Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Small players take it up a notch

Doing their part to revitalize core

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Avison Young Winnipeg's Jess Davis (left) and Todd LaBelle hope the upgrades to the Designer's Walk building will attract a new tenant for the ground floor.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Avison Young Winnipeg's Jess Davis (left) and Todd LaBelle hope the upgrades to the Designer's Walk building will attract a new tenant for the ground floor. Photo Store

It's not just the big players like Long Boat Development Corp. that are helping to fuel downtown revitalization. Some smaller property owners are also getting into the act.

One recent example is the two-storey Designer's Walk building at 329 Cumberland Ave. The local family that owns the nearly-century-old building is spending about $30,000 on interior and exterior upgrades, including paint and some murals on the outside of the building and a new front foyer.

Another example is a retail/office complex on the northeast corner of Graham Avenue and Kennedy Street.

The owners -- several private investors -- are in the midst of a $750,000 redevelopment that includes the installation of a new facade, major upgrades to the building's interior and mechanical systems, and the addition of a rooftop patio.

Last summer, Winnipeg-based Gendis Inc. spent "in the low six figures" on a new facade for its one-storey Dollarama building on the north side of Portage Avenue just east of Longboat's $130-million 311 Portage Avenue at Centrepoint development.

Gendis president James Cohen and Avison Young Winnipeg's Jess Davis, who is one of the leasing agents for the Designer's Walk Building, confirmed downtown revitalization played a role in the decisions to upgrade the Dollarama and Designer's Walk buildings.

"Part of the reason the landlord wanted to do this was really to keep up with the times and with all of the other developments in the area," Davis said.

"You can see it in the area. People are investing money and fixing up their properties."

He cited two other recent redevelopment projects within less than a block of the Designer's Walk building.

One is the $8-million refurbishing of the seven-storey Canada Building at the corner of Cumberland and Donald Street, and the other is the conversion of the 108-year-old Bell Block warehouse on Donald into a 34-unit apartment block.

Cohen said the Centrepoint project, which involves the construction of a five-storey office building, a 15-storey hotel, a five-storey parkade and a 21-storey condominium tower, was one of the reasons the Dollarama building got a facelift.

"We're just trying to do our part," he explained. "And the front of the building, I felt, was in need of an upgrade. Especially with what's going on in the next block... and with us being next door to Mountain Equipment Co-op."

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, said it's encouraging to see smaller downtown property owners getting involved in the revitalization effort.

"If you look at the big picture, you've got a lot of energy going into creating big traffic generators in the downtown (such as) the MTS Centre and the (expansion of) the convention centre," Grande said.

"But at the end of the day, what brings our downtown alive is those smaller shops and bars and restaurants. So it's critical to get smaller property owners and smaller business operators to buy into the vision."

Grande said the upgrades could help attract more of the kinds of businesses Winnipeggers want to see downtown, which could help attract more people to the area.

Davis hopes the upgrades will help attract a new ground-floor tenant for Designer's Walk. Four longtime tenants -- American HiFi, On the Edge Glassworks, Kitchen Designs By Decor and Alfa Upholstery -- occupy the basement and second-floor levels, but the ground floor has been vacant since early last year when Interior Illusions relocated to larger quarters on Princess Street.

"It can be any firm with a focus on design, be it graphic design, contemporary or industrial design or something that's geared towards artists," he said.

The owners of the Kennedy Street complex, which is a one-storey building and a two-storey building joined together, also hope their upgrades will help attract new tenants to the two-storey portion of the complex, which is mostly vacant.

"This is not one of those Band-Aid renovations," said Bryn Oliver, the leasing agent for the complex and a senior sales representative with the Winnipeg office of Colliers International.

"These guys are really taking this seriously. They want to reposition the property and attract some high-quality tenants."

Oliver said the second floor of the two-storey building is being developed as office space, with a rooftop patio. The main floor will be retail space.

He said there is already a Subway Sandwiches & Salads outlet, an optical shop and a hair/nails salon in the one-storey building. And another hair salon is leasing part of the main floor in the two-storey building.

He said he's negotiating with several prospective tenants, but no deals have been finalized.

 

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.

 

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2013 B4

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