Toronto developer Jawad Rathore is well aware of the skeptics who still don't think his company will ever build a 55-storey condominium/commercial tower in downtown Winnipeg.
"I get asked this question all the time: 'Is it really going to happen?' " the president and CEO of Toronto-based Fortress Real Developments Inc. told industry representatives attending a real estate forum this week in Winnipeg.
"And yes, it really is going to happen."
Rathore reiterated Fortress is not only committed to building a landmark $200-million tower, but one that includes a full-service grocery store, which is high on the wish list of downtown officials and residents alike.
He said the company is in advanced talks with a national chain that is keen to open a 25,000-square-foot grocery store on the first and/or second floor of the SkyCity Centre's nine-storey podium. So keen, in fact, they've revised the podium's layout several times over the last three months to make sure it addresses all the grocer's needs.
"That is something we are moving very, very well on," he said.
He said Fortress officials are also in advanced talks with a number of prospective office, retail and service-oriented tenants, including two large financial institutions. The kinds of commercial tenants the company has said could be leasing space in the tower include a financial institution, a restaurant/lounge, a coffee shop, a dry cleaner, a nail-and-hair salon and a photo shop.
"We expect to make some pretty big announcements this summer," Rathore added.
The initial design for the SkyCity tower calls for a 44-storey building with a nine-storey-high, glass-wrapped pentice, or crown. In addition to an anticipated 140,000 square feet of retail/office space, the complex will include a 700-stall parkade, up to 400 condominiums ranging from studio units to luxury penthouse suites, and resident amenities such as party rooms, a rooftop lounge and outdoor patio area, a small movie theatre and a fully equipped fitness centre.
Fortress, which is developing the SkyCity Centre project in partnership with Windsor-based Mady Development Corp., plans to launch a SkyCity website later this week or early next week and erect new signage on the downtown site, which is on the north side of Graham Avenue between Smith and Garry streets.
They also expect to open a sales centre/display suite later this summer in downtown Winnipeg. Rathore said they hope to have leasing deals with the grocery chain and a number of other retail tenants finalized before then to show prospective condo buyers they're serious about moving ahead with the project.
The company is still in the process of finalizing sizes and prices for the condos. Rathore said there will be "a ton of product" in the $200,000-to-$300,000 price range for the units.
The developer of another high-profile downtown condo project -- the Glasshouse Skylofts in the 311 Portage Avenue at Centrepoint development -- announced this week construction will begin next month on its $35-million, 21-storey building.
Toronto-based Urban Capital said Winnipeg-based Bockstael Construction has been awarded the contract to build the tower.
"Wherever we go across Canada, we prefer to work with local construction companies who have the knowledge and expertise that is specific to their market and their environment," said Urban Capital's David Wex.
"In Winnipeg, Bockstael Construction is a family-owned company with a reputation for quality and reliability, having worked on some of the signature projects in Winnipeg over their 100 year history."
The Glasshouse "industrial-chic-style" condos will feature 2.7-metre-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. The complex will include a boutique-hotel-style lobby, rooftop patio and other resident amenities.