Charting a future for Marion Street
By: Simon Fuller
Things are changing on Marion Street.
In light of a number of significant recent land infill developments on Marion Street, The Lancespoke with key stakeholders who are playing their part in helping secure the landmark street’s curb appeal and its sustainability for generations to come.
In the last few years, the landmark St. Boniface Street has seen several redevelopment and revitalization projects which helped beautify the strip, increase the residential capacity of the street and boost the numbers of visitors to the Norwood Grove area.
Two of the new redevelopments are situated at the intersection of Marion Street and Traverse Avenue — Les Gars Condos is located at 250 Marion St. and a new commercial building, which includes Marion Chiropractic Centre, is based at 230 Marion St.
According to Norm Gousseau, the chief executive officer of Entreprises Riel, both properties — which are situated on the sites of former gas stations — represent an upward trend of condo development in the area, which represents an increase in population density in the area.
“It’s about densification,” Gousseau said. “Before, this part of Marion wasn’t very dense, but today there are a good number of condos. We need bodies in the area to thrive. We’re always looking for a mix on main streets such as Marion, Goulet and Provencher because you want a walkable community with different points of interest.”
Another significant redevelopment will occur at 123 Marion St. in a building that sits at the heart of the eastbound entranceway to St. Boniface, which was the longtime former home of a pharmacy and will have two floors of space for tenants to rent.
“When you look at this building’s close proximity to St. Boniface Hospital, there’s a big focus for more healthcare-related development and the location at 123 Marion is well-poised to serve this clientele. Lots of people in the area are looking to serve their healthcare needs and many people doing this like to do this near hospitals,” Gousseau said, noting that commercial applications for office space in the building are currently being invited.
He said another attraction of setting up shop, or home, in the area is its close proximity to downtown, not least for commuters, which offers a European-style ambiance.
“If you live in north St. Boniface, you’re potentially just a hop, skip and a jump from your office. If you think about the condos on Tache, you’re a short walk from Broadway. At the same time, there’s a focus on boutique shopping where people can pick up wine and groceries without having to go to a big mall, which is European-style,” Gousseau said.
Jennifer Mathieson, executive director of the Norwood Grove BIZ, said Marion is considered a “market street” — in the same style as Academy Road, Corydon Avenue and Osborne Street — which attracts locally-owned businesses and mom-and-pop businesses.
“We’re able to sustain and support small- and medium-sized businesses and we want businesses to come and stay in Norwood,” Mathieson said.
In terms of the future, Mathieson said there are many positives for Norwood Grove.
She said there is an increased visibility of services in the area, including shops and cafes, and organizers have been working to increase the walkability and bikeability factor of the strip.
This scenario includes people who live east and southeast of Marion stopping on the street on the way home from work for dinner, as well as a large lunch crowd in the area. This number includes the 3,000 or so staff at St. Boniface Hospital, Mathieson said.
One example of revitalization on the strip in the heart of the Norwood Grove BIZ catchment area is 300 Tache Ave., a renovated four-storey, mixed-use building that now houses boutique apartments and businesses such as Samantha James Hair Design on the ground floor.
Mathieson said there will also be a restaurant setting up shop on the ground floor at the beginning of November.
“We’re hoping people will be excited to go there,” she said.
“We’re attracting young entrepreneurs and visitors and we want to make sure Marion and Tache for individuals to visit and stay. We want to sustain business through enhancing services, lobbying, design, aesthetics and marketing.”
“This building, for example, is all about young, fresh ideas. It’s going to be great. We have an amazing bilingual community and we have a huge influx of visitors from places like Paris and Montreal, who are comfortable in the community. On that note, the Norwood Hotel is also a main hub in the bilingual community.”
In regards to 300 Marion, Gousseau said the heritage building is a prime example of how reinvention can be for the betterment of the community.
“It’s been gutted and completely redone and now it houses some nice suites, as well as businesses. It’s important to always respect heritage, while always understanding value.”
In terms of the big picture, Gousseau is pleased with the progress that has been made so far and said there is still more room for continued development and revitalization.
“For years the strip has been on the verge of a boom and now we have new buildings and stores opening up. And the potential is not fully realized yet, as it still begs for a little more development and a little more density,” he said.