Revitalization and Collaboration: Creating Positive Change Downtown

Downtown Winnipeg – and city centres across the country, continent, and world – has undergone an evolution in the wake of pandemic-related closures, changing workplace climates, and a number of societal changes across the past several years.

But how do we begin to revitalize these important inner-city spaces and create positive change in these valuable communities?  

Moderated by Dr. Jino Distasio, Vice President of Research and Innovation at The University of Winnipeg, this panel discussion will feature experts from community organizations and academia discussing post-pandemic community development, grassroots initiatives, safety measures, housing, transportation, youth opportunities, and more.

When: Thursday, September 21, 2023 | 5–7:30 p.m.
Where: Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex, 599 Portage Ave.

Light refreshments will be served and complimentary parking is available with advance registration.

Register Today

Event Panel

Jino DistasioDr. Jino Distasio – Vice-President, Research and Innovation, The University of Winnipeg 

Dr. Jino Distasio joined the University of Winnipeg in 1999. For over a decade, he has worked extensively in Winnipeg’s inner city as well as exploring broader Canadian and global urban issues where he has been engaged in close to 200 projects, publications and community initiatives.

Recently, he coordinated a six-year project on homelessness and mental health in Canadian cities. This work is part of a $110-million project funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and is the largest such project ever undertaken globally.

Distasio maintains a strong research program is areas of housing market analysis, mental health and homelessness, Indigenous urban issues, and broad policy. He has served on many boards including The International Centre for Infectious Disease, Prairie Isotope Partnership Enterprise, Habitat for Humanity, Westminster Housing Society and the University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation as well as the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Sectorial Commission in the Natural, Social and Human Sciences.

At the national level, Jino has led numerous multi-city projects that have examined housing markets dynamics, homelessness, poverty as well as developing of a national index of neighbourhood distress. He continues to teach and holds several adjunct appointments.


Dan LettDan Lett – Journalist, The Winnipeg Free Press

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.

Since arriving in Winnipeg, he has worked at Free Press bureaus covering every level of government — from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa. And he has been on the front lines for a lot of incredible news stories.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, was trapped in a riot with Imelda Marcos, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed two borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could ever hope for.

He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations. Other awards include winner of the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.


Kate FenskeKate Fenske – CEO, Downtown BIZ

Kate Fenske is the CEO of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, where she leads the organization’s activities to promote, care and advocate for a vibrant and inclusive downtown where business thrives and people are drawn to work, live, shop and explore.

In 2021, Kate led the development of the Downtown Recovery Strategy, bringing together nearly a dozen organizations to work collaboratively on an innovative and intensive coordinated action and investment plan to kick-start recovery post-pandemic, securing $50M in funding.

Kate currently serves on the Boards of the International Downtown Association (IDA) and the Downtown Community Safety Partnership (DCSP).


joe-kornelson-300x380.jpgJoe Kornelson – Executive Director, West End BIZ

Joe Kornelsen is the Executive Director of the West End BIZ. Joe has worked in various roles at the West End BIZ since 2012. In that time, he established the BIZ’s Economic Development department, created the BIZ’s popular restaurant tours and has supported the work of the Downtown Recovery Strategy.

Joe has a long history of engagement in the West End having sat as a director on the boards of Spence Neighbourhood Association and the Friends of Sherbrook Pool. Joe is passionate about improving transportation options in Winnipeg. In 2014, Joe was a founding member and became the first president of Functional Transit Winnipeg, successfully advocating for the inclusion of a frequent service network in Winnipeg’s Transit Master Plan.


Sarah ZellDr. Sarah Zell – Assistant Professor, Urban and Inner-City Studies, The University of Winnipeg

Dr. Sarah Zell is a broadly trained human geographer whose research interests center on migration settlement patterns and processes, migration and border policy and governance, feminist political geography, and labour mobility and precarity. She is also interested in questions related to housing and urban change and adaptation, citizenship and belonging, and qualitative and community-based, participatory research methodologies.

She completed her PhD in Geography at the University of British Columbia, and her doctoral work examined the recruitment and migration process of temporary migrant workers to Western Canada, analyzing their precarity and associated spatializations of borders and state power. She has been a research consultant for the Government of Manitoba, Government of British Columbia, and the Vancouver Mayor’s Working Group on Immigration.

Dr. Zell is also a founding member of the SSHRC-funded Migration Research Collective/Collectif de Recherche sur les Migrations (MRC/CRM) and a Research Affiliate with Immigration Research West and sits on the Research Committee of the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations (MANSO) and on Immigration Partnership Winnipeg’s Civic Engagement Sector Council.