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Osborne Village institution's redevelopment plan approved

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The Gas Station Theatre has cleared the first hurdle in its $24-million redevelopment plans.

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The Gas Station Theatre has cleared the first hurdle in its $24-million redevelopment plans.

An Osborne Village institution has cleared the first hurdle in its $24-million redevelopment plans.

The Gas Station Theatre, a long-time venue for Winnipeg's comedy and arts community, has been given a rezoning green light by city council to build a facility featuring a new theatre, housing and commercial space.

Spokesman Nick Kowalchuk said its current building is more than 60 years old, and while it's not in dire need of replacement, he thought the time was right to explore possibilities with partners.

He said it was also a good opportunity to clean up its courtyard, which still has old gas tanks on it. (The theatre was an Esso station until the 1970s.)

"Ideally we would get some funding from government bodies, fundraise some of it and finance as little of it as possible," he said.

The Gas Station Arts Centre would have a two-pronged approach to housing. Kowalchuk said his goal is to establish a housing co-operative, which would include affordable housing as well as market housing, which would be available to a wide range of residents.

But before it can embark on construction, which is hoped to begin in about a year, he said the architectural process and fundraising need to kick in.

The Gas Station, which produces the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the Winnipeg Improv Festival, has proven to be a great training ground over the years for emerging artists, many of whom have returned to perform there once they have taken the next step.

"We're looking at keeping that same model. We don't want to price ourselves out of the market," he said.

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi is looking forward to helping get the plans off the ground.

"This is one of those projects that makes you happy to be a city councillor," she said. "I am excited to work with the Gas Station Arts Centre and their partners on this project to see that this dream become a reality."

Parking for the project is proposed to be provided by a parkade under the new facility, as well as use of stalls off the back lane.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2014 B8

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