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This article was published 18/1/2016 (432 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Talk about a favourable first impression.
Late last summer, Winnipeg restaurateur Cho Venevongsa popped into the King & Bannatyne sandwich shop at 100 King St. for a bite to eat.
"There was a huge lineup, I had my lunch, and when I went to leave there was still a lineup," the owner of Winnipeg's Wasabi Group of Asian-themed restaurants said.
"So I walked next door to grab a donut (at Bronuts) and again, there is a lineup. I thought, 'What the hell is going on in this neighbourhood?' In Winnipeg, you don't line up for anything."
When he left Bronuts and noticed there were two other unoccupied units on the ground floor of the Bedford Parkade/Retail complex, Venevongsa immediately booked an appointment to view the space. Within six weeks he had leased both units and was transforming them into his latest entrepreneurial creation -- Chosabi Asian Eatery.
That was last September. Two weeks ago, Chosabi -- the Wasabi Group's fourth restaurant in the city -- opened for business. It's hard to say who's happier about that: Venevongsa or Judy Hansen, the property manager for the parkade's owner/developer -- Bedford Investments Ltd.
"It's a lineup every day at lunch hour," Venevongsa said. "We've got tremendous support from the community here and from the local businesses around here. It's been really good."
And Hansen said she's ecstatic to have all 5,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space now fully leased after going nearly four years without a tenant.
She said the turning point was landing the first tenant -- King & Bannatyne -- which opened a little over a year ago. Not long after that, Bronuts came on board, and then Chosabi.
"It certainly adds an awful lot of life to that corner, which is really nice to see," Hansen said. "I can't wait until the summertime. They're looking at putting in a patio... for the summertime for all of the restaurants. I think that will really change the landscape of the Exchange District once they've got all of their stuff in place."
The Bedford Parkade/Retail complex is one of a number of properties Bedford Investments owns and manages in the Exchange District. The historic Bedford Building at the corner of King and McDermot Avenue is another.
It's also been a struggle finding tenants for that seven-storey, 77,000-square-foot building, which is sometimes referred to as the former Reiss Fashions building. Hansen said the building is only about 30 per cent occupied, with a total of five tenants. They include Bedford Investments, which occupies the main floor, several information technology companies and Recycle Everywhere.
One of the city's fastest-growing high-tech companies -- Invenia Technical Computing Corp. -- is the latest tenant to lease space in the building. It relocated from south Fort Garry to its redeveloped, 6,000-square-foot, second-floor space last October.
Invenia officials couldn't be happier with their new space, which was redeveloped to their specifications and includes an open-concept design for the main work area, a number of huge, arch-shaped windows running down two sides of the space, a fireplace lounge, a fully equipped kitchenette, a boardroom and several meeting rooms.
It also has a roughly 200-square-foot vault that's been converted into what chief technology officer Kerry Stevenson describes as a kind of getaway/meeting room.
"You can go in there and close the door, and its deadly quiet because there is 18 inches of concrete all around you," Stevenson said. "People can go in there and have a quiet meeting, or do yoga... or play video games really loudly on their break, and nobody will hear them."
He said the goal when they were designing their new office was to create an inviting space that would appeal to high-level, IT professionals.
"People come in here and say two things. They say it looks like Google (IT giant Google Inc.)... and the other thing they always say is, 'Can I work here?.' That, to me, says: mission accomplished," he said.
"And it's not only what's inside our space. It's what's outside our space, too. Within two blocks of our spot here there are almost two dozen restaurants. It's just ridiculous how many options there are here."
Hansen is also impressed with how the Invenia office turned out, and hopes it will inspire other prospective tenants to lease space in the building. She noted there are three empty floors waiting to be redeveloped.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 204-697-7254.