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Hotel sales key to project

Downtown agency needs two buyers

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WINNIPEG’S downtown development agency still has two hotels to sell to continue its South Portage neighbourhood revitalization effort.

CentreVenture Development Corporation is working on a deal to sell the St. Regis Hotel, a Smith Street property it acquired for $5 million in 2012.

The arm’s-length city agency is also working with Stuart Olson Dominion Construction to find a hotelier to buy the Carlton Inn site on Carlton Street and build a new hotel north of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

CentreVenture president and CEO Ross Mc-Gowan said his agency is in talks to sell the St. Regis, acquired as part of an effort to curb public intoxication in downtown Winnipeg.

The sale of the Carlton Inn site is more complex. CentreVenture acquired the property to help secure land for a new name-brand hotel to serve the expanded convention centre, whose business plan demands more adjacent hotel rooms.

Stuart Olson Dominion’s original bid to expand the convention centre called for the construction company to partner with Dallas- based hotel-building firm Matthews Southwest. But the two companies went their separate ways last year.

CentreVenture acquired the Carlton Inn for $6.6 million and closed it down this year. To prepare for demolition, workers began removing asbestos in September, McGowan said.

CentreVenture secured both city and provincial approval before it acquired the two hotels, whose purchase prices included both the properties and the businesses operating within them. Efforts to secure a third south Portage property, the Garrick Hotel on Garry Street, have been abandoned, McGowan said.

CentreVentureisnowproceedingwitha$25-million streetscaping effort in the 11-block downtown area the agency calls the "sports, hospitality and entertainment district." The streetscaping, which includes new lighting and sidewalks, is funded in part by new property taxes flowing from new construction in the district, including Longboat Development Corporation’s Centrepoint complex north of Portage Avenue.

The streetscaping plan calls for the construction of dozens of funnel-shaped structures Mc-Gowan calls funnelators, which may serve as outdoor light fixtures, heaters or information kiosks. A prototype installed at the entrance to the Millennium Library may be tested as early as today.

McGowan said he hopes to switch on the first funnelator on New Year’s Eve.

In the longer term, CentreVenture is working with Manitoba Public Insurance to develop the surface parking lot west of Cityplace into "SoPo Square," which would feature two office towers and a public plaza.

While that remains years away, the new streetscaping and construction represents a tangible investment in along Portage Avenue from both the public and private sectors, said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone.

"It’s a slow-progress initiative. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re starting to see the physical piece, with Centrepoint," said Grande, referring to Longboat’s hotel, office, parkade and residential complex. "We couldn’t say that when the MTS Centre opened."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2013 B1

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