Two more milestones in the ongoing effort to revitalize and repopulate the downtown will be reached within the next month when construction begins on two high-profile condominiums.
First out of the ground will be the 21-storey Glasshouse Skylofts in the City tower on Hargrave Street. The official ground-breaking ceremony is today at 1 p.m., with construction expected to get underway after the July 1 holiday, Urban Capital co-founder and partner David Wex said Tuesday.
Wex said 120 of the units have already been sold, and the plan is to have the building ready for occupancy starting in February 2016.
Today's event is to be followed three weeks later with a July 16 groundbreaking ceremony for the oft-delayed D Condo project on Assiniboine Avenue.
Sandhu Developments' owner Karampaul Sandhu said Tuesday he hopes to have the building ready for occupancy beginning in the fall of next year.
When completed, the Glasshouse and D Condo projects will add 286 new residential units and hundreds of new residents to the downtown, continuing the momentum that began to build three or four years ago following the launch of the successful city-provincial Downtown Residential Grant Program. That $40-million, fully-subscribed program was designed to encourage more residential development downtown by offering developers grants of up to $40,000 for each new apartment or condo unit they built.
Before the grants program was launched, there were about 13,000 people living in the downtown. Now there are about 15,500, according to the 2014 Downtown Trends report, released last February by the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone.
BIZ executive director Stefano Grande admitted in an interview that 2,500 more residents over four or five years may seem like a pretty modest gain to some people.
"But not if you look at what had been happening in the previous 20 years. We were stuck at 12,000 (residents) for almost two decades, so if you think of it in those terms ... it's huge."
Ross McGowan, president and CEO of the city's downtown development agency -- CentreVenture Development Corporation -- agreed.
"That's three to four times the normal pace," McGowan said, adding that while he'd love to see things happen more quickly, "generally speaking, we're happy (about) it."
Grande also noted the bulk of the gains have occurred in the last three years.
"We've seen more residential construction in the last three years than in previous five years combined," he said, adding with more than 1,800 new units already completed and another 900 in the works, "we'll be pushing 18,000 (downtown residents) within the next five years."
He and McGowan both agreed having construction begin on both the Glasshouse and D Condo projects represents a milestone in downtown revitalization process.
"They're very large, significant developments with very significant private sector investment," McGowan said. "And at the end of the day, it's the private sector that will lead the charge to redevelop the downtown."
Grande said what one of the things he likes about the Glasshouse development is many of the units carry a lower price point than many of the other new downtown condos.
"That kind of thing is missing in the downtown. The Glasshouse is about as urban as it gets, so it's exciting from that perspective."
The D Condo project has also seen good presale numbers. Sandhu said 64 of the 91 units have already been sold, and the buyers have ranged from young professionals to retirees.
When the project was first unveiled in 2012, Sandhu said he hoped to begin construction before the end of that year. Since it involved a riverbank property, it took much longer than expected to finalize the design plans and obtain city approval, he said.