Construction is expected to get underway within months on a 40-storey apartment tower to be built near the city’s most iconic intersection — Portage and Main.
The 400-unit tower is being built on an existing foundation pad on top of the Winnipeg Square underground retail mall/parkade.
A senior official with the project’s developer — Winnipeg-based Artis Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) — said the first phase of preparation work on the south foundation pad is expected to get underway next month and will take several months to complete.
"Construction of 300 Main is planned to start this summer/fall," said Frank Sherlock, the firm’s executive vice-president, property management. "There are still a number of moving parts, including finalization of the construction drawings and the building-permit process."
Sherlock said the $165-million project, which was announced in April 2016, is expected to be completed in the spring of 2020.
The original developers of Winnipeg Square and the office tower at 360 Main St. built two extra foundation pads on top of the complex in anticipation that two other office towers would be built on the property, which takes up almost the entire block from Portage to Graham avenues and Main and Fort streets. But that never happened.
The pad on which the new apartment tower will be built is located directly above the food court in Winnipeg Square. So all of the roof-top ventilation and mechanical equipment for the food court tenants must be moved.
"They have just finalized all of the engineering (plans) for how to deal with all of the ducting and ventilation for the food court tenants," Sherlock said. "It was a very complicated feat of engineering."
He said the engineers had to figure out the design for the podium portion of the new tower, which will house the lobby and likely a restaurant and other amenities.
They had to figure out where to place the overhead crane that will be used during the construction phase.
It will be placed on top of the elevator shaft that had been installed for one of the office towers that was never built.
"It’s a lot more complicated when you’re building over an occupied building, as opposed to just starting from scratch," Sherlock said.
"But on the plus side, we don’t have to build a parkade... and the columns and elevator shafts are there already. We’re really starting above grade on the construction, so once it gets going, it will go fast."
When Artis REIT president and CEO Armin Martens unveiled the project, he said it may include a grocery store on either the main floor of the apartment-tower podium or in Winnipeg Square.
There was talk of possibly building a six- to eight-storey hotel on the second foundation pad near the centre of the property.
But now Artis is hoping to build a full-line grocery store on the second pad, rather than a hotel.
"We’ve got the leasing folks trying to put together a deal," Sherlock said. "They’re still talking with a couple of the (grocery store) chains, but nothing has been finalized."
He wouldn’t speculate on when a deal might be reached, or how large the grocery store would be, saying, "the potential grocer would have to figure that out."
He added the project will proceed with or without a grocery store, "but it will be a bonus if we can get a grocery store on board."
The apartment tower will consist mainly of one- and two-bedroom apartments.
It will likely include some larger units on some of the upper floors, as well as some extended-stay suites.
"We don’t know exactly how many (extended-stay) suites we’ll put in," Sherlock said, "but we’re going to have a number of those... for business travellers that might need them for a week or a month."
The apartment tower project is part of a multi-phase redevelopment that includes the installation of a new curtain wall on the 30-storey 360 Main office tower, which Artis also owns.
That $25-million project got underway last year and should be completed this fall.