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True North Square taking shape

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/1/2016 (443 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The fencing is up, and construction will soon begin on one of the most highly anticipated developments in years — the $400-million True North Square project in the heart of downtown Winnipeg.

Construction equipment is on the site of the proposed True North Square tower project in downtown Winnipeg. If it comes to fruition, the project will alter the city’s skyline.

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Construction equipment is on the site of the proposed True North Square tower project in downtown Winnipeg. If it comes to fruition, the project will alter the city’s skyline.

True North Development spokesman Scott Brown said Monday the Winnipeg-based developer will be making a major announcement within the next couple of weeks.

Although Brown wouldn’t reveal what will be announced, one local source said the company will be revealing that they’ve secured one of the city’s big law firms as the anchor tenant for the 19-storey office/retail tower that will be built on the former Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation-owned Cityplace parking lot at 225 Carlton St.

"The fencing was put up because they’re going to start (construction)," the source said, "and the main piece of that parking lot (redevelopment) is the office component. That’s where the law firm is going."

The source said with an anchor tenant now secured, True North will want to get started on the building as soon as possible. He noted it will take about two years to complete the tower.

Three towers expected

The True North Square development is expected to include a total of three highrise towers — two on the Cityplace lot, along with an outdoor plaza area, and one across the street on the former Carlton Inn property.

True North Development official Scott Stephanson said last September the office tower at 225 Carlton will be about 300,000 square feet and will consist of a 14-storey tower on top of a five-storey podium. The podium will have retail tenants on the bottom two floors, one of which may be a grocery store.

The second highrise, which will be built at the south end of the property, will be a 28-storey luxury hotel/condominium complex, with 21 floors of hotel rooms and six floors of condos. The office tower that will be build at 220 Carlton will be nine storeys high and about 270,000 square feet, Stephanson added.

There were media reports Wednesday the provincial government is expected to lease space in one of the two office towers. The Free Press source said he didn’t know if that was the case or not.

"What’s funny and what’s ironic is that the provincial tenant they were going after was MLL (Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries)," he said, adding if another government entity is leasing space there, it will be interesting to see which one it will be.

"Maybe that’s the mystery tenant they’ve been talking about," he added.

Stephanson, who could not be reached Wednesday for comment, confirmed last fall True North had hoped to land MLL as an anchor tenant, but its bid was not accepted. But that wouldn’t stop the project because it had a half a dozen other prospective office tenants it was negotiating with, he added.

Proposed True North Square

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Proposed True North Square

'A hive of activity'

One of the downtown’s biggest boosters — Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone executive director Stefano Grande — said it would be great to see construction work get underway on the True North Square project.

Grande said True North Square, with its outdoor plaza area, is the next big piece in CentreVenture Development Corporation’s sports, hospitality and entertainment district (SHED) concept.

Sketch of the True North Square project, from a CentreVenture presentation.

Sketch of the True North Square project, from a CentreVenture presentation.

"That is going to be just a hive of activity, which is in line with the vision for the SHED," he said. "Without it, there is no SHED."

Grande said he also hopes construction can begin soon on the hotel/condo tower because the newly expanded RBC Convention Centre and Tourism Winnipeg are counting on a high-end hotel at that location to help attract big conventions to the city.

"Right now, if you have a conference that’s looking to book 300 rooms, they have to actually book three hotels, and that’s just a nightmare. So the biggest challenge we have right now is they want one hotel they can put all of their delegates in for four or five days. They’re hesitant (to come here) because they don’t want to put their delegates into three buildings."

Stephanson said last fall True North was in deep negotiations with an experienced hotel developer/operator that would build and manage the hotel tower. But he refused to reveal anything about the company.

WCC president and CEO Klaus Lahr has said he’s hoping it will be a premier hotel operated by an internationally recognized hotel chain. The plan is build a skywalk connecting the True North Square hotel to the convention centre.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Murray McNeill.

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