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Aspers 'jazzing up' Portage and Main

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CANWEST Global Communications Corp. has a major new development in the works for Portage and Main, with the goal of "jazzing up" the most famous corner in the city.

CanWest CEO Leonard Asper said yesterday the company has development plans that will likely include constructing at least one other building on its location at the northwest corner of Portage and Main.

"The plan is that it will be an exciting, modern building," Asper said. "It will not be a cement drab, grey edifice, it will something closer to Times Square than the Manitoba Theatre Centre."

Last year, a privately owned Asper family real estate company acquired 100 per cent ownership of the 500,000-square-foot, 31-storey TD-Centre, which has since been renamed CanWest Global Place. The corporation occupies the penthouse offices of the signature tower.

As part of that real estate deal, CanWest also acquired a parkade on Albert Street, a vacant lot on Main Street immediately north of Portage Avenue, and a small office building at 209 Notre Dame Ave. just south of Albert Street.

Asper said a tenant is being sought for a potential commercial development on the vacant lot on Main, while the Notre Dame building and the public square in between it and the office tower are likely to become part of the new development.

Asper said there is no doubt the company will move its Global Television station operations downtown to the corporate headquarters, and it also wants to consolidate its other operations at Portage and Main, including its digital television broadcast centre currently located in the Richardson Building.

A flashy, interactive and multi-media broadcast centre with substantial public space was included in CanWest's unsuccessful pitch to develop a building for Manitoba Hydro immediately north of the office tower.

While that proposal lost out to the Portage Avenue site between Edmonton and Carlton streets that Hydro is now building on, Asper said there are exciting plans in the works for its Portage and Main property, but CanWest board approval and zoning variances have not yet been completed for the new development.

"Making the corner more jazzed up is the main objective," he said.

The city has been trying for years to remake the Portage and Main intersection with plans that range from reopening the four corners to pedestrian traffic, to an award-winning design for a project that would turn the corner into an urban forest with "trees" of light, wind turbines and glass silos leading to the underground concourse.

Asper made his remarks after a speech to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce yesterday, where he noted that his company has gone from 28 to about 600 employees in the past five years.

Founded by the late philanthropist and jazz music aficionado, Izzy Asper, CanWest Global Communications owns the Global Television network, major metropolitan dailies across the country and media assets in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the United Kingdom and Turkey.

Leonard's brother, David Asper, also a senior executive and director of CanWest, has already publicly supported a feasibility study that would figure out a way to remove the pedestrian barricades and transform the corner into an urban light forest.

That was the vision of an award-winning design for the intersection by Winnipeg's Corbett Cibinel Architects and Toronto's Janet Rosenberg and Associates, which was awarded more than a year ago.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2005 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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