As part of the City of Winnipeg’s Northeast Exchange District Renewals project, WSP
Canada Group Limited was contracted to redesign John Hirsch Place as a unique
shared space roadway in Winnipeg. The project involved the reconstruction of John
Hirsch Place in Winnipeg’s historic exchange district and redesigning the right of way to
a curbless shared street based on the Dutch ‘Woonerf’ (living street) model, which
involves traffic yielding to pedestrian activity and significant landscaping to enhance the
pedestrian environment. The curbless design was used to avoid defining areas and
boundaries that restrict pedestrian movement but rather allow pedestrians to move
freely within the site. Limited parking within the roadway is available, and vehicles are
slowed by traffic calming measures such as bollards, narrow path of travel, and limited
sight distance to discourage a large volume of vehicle traffic and enhance pedestrian
safety and environment. The project is notable for its links to the district’s cultural
context, technical innovations, and quality of design.
To accommodate the significant landscaping along John Hirsch Place, a soil retention
system was installed to provide uncompacted soil volume necessary for tree growth and
provide opportunity to greatly increase plantings and trees in the public right of way,
while not restricting the roadway for all road users. Strata Cells, capable of withstanding
vehicular traffic and pavement loads, were placed beneath the roadway due to the
proximity of existing trees to the roadway that required additional soil volume.
Stormwater enters the systems along the roadway through a series of catch basins to
reduce loading on a combined sewer while providing water for the tree roots. The
sustainable drainage system provides financial benefit by reducing maintenance
requirements and loading requirements for an aging sewer system in Winnipeg’s
downtown area. The system is the first of its kind in Winnipeg and was chosen because
of the limited right of way available and the need for soil volume underneath the
Due to the broad and complex nature of the project, transportation engineers, land
drainage engineers, and landscape architects collaborated to develop the Woonerf
design and blend traditional roadway improvements with innovative drainage solutions and significant streetscaping and landscaping to effectively create a unique shared
space that will provide an example for the feasibility of shared streets in Winnipeg in an
effort to aid in future reconfigurations of roadways to shared spaces.
This paper highlights the key components from this project with a focus on Winnipeg’s
first Woonerf roadway design and the Strata Cell soil retention system pilot project and
the social and environmental benefits resulting from the project.