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This article was published 19/9/2011 (2134 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE Merchants Hotel has been criticized as a magnet for brutal criminal activity on Selkirk Avenue but community leaders now hope the building will attract renewal and growth in the neighbourhood.
Community leaders announced Monday morning that a neighbourhood coalition, along with the University of Winnipeg, has made a conditional offer to purchase the hotel and adjoining parking lots, and it's been accepted by the owner. The deal is contingent on viable plans for the property being developed during a series of community consultations.
"This has been something people have dreamed about for years," said Rob Neufeld, executive director of the North End Community Renewal Corp., a non-profit group founded in 1998 to promote the social, economic and cultural renewal of the North End of Winnipeg.
Architect Dudley Thompson said the 98-year-old hotel building is in good shape, adding he believes it can be easily retrofitted for alternative uses.
Thompson said preliminary plans call for the main floor of the hotel to be converted into retail space, the second floor for educational use and the third floor into housing.
The adjoining parking lots are being considered for street-friendly housing, Thompson said, adding a community public space is tentatively planned for the area between the hotel building and the new housing.
"We are going to be working with about 15 groups from the community, trying to decide what this becomes," Thompson told a crowd of about 50 people who had gathered for the announcement two blocks away from the hotel site.
"There is a lot of potential here," Thompson said. "I think this will really transform the neighbourhood from quite a negative and unproductive community into something that will provide some hope and delight for what's already happening on the street."
Mayor Sam Katz and U of W president Lloyd Axworthy attended the news conference. They both grew up in the area and said they looked forward to the new development.
Katz said Selkirk Avenue was a vibrant and bustling street when he was growing up. He expects the redevelopment of the Merchants Hotel will return the street to its former glory, he said.
Axworthy said the members of the North End coalition have demonstrated imagination and creativity and he's pleased to have the U of W join their effort.
"It was a wonderful place to grow up; it was a wonderful place to be a kid," Axworthy said. "We look forward to the development of the project and being an integral part of a support for the community initiative."
History of the 'Merch'
Built in 1913 as a hardware store.
In 1933, Great-West Life converted the building into the Merchants Hotel.