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Katz wants Parcel Four at Forks to be turned into park honouring Asper

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If it can't be a water park, maybe it could be a park.

This morning, Mayor Sam Katz suggested a prime piece of city-owned land that was slated to be a water park could be converted into a park to honour the late Izzy Asper.

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Alberta-based hotel chain Canalta wanted to build a hotel and water park on a city-owned parking lot known as Parcel Four, which is adjacent to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Shaw Park. The deal fell through after council voted to delay the project amid concerns they needed more specifics on Canalta's site and design plans.

Last week, Canalta sent a letter to City of Winnipeg property director which said council's request requires "significant" additional spending without knowing if any design they propose will be approved. Canalta withdrew their proposal.

Katz said it will be very difficult to develop this land in the future because a developer will be required to provide detailed drawings of a potential facility. He said there is very little green space left at The Forks and he thinks it would be a wonderful idea if someone converted the surface parking lot into a park to honour Asper, whose dream was to see a museum for human rights.

"After seeing what took place, the whole thing, I believe it's going to be very difficult in the future to get any type of development on that site," Katz said, following this morning's executive policy committee meeting.

This morning was the first time in weeks Katz has commented on the water park development, as he did not partake in any council votes since Parcel Four is near the home of his Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club.

Katz said he thinks the money for a park could be found in the community, and Forks North Portage Partnership could maintain the green space. The mayor said he has not spoken to city administration about the idea.

"I'm just giving you some food for thought," he said.

Since 2008, the city has been trying to offer a $7-million grant to a private developer willing to build a water park and make it accessible to the general public. The grant was initially awarded to Canad Inns, but the deal collapsed in 2009 when no progress was made on the Polo Park water park.

Katz said he doesn't think the water park dream will go any further.

Katz said the $7 million will remain in the city's recreation fund to be put towards things such as community centres. He said there is a significant need to invest in Winnipeg's recreational facilities, and the city has spoken to the province about putting more money in the recreation fund.

"From my point of view I'm not thinking about it anymore," Katz said, referring to the water park. "God willing one day, the private sector will do something, who knows."


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