By Brian Timmerman, Executive Director of the Exchange District BIZ
Since the Uniter posted an article: “Where have all the benches gone?”, on March 31, 2016, the Exchange District BIZ has received a few phone calls and emails from the public inquiring about the issue. People have spoken up and requested benches be re-installed on Albert Street and the Exchange BIZ has listened.
Benches, when placed within the public realm, are there as a convenience and provide users with a chance to stop and have a rest, read a book or just sit and watch the world go by. The Exchange BIZ unfortunately received numerous complaints from our businesses that the park benches had become all-day rest stops for unwanted activities. Certain individuals using the benches had taken to drinking in public, aggressively panhandling, passing out, defecating and urinating. The unwanted activity occurring at the benches was in turn impacting the area businesses. The fact of who these individuals were is not relevant, it was the activities and behaviours of the individuals. The benches were therefore removed by the City of Winnipeg at our request. The Exchange BIZ does value the importance of benches in our community so the City has agreed to place one bench back on Albert Street as a trial.
There are numerous existing benches and places to sit in the Exchange District. There are many benches on Bannatyne Avenue between King Street and Princess Street. Old Market Square offers a beautiful green space with grass to sit on and numerous picnic tables. There will also be changes coming to streets in the East Exchange and this includes the installation of even more benches for people to enjoy.
The Exchange BIZ will monitor the use of the bench and we hope it will be a convenience for everyone.