Downtown Urban Design – Planning, Ownership and Development


What is Urban Design?
Urban design aims to give physical design direction to urban growth, conservation and change. It is a way of shaping public and semi-public spaces on streets and around buildings to create a quality and livable urban environment. Urban design reflects consideration of function, economy and organization as well as aesthetic and cultural qualities. Safety, accessibility and quality are paramount to good urban design, elements that respond to the needs of a city and a community rather than individual tastes.

Why is urban design important?
The City recognizes that excellence in urban design is essential to creating great communities and neighborhoods. High quality design can add economic, social and environmental value. It can produce high returns on investment, reduce management, maintenance, energy and security costs. Good design can also create new, well-connected and accessible places, enhance a sense of security and conserve urban heritage.downtown map

How to guide and regulate urban design in the city center?
The Downtown Winnipeg Zoning By-law 100/2004 separates the downtown area into four areas; Riverfront, multiple use, downtown living and character. Each sector has its own intent and provides direction on uses, built form and signage.

Additional guidance is provided by the Downtown Urban Design Guidelines. The principles set out in these guidelines form the basis of design review decisions. See the submission requirements for a downtown design review application.

Additional guidance is provided by the following documents:

What are we reviewing?
The Downtown Winnipeg Zoning By-law 100/2004 250 (1) states:

“All exterior developments, redevelopments, expansions or alterations in downtown Winnipeg visible from public rights-of-way or rivers are subject to urban design review”.

This includes:

What we review

How are the projects evaluated?
Projects can be reviewed in two ways, by City of Winnipeg staff or by the Urban Design Advisory Committee (UDAC).

Who is on UDAC?
The UDAC is made up of design and development professionals appointed by the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development, Heritage and Town Center Development to provide expert advice to the Director of the Department of Town Planning, Real Estate and Development in matters of urban design.

UDAC members are nominated by professional associations including: Association of Manitoba Architects, Association of Landscape Architects of Manitoba, Manitoba Professional Planners Institute, Urban Development Institute and CentreVenture.

All members are volunteers and donate their time to the Urban Design Advisory Committee.

What projects go to the UDAC?

  1. New additions or new buildings of significant size and scale
  2. Significant proposals due to their location in a sensitive downtown context
  3. Proposals that may set a precedent and affect future decision-making

All other development projects are reviewed by the City of Winnipeg.

When do UDAC meetings take place?
UDAC meetings take place on the second Thursday of each month.

What are the steps in the Urban Design Review process?

the urban design process

What should I submit with my development request?
Every project is unique, but as a general rule, most applications require:

  1. Scale drawings
    • Architectural drawings and details (Plan, elevations, sections to help illustrate design objectives)
    • Landscape drawings and details
    • Mechanical and electrical plans on request
    • North arrow, date and plan number
    • Final stamped drawings
  2. Sitemap
    • All existing and new features of the site
    • Location of new buildings/structures/elements
    • Landscaping details including foot traffic facilities, plant materials, planters, walls, fences, paving materials, parking, including materials, dimensions, etc.
    • Location of garbage storage facilities
    • Size and location of service infrastructure (transformer, gas, etc.)
    • Lighting details
  3. The context
    • Site layout and land dimensions and existing site features
    • Adjacent building plots and footprints
    • Streets, alleys, street elements (sidewalks, para ramps, trees, signal posts, lampposts, fire hydrants, etc.)
    • Private approaches (indicate cross slope gradient)


What should I submit with my application to UDAC?
The submission package should provide sufficient detail to allow the Urban Design Advisory Committee to fully understand the scope, purpose and details of the proposal. Plans and illustrations should fully illustrate the character and detail of the design (depending on stage of design development and scale of project).

***Plans and illustrations must be submitted at least one week in advance, failure to comply with this instruction may result in the postponement of the exam

  1. Design statement
    • Explain design intent (goals)
    • Explain how the design intent is reflected in the layout, scale, visual appearance and landscape of the proposal
    • Explain how the proposal relates to its wider context (through a full context assessment, if applicable)
  2. Map of the place
    • Scale 1:1250
    • North arrow, date and plan number
    • Describe Application Property
    • Show the property of the application in relation to all adjacent properties and the immediate surroundings, including roads and buildings across the street at a minimum
  3. The context
    • Scale 1:200
    • North arrow, date and plan number
    • View entire property including all buildings, landscaped areas, open spaces and parking
    • Tree survey, if applicable
  4. Proposed site layout/site development plan
    • Scale, usually 1:200
    • North arrow, date and plan number
    • Show the location of any new buildings or additions, vehicle/pedestrian access, level changes, planted areas, new or modified boundary walls and fences
    • New hard open spaces
    • View the proposal in the context of adjacent buildings, walkways and crossings
  5. Photographs of the site and its surroundings
    • Show existing buildings (if applicable)
    • Exterior elevations on either side of the building(s)
    • Details of the surrounding context, including affected areas, site, block and neighborhood (if applicable)
  6. Elevations
    • Scale 1:50 or 1:100
    • Show every elevation of a new building or addition
    • For an addition, clearly distinguish existing and proposed elevations
    • Include details of materials and exterior appearance
    • Elevations should extend beyond the site boundary to show the relationship of the proposal to the setting. Long street elevations showing the proposal in context are particularly useful. Drawings must be accurate.
  7. Cross sections (if applicable)
    • Scale 1:50 or 1:100 (consistent with floor plans)
  8. Other information
    • Drawings or 3D model
    • Perspectives should be accurate and drawn from a relevant vantage point such as an eye-level view of the street frontage
    • Material samples
    • Paving details, landscaping, vegetation, lighting, signage…

Where can I submit my application?
Applications can be made to the Zoning and Permits Branch at 31-30 Fort Street (Fort Garry Place).

For an early consultation, contact the Senior Urban Designer at 204-986-4738

What if my building is a listed heritage building?
A building on the City of Winnipeg’s Historic Buildings Committee’s Building Preservation List must also undergo a heritage review.

The heritage and planning review usually occurs at the same time.
For more information on the Heritage Review, contact the Heritage Planner at 204-986-4722.

Last update:
June 16, 2021


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