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City opts to move slowly on Parcel Four decisions

City to consult neighbours after water park fiasco

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THE most contentious surface parking lot in downtown Winnipeg is potentially up for grabs, as city hall wants to know what neighbours want to do with it.

On Thursday, city council's downtown development committee voted to start consultations to come up with a vision of what could be developed on Parcel Four. The city-owned land is a gravel surface parking lot located next to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and was previously slated to become a 50,000-square-foot water park, hotel and parkade by an Alberta hotel chain.

Downtown development chairman Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) said the city will start to consult with The Forks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Shaw Park to generate ideas. He said the defunct water-park plan showed how passionate Winnipeggers are about development on the site, and the city needs to ensure it has the public trust through the process.

"I think something can really happen there that would be great for Winnipeg," Pagtakhan said. "There's not a huge rush to do anything we're not entertaining any proposals right now."

The city's plan to offer a $7-million grant to a private developer willing to build a water park on the site fell through in May after councillors were bombarded with negative feedback from constituents who worried The Forks wasn't the place for a water park. Council asked the company for detailed site plans, prompting hotelier Canalta to walk away from the proposal.

Two weeks ago, city council shot down Coun. Justin Swandel's motion to sell Parcel Four to The Forks North Portage Partnership for $6 million.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) whose ward includes Parcel Four, said it's important that council learn from its mistakes and not try to rush on moving a proposal forward. She called the move a good first step, and said the city may want to consider a broader consultation on how to proceed with the property.

Gerbasi said Parcel Four's development is complicated by the fact Mayor Sam Katz must recuse himself from issues related to Shaw Park, home of his Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club.

City property director Barry Thorgrimson said all city consultations related to Shaw Park are done through Jason McRae King at Riverside Park Management, a non-profit organization that sublets city land to Katz's Winnipeg Goldeyes.

The mayor's office said Katz is supportive of the public engagement process and in order to avoid any potential conflicts, will recuse himself when the matter comes forward.

"It's a very valuable part of the picture about what's going to happen in that whole area," Gerbasi said. "The mistake that keeps being made is to rashly think we have all the answers and rush in before people have been included and consulted."

Thorgrimson said he hopes the city can report back on options and recommendations on what groups would like to see developed on the site by early April.

"We don't want to limit its opportunity," he said. "It can be anything from leaving it as a gravel parking lot to a park to a full redevelopment of exciting and different types of uses."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 A6

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