Winnipeg will not spend $7 million to subsidize a downtown water park after an Alberta hotel chain withdrew its proposal.
This morning, Coun. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) confirmed that hotel chain Canalta has decided not to move ahead on a plan to build a 50,000-square-foot water park, hotel and parkade on city-owned land at The Forks.
Swandel said Canalta sent a letter to city administration late Friday stating that the hotelier has concluded that "city council is not interested in moving forward with a water park, hotel and parking structure at this time."
"Council passed a motion that requires significant additional cost over and above what we have already incurred without knowing if any design we propose might be approved," the letter said.
Initially, Canalta wanted to build a hotel and water park on a city-owned parking lot known as Parcel Four, which is adjacent to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Councillors were inundated with negative feedback from constituents, who said The Forks isn't the place for a water park and were worried about whether the design would fit in with the area.
The company is best known for its rural hotels in Alberta and Saskatchewan and has not built in a larger urban centre. The plan called for Canalta to purchase the land from the city for $6 million and receive a $7-million grant in exchange for $700,000 worth of admission credits every year for the next 25 years.
Council voted to delay the project to get more specifics on Canalta's site and design plans. Some councillors who supported Canalta's proposal said the move could kill the deal.
Swandel said it would have cost Canalta hundreds of thousands of dollars to come back to council with the requested design information.
Mr. Barry Thorgimson
Director, Planning, Property and Development
City of Winnipeg
Dear Mr. Thorgimson,
After careful consideration of Winnipeg City Council’s decision of April 25, 2012 and reading the negative coverage of our preliminary proposal (based only on speculation), we have concluded that City Council is not interesting in moving forward with a water park, hotel and parking structure at this time. This is in spite of the fact that details of our proposal were submitted in response to a request for Expressions of Interest by the City. We selected the location, believing strongly that it was the only viable location for the water park that met the criteria of the Expression of Interest. We knew that the City needed to agree to sell the land to us and that the city had to approve our plans before we could proceed with the development.
Council passed a motion that requires significant additional cost over and above what we have already incurred without knowing if any design we propose might be approved. We must have a reasonable expectation of success before incurring further costs, which we do not have. We are disappointed but respect Council’s right to make the decisions they make. Unfortunately, Council has put us in a position where we have no alternative but to redirect our development efforts elsewhere. We thank you for considering Canalta but we feel it is best to withdraw our proposal at this time.
Cam Christianson, CEO