at making Selkirk a safe, welcoming, and thriving community for our residents and our region”.