Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Second hotel for CentreVenture?

Loan OK'd so downtown agency can buy inn

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A downtown development agency wants to purchase the Carlton Inn, raising speculation it could be the future home of a new hotel next to an expanded Winnipeg Convention Centre.

On Wednesday, Mayor Sam Katz said CentreVenture needs the city to back a $6.6-million loan guarantee so it can purchase the Carlton Inn, the 108-room hotel located across from the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Carlton Street. City council voted to approve the loan guarantee, which will see the agency's line of credit increase to nearly $20 million, so it can acquire "strategically located properties" downtown.

CentreVenture CEO Ross McGowan said the agency is still negotiating with the hotel's owners and declined to discuss potential plans for the site.

"We are in discussions with the owners of the Carlton Inn," he said. "We think it's a very strategic property."

The $180-million convention centre expansion is expected to double the facility's size and trigger other downtown projects, including two new hotels adjacent to the convention centre. There has been speculation one hotel might be built on the site of the Carleton Inn, north of the convention centre.

The federal government is contributing $46.6 million toward the cost of the expanded convention centre and the city and province are each kicking in $51 million.

The balance of the funding will come from new incremental property tax revenues from the adjacent hotel development and from revenue generated by the convention centre.

Katz said wherever a hotel is built, it has to generate sufficient revenue to pay for the balance of the funding.

"That's a very important part of that whole puzzle," he said.

Last month, CentreVenture announced it had purchased the St. Regis Hotel and would shut the facility's beverage and VLT lounge when it takes possession of the property next month.

The purchase price will be disclosed in January and the agency has also acquired the hotel's adjacent surface parking lots in the 200 block of Smith Street.

The move is part of the agency's broader plan to redevelop Portage Avenue and the 11-block Sports Hospitality and Entertainment District (SHED). Officials have said the SHED and Portage Avenue are often associated with panhandling and aggressive behaviour due to excessive alcohol consumption.

In November, McGowan declined to discuss whether the agency plans to purchase other hotels in and around the SHED.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 B1

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