THE ALEXANDER DOCKS
Located along the western bank of the Red River in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, the Alexander Docks were purchased by the federal government from the Guest Fishing Company in 1928. The wharf was intended to become a central hub for river traffic, serving government vessels, passenger ships, fishing boats, and tug-towed barges. The adjacent railway line and road networks provided easy access to and from local businesses. The first vessel to moor along the finished wharf was the SS Swan of the Hadley Bjornson Fish Company, docking on 27 May 1929. Over the next few years, the site became known by the adopted title of Alexander Docks, taking its name from a nearby street. As both rail and road networks expanded and improved over the following decades, river traffic diminished accordingly.
The wharf, now owned by the City of Winnipeg, was closed in 2015 and remains fenced due to concerns over structural integrity and safety. The Alexander Dock site is less than an acre in total. The current dock spans approximately 406 feet (124m) along the river with 44 feet (13.5m) width from the bank. There is also an aqueduct and hydro line running through the site, south of the dock. The Alexander Dock Public Consultation was completed by The Forks in June 2017, while this ideas competition is a continuation of the conversation. The report was released to On the Docks and is available for download on the website.
Development of the surrounding Exchange District has occurred over the past decade. The Mere Boutique Hotel opened on the adjacent site, the existing waterfront pump house was re-purposed as the Cibo Waterfront Cafe, the James Avenue Pumping Station is under construction, and many residential developments were built on Waterfront Drive. Winnipeg’s recent Active Transportation plan 2018 proposes the continuation of a walkway connecting Stephen Juba park with Fort Douglas Park. The docks have been untouched, but are key to the development of the area, and have the potential to reconnect the community to the river.
The docks are also the location of a community memorial to Tina Fontaine and continues to be a meaningful place. Participants are encouraged to incorporate a memorial as part of their proposition to reflect on the significance of the site.