The City of Winnipeg is ordering a long-time art supply business to pave a would-be paradise for a parking lot or not be allowed to open the doors at its new location.
Artists Emporium, which closed its decades-old location on St. James Street in November to move into a purchased space at 580 Roseberry St., has been denied its request to vary the zoning laws so it doesn’t have to pave a 11,400-square-foot gravel parking lot at the rear of the property.
The business is appealing the decision at the Thursday meeting of the civic appeal committee.
Store owner Janeen Junson said she doesn’t understand why the city wants it to have room for more than 40 parking spots on the entire property — 31 at the back — when it only needed eight in total at its former location.
The new location has 13 spots at the front and side of the building, plus the street allows parking.
"If I had 42 people all the time, I’d be very happy, but we don’t," Junson said Wednesday. "This would cost me over $100,000.
"The parking areas on the front and the side of the building are both paved and offer almost double the spaces we had at our previous building for 40 years. And there is street parking here, which we didn’t have before," she said.
"I was in shock when they told me I had to do this. This could close my business."
“I was in shock when they told me I had to do this. This could close my business.” – Janeen Junson
Junson said the building was constructed in 1958, and the two previous retail businesses at the location (Belair Party Rentals and Blinds are Beautiful) were not required to pave the rear gravel lot, even though the rental business had customers accessing it from that point and used it to store delivery trucks.
Under the art supply store banner, the gravel lot was to become a green space with shrubbery, to be used by employees for their lunch breaks, for outdoor art classes or individual artists to use.
St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham (also a mayoral candidate) is on Junson’s side, and will speak in favour of her request at the appeal committee meeting.
With small businesses still struggling from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city should be doing more to help them survive instead of hurting them, he said Wednesday.
"She owns a small business and she knows her parking requirements," Gillingham said, noting there is on-street parking available as well.
"The city has bylaws and the staff is following it, but there are variances… This parking lot has been gravel for many years. Now to require (more than $100,000)… to be paved is just a significant financial burden."
According to a civic report, the city wants the gravel lot paved because blown loose sand and dust is a problem for pedestrians and surrounding properties.
This parking lot has been gravel for many years. Now to require (more than $100,000)… to be paved is just a significant financial burden.” – Coun. Scott Gillingham
As well, the city says, in wet conditions, the gravel can be tracked onto the street, increasing the need for street cleaning and, when snow is on the ground, a gravel surface can’t be cleared of snow properly. The report says it is also impossible to mark individual parking spots on a gravel lot.
While there was a previous business at the site, its main function was as a warehouse and not a retail outlet, like one selling art supplies and doing custom framing, the report noted.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.