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BUSTED: The Human Rights Museum shell game

Watch for the shell game.

That's the one thing we learned from the Upper Fort Garry fiasco. When un-elected millionaires want to use taxpayers' money to fund their pet projects, they start by running an elaborate shell game to divert the taxpayers long enough to pick their pockets.

Well, "shell" meet "game". It's happening again.

You remember the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, don't you? The last we heard of it millionaire moocher Gail Asper was panhandling for $20 million, the money she had to raise by the end of April to get construction started. She came up at least $17 million short, not that this was reported in the mainstream media.

Instead, up popped a story this week that thousands of artifacts have been discovered on the site of the proposed museum and that this has "persuaded museum officials to abandon plans for underground parking."

The story in the Winnipeg Free Press conveniently made no mention of the cost of the museum since, apparently, nobody knows. The announced cost of the miracle project varies widely.

But one fact is sure, the project is a true miracle---the upper range for cost hasn't changed by a single penny for years, even as construction costs for other projects have been climbing 1-2 percent A MONTH.

But it was the mention of underground parking that caught the attention of The Black Rod.

You see, there's a community in Winnipeg that knows a lot about what's going on behind the headlines. We speak of the architectural community which is privy to plans and projects still behind closed doors. They had to keep this information to themselves, so they communicate with each other, spilling just enough beans to release the pressure and win kudos from their colleagues.

Well, something about the rights museum and underground parking twigged an elephant memory and a search of our voluminous files.

Sure enough, up popped a discussion thread from May 2007, almost one year ago. It turned out to be a roadmap of the shell game being played before our eyes today.

( E-noms have been changed to protect the innocent. Emphasis ours.)

It started with this question May 15, 2007, from Expresso:

Anyone have any smart ideas about what to do with parking for the CMHR?

Old Barn replied presciently:

^ depends if the current surface lots at the Forks are still available by then. If so, they have plenty of capacity.

If not, then I would imagine another (larger) parkade is in the Forks future...

Expresso said :
Just wondering what the thoughts were on surface parking versus hiding it underground, or another parkade. Then there will need to be large vehicle storage for buses somewhere.

Green parking - is that an oxymoron?

Surely You, who appeared most in-the-know, stepped into the conversation the next day:

the second that the museum is official the forks will begin construction on a multi storey parkade along the rail line.

Expresso said:
Underground parking is both more expensive than an above ground structure and then there is always the issue of archaeological mitigation at The Forks - I'm not sure if this is accurate or just a rumour. But the Inn at the Forks went without a basement to avoid this issue. The parkade at the forks is only a half-level below grade - not deep enough to hit anything significant.

The Forks has always planned on a parkade adjacent to the rail line with commercial in front along Waterfront (south of York). Except the CEO said not too long ago that a parkade was a last resort (or similar). The Forks can't afford to build one unless they charge for parking (which they should) which will likely trigger the rest of the site to charge for parking (which it should) and could finally lead The Forks to financial self sufficiency (about time).

Buses need to find somewhere else to go. Every bus in the city currently waits at the Forks. They need to move on.

If CMHR could just raise another $10M for a parkade they would have a pretty strong revenue stream ...

Just my 2 cents...

Surely You said:
you cant dig down more than 1m at the forks...that is the amount of fill that was put there by the rail yard....not sure how they are going to build a 25 storey tower without doing that....but for now, that is the rule....the ballpark had to abide by it.

i heard the parking garage plan from the horse's mouth only a couple of months ago.

underground parking is expensive because it needs to be mechanically exhausted...there is also the issue of the water table...the reason hydro eliminated one level.

I know the horse of which you speak! The parkade is in the Concept Plan available for download from The Forks' website. August mentioned it in the Free Press article last month:

"The Forks CEO Jim August said he will start working next week on landscaping and a "green" transportation plan, including whether to locate parking behind the building against the rail line and how to set up some public transit or a people-mover trolley that can link the museum to other downtown attractions. A parking structure is really a last resort, August said."

I guess I'm wondering if the parkade is still Plan A or the last resort. As far as I know it's always been Plan A.

Now compare that (written 11 months ago) with the shell game being played today.

* Parking fees considered to keep The Forks green, (Winnipeg Free Press, April 17, 2008, Lindsey Wiebe)
"The Forks is considering charging a fee for visitors coming by car as part of a range of ideas aimed at getting the historic site carbon neutral by 2010.
The concept hasn't been formally discussed yet, said chief operating officer Paul Jordan, but it could involve charging motorists a couple of bucks to park on-site, with the money going towards carbon offsets."

* Museum sits on artifacts, officials decide to scrap underground parking. ( Winnipeg Free Press, April 23, 2008, Joe Paraskevas)
"Archeological artifacts found beneath the proposed site for the human rights museum at The Forks have persuaded museum officials to abandon plans for underground parking, according to a report going before city council today."

* Forks eyes 800-stall parkade (Winnipeg Free Press, April 24, 2008, Joe Paraskevas.)
"A new 800-stall parkade at The Forks could be considered when city officials and others look at the future of parking at the historic site this summer, a senior Forks manager said Wednesday."

The only thing missing so far, is the linkage between the parkade fees and the human rights museum.

You're not against human rights, are you? You're not a neo-Nazi?

While we're predicting the future by looking at the past, let's give the final word to Surely You, who updated his pals earlier this month.

my buddy confirmed to me that construction of the human rights museum is officially set for february 2009

there will apparently be a public archaeological dig this summer to clear the site of any artefacts before construction begins.

And how much is that museum going to cost, anyway?

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