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From Osborne Village to Transcona, how Winnipeg signs showcase the city’s history

When Winnipeggers drive through Confusion Corner into Osborne Village, there is now a new sign welcoming them into the community.

It’s a sign that delighted Zohreh Gervais, the executive director of Osborne Village BIZ, the first time she saw it.

“I’m actually super excited about this sign for a couple of different reasons,” Gervais said in an interview with CTV News Winnipeg.

“There’s the blueprint for a healthy community that came out last year for Osborne Village and one of the things that it recommended in there was we delineate the neighbourhood with signage… on either end.”

The sign reads ‘Welcome to Osborne Village’ in cursive writing across a new building under construction in the area. Gervais said the developer of the building, Sharfe Developments President Adam Sharfe, commissioned the sign as a special gift for the community.

Sharfe told CTV News he wanted something that would look good when it was shared on Instagram, noting the sign is a mix of the older character of Palm Springs and the Beverly Hills Hotel sign.

A photo of the new sign for Osborne Village. (Source: Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg. Jan. 3, 2024)

“I really thought it would be something nice as a gateway into Osborne Village to add a little bit more character to the community,” he said. “I want to develop in communities where I’m doing right by the neighbours and all the positive comments and feedback and phone calls I’ve gotten on it, it’s been really encouraging.”

Eventually, the sign will also light up with LED lights said Sharfe.

“It’s really going to pop and glow at nighttime.”

‘IT ADDS TO THIS MYSTIQUE OF PLACES’

While this may be the newest sign in the city, Winnipeg is known for its signs in all quadrants of the city.

Jino Distasio, a professor of urban geography at the University of Winnipeg, said the signs of Winnipeg help tell the history of the city.

“One interesting part of Winnipeg’s history is the connection to what we call unicity. So before 1970, Winnipeg was a collection of municipalities, various cities,” said Distasio. “So you’ll see a lot of this signage related to say the City of Transcona, the City of St. Vital, as they were before unicity. So I think some of those deep identities of the place have remained strong over the decades.”

A photo of the sign for downtown Transcona. (Source: Gary Robson/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 3, 2024)

A photo of the Old St. Vital sign. (Source: Gary Robson/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 3, 2024)

He said the signs help share the unique identity of every Winnipeg community and connect people.

“It’s really about an entrenched belief that these neighbourhoods represent something more and I think that’s good, that Winnipeg has this patchwork of neighbourhoods or districts.”

Whether it’s the sign for Charleswood or the sign welcoming people into the North End, Distasio said it’s important that Winnipeg ensures these signs withstand time and are kept up to date.

A photo of the Charleswood sign. (Source: Gary Robson/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 3, 2024)

He noted it’s not just signs that help with identity, but also other markers like murals or statues that help signify areas.

“It adds to this mystique of places that we want to see history reflected. We want to see our communities showcased, just a little bit. Whether it’s a true sign or whether it’s an informal marker that welcomes you into a neighbourhood.”

As for the Osborne Village sign, Gervais hopes this new creation will spur another sign at the other end of the Village approaching downtown.

“I would love to continue to expand on that and do something for the other end of Osborne with it. But we haven’t got any plans in the works yet. But there’s definitely a few different ideas that we’re batting around,” said Gervais.

Click the photo below to explore some of the signs throughout Winnipeg:

A picture of the sign in Fort Garry. (Source: Gary Robson/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 3, 2024)

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