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This article was published 27/4/2016 (362 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s old police headquarters is on death row as city council has approved its demolition.
City council voted Wednesday evening to raze the 51-year-old Public Safety Building on Princess Street after seeking public opinion about how the site should be redeveloped.
The Winnipeg Police Service is in the process of moving out of the brutalist structure and into new headquarters on Graham Avenue. City council approved the purchase of the new complex in 2009 after being told the purchase and renovation would cost a combined $135 million. A city-commissioned study had actually pegged the project cost at $180 million — only $4 million less than the estimate for renovating and expanding the Public Safety Building.
Since then, the new police project has cost the city $214 million, not including $20 million worth of renovations that must be made to the office-tower component of the HQ complex. Council was not told of an 1875 caveat that requires the land the PSB is situated on to have a public use, a document that limits the potential range of buyers.
Mayor Brian Bowman said "taxpayers have been taking it on the chin" since the decision was made to move police into a new building, but now looks forward to seeing the PSB redeveloped into a public space.
"The main reason I support (demolition) is it represents a tremendous opportunity for development, to refine and renew our Exchange district and to better connect the west and the east Exchanges," Bowman said. "The opportunity that is before us is something that doesn't come along very often."
Bowman said he’s looking forward to learning how CentreVenture and others want the site to be redeveloped. The city also plans to sell the shuttered Civic Centre Parkade, which is not subject to the 1875 caveat.
While some members of council expressed anger at being misled about the police HQ project, all supported the demolition plan.
"In a perfect world, every heritage building would be saved," said Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi. She said the PSB was built as a jail and it could cost too much to refurbish the interior. "It could be at least a $100 million, maybe a lot more," she said.
A consultant’s report found the PSB to be structurally sound but said it’s not worth the expense of repairing its exterior and estimated refurbishing the interior would cost $60 million.
Almost 10 hours before the council vote, PSB architect Les Stechesen, building designer Sotirios Kotoulas and Heritage Winnipeg director Cindy Tugwell launched a last-ditch effort to save the building, which they consider a rare example of the brutalist style.
"We’re perplexed at the lightning speed of the decision-making," Tugwell told council.
Kotoulas described the PSB as a "cultural heritage artifact," adding the architecture community across North America supports saving the building.
Heritage advocates criticized the consultant’s report, which claimed to have consulted stakeholders but did not identify them.