The city is poised to seize the derelict St. Charles Hotel, which will uncork pent-up interest from developers, the head of Heritage Winnipeg hopes.
Cindy Tugwell said the Exchange District hotel is structurally sound, in a great location and has nearby parking.
"I really don't think that building is going to struggle with a developer," said Tugwell, who has already fielded several calls from builders interested in renovating the 100-year-old hotel.
'I really don't think that building is going to struggle with a developer' -- Heritage Winnipeg's Cindy Tugwell
Monday marks the beginning of the end of the five-year saga of the St. Charles Hotel. That's the day councillors on the downtown development committee will vote whether to take title to the building under the vacant and derelict building bylaw.
The move, a radical one in which the city takes title without compensation, comes after years of inspections, orders, hearings, extensions and delays as owner Ken Zaifman, a well-known immigration lawyer, tried to transform the St. Charles into a boutique hotel.
City inspectors visited the hotel last month and discovered a leaky, derelict mess.
The real concern is Zaifman's inability during the last two years to install a sprinkler system mandated by the bylaw.
If councillors vote to take title to the hotel, city staff suggests issuing a call for proposals within three months.
Any proposal will have a deadline for construction and will likely involve CentreVenture, the downtown development agency.
The hotel, located at what should be an attractive entrance to the historic Exchange District, is bounded by an empty lot where a fire levelled a heritage building last year. Just north is the legendary Royal Albert Arms, still struggling after reopening in March amid controversy over the criminal background of one of its owners.
"That area is ripe for development," said Downtown development chairman Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas).
CentreVenture would not comment Thursday, but has said in the past it is ready to step in to redevelop the site if the city takes possession of the hotel.
The agency already has a high-level plan for Albert Street. Developers interested in the property have been in limbo, waiting for the city to seize the building and start fresh on redevelopment proposals.
Under the derelict building bylaw, the city has already taken title to large commercial buildings, including apartment complexes and rooming houses.
Zaifman did not return calls Thursday.