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'Untended' lot in Winnipeg neighbourhood transformed into community gathering space

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An empty corner on Henderson Highway has received a makeover.

More than 20 years ago, a Suncor (previously Petrol Canada) gas station had been abandoned on the corner of Henderson Highway and Johnson Avenue.

Over time the building on the property was no longer standing and the lot fell into disrepair.

“It was kind of left untended. And it became kind of a little decrepit lot where nobody would go and it would become unsafe,” said Leilani Esteban-Villarba, executive director at Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (CNRC).

The corporation saw an opportunity for beautification and negotiated with Suncor to turn the lot into a gathering space for Elmwood residents.

On Monday, after lots of hard work, the community corner is now open to the public, and celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It’s so wonderful,” said Esteban-Villarba. “We put blacktop on it, we put benches there, we put a stage, and we put flower boxes, so it’s really become this lovely little place for our community.”

Organizers have many ideas in store for the rejuvenated space.

“We’re looking at doing farmers markets, movie nights. It’s just a great place to sit and have lunch. So we’re basically making it useable to the community again,” said Michel Durand-Wood, chair of Reimagine Elmwood.

Elmwood business owner, Brett Zagozewski, said the upgraded space is an important addition to the area.

“To have a venue where people can come and experience Elmwood is extremely valuable. We have so many great shops and restaurants and people and community in that neighbourhood. It’s just a really big opportunity for people to come and gather,” said Zagozewski.

There are already events planned for the last week of May.

“As we go along we are going to keep adding more amenities and programming throughout the summer,” said Durand-Wood.

-With files from CTV's Rachel Lagace

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