Living Downtown / by Greg Gallinger

I love Downtown Winnipeg. I've enjoyed the sixteen months that I've lived on Broadway. I love the proximity to the Exchange District, to great restaurants, cafés, and nightlife. I love how easy it is to get from Downtown to anywhere else. I love walking from my apartment, on Broadway, north through Millennium Park, to Portage Avenue in order to catch a bus. I never need to check bus times because there's always another bus if I miss the first one.* I love a lot of things about Downtown, but it's time for me to move.

Why am I moving you ask? That has more to do with my apartment and the selection of rental property than the neighbourhood. I have three major complaints about apartment living Downtown: price, condition, noise.

As I see it one of Downtown's biggest downfalls is the lack of quality affordable rental property. If you are willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a Waterfront Dr. condo you're in luck, there are plenty of those. However, if you want a reasonably priced one bedroom apartment your selection is much more limited.

Downtown has basically two different types of apartments: 3-5 storey walk-ups, and low/high-rise (4-25 storey buildings with elevators).

The walk-ups tend to be older buildings and can often have more "character", a quality popular amongst twenty somethings looking for their first or second place of their own. In these buildings the caretaker often lives on-site and is usually easily approachable, which is good because in older buildings things tend to break more frequently. In my experience the walk-ups located Downtown tend to be in less than ideal condition.

The low/high rises seem to be newer, with more amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, and indoor parking. Unlike the walk-ups caretakers are often offsite, or have regular office hours on the main floor, however they often have better security. Based on what I have seen while apartment hunting these type of apartments are typically more expensive, with one bedroom suites being especially expensive.

My current apartment falls into the walk-up category, it is also in desperate need of repairs. My number one reason for moving is the poor condition of almost every aspect of my apartment.

Lastly noise can be a big issue living Downtown. I am very accustomed to "city noise" and as a result tend not to notice it, but houseguests and people on the other end of phone conversations seem to. Traffic noise is unavoidable as you are living in closer proximity to busier streets, but some streets are worse than others. In my case my apartment sits adjacent to the main fire route for Downtown. Every time there is a fire in central Winnipeg I can hear the fire trucks racing past my window. Other vehicle noise includes transport trucks, garbage collection, police sirens, and joyriding motorcyclists. The closer you are to ground level the worse noise is, so walk-ups tend to be the worst.

If you are looking to live Downtown I don't want to discourage you from doing so, I just recommend you do your research.

When viewing apartments check to see how many power outlets there are, older buildings may not have many; my apartment doesn't have any in the bathroom and I didn't notice until I moved in. It might also be helpful to try out the outlets, look to see if they all have grounding pins.

Check to see what type and how many fuses the building has; I had to learn how to change a fuse at 1 o'clock in the morning in complete darkness after discovering my entire apartment has only two circuits.

Checkout the building at different times of day to get a sense for how much traffic/noise you should expect, although you still might be surprised to learn that the dumpsters out back are emptied at 3 AM, and street cleaners seem to come and go randomly throughout the night.

Check to see what kind of heating the building uses, if possible ask people in the building what to expect, are you going to need a space heater in winter or an air conditioner in the summer?

Lastly make sure you fully inspect the suite that you plan on moving in to, looking at neighbouring suites may give you a sense of what the building is like and how the apartments are laid out but you cannot verify the condition of the apartment unless you actually see it yourself.

With all this being said I'm not moving far from Downtown, I'll be moving to the beautiful neighbourhood of West Broadway, which many suburbanites often mistake as part of Downtown. Many of the points I made still apply to this area and pretty much any urban neighbourhood. I'm looking forward to living in my new apartment. I made a lot of mistakes prior to moving Downtown that could have been avoided, but they helped me learn some important lessons and now know what to look for and what to avoid.


*Unless it's Sunday, or late at night, but that's Winnipeg Transit's failure, not Downtown's.