Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Effort to save terminal barely off ground

Heritage groups muster last-ditch campaign

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TWO local heritage groups are urging Winnipeggers to call federal politicians in a last attempt to abort the planned demolition of the soon-to-close airport terminal.

Heritage Winnipeg and the Manitoba Historical Society say the terminal, built in the early 1960s, is "one of the finest examples of mid-century modernist architecture in Canada threatened with demolition."

Jordan Van Sewell, vice-president of Heritage Winnipeg, said the old terminal building is part of Winnipeg's architectural history, although he realizes saving the structure is a long shot.

"It's the 11th hour," Van Sewell said, adding most people aren't aware the building is to be demolished and the last-minute campaign is intended to raise public awareness in the hope pressure will be put on politicians to save the building.

Van Sewell said the Winnipeg Airports Authority, which owns the structure, made no effort to retain the building when it was planning the new terminal, adding the WAA doesn't see any historical architectural value in the old terminal.

But Winnipeg Airports Authority spokeswoman Christine Alongi said it has no choice after trying unsuccessfully for two years to find a business to redevelop the terminal.

Alongi said the WAA receives no government funding and all its income is generated through fees charged for transportation services as well as through parking and concessions.

She said the WAA has met with Heritage Winnipeg.

"We have been very open and very transparent with this. We told them eventually the airport terminal would be demolished. It should be no surprise to them.

"If somebody had come forward that could be viable we would have looked at it.

"But nobody did," she said.

Shirley Render, executive director of the Western Canada Aviation Museum, said if heritage groups are successful in saving the terminal building it will clip the wings on the museum's plans. The museum plans to relocate to a new building on the north end of the terminal site once it's demolished.

"It would scupper everything we have been working for," Render said.

"We could never use the whole building. Financially it would be unsustainable for us. We are planning a wonderful new destination facility that will preserve and tell the story of our aviation history."

Render said the museum has to move from its present facility because its lease is up in 2017.

"We find it is appropriate for us to be right next door to the terminal.

"For us, it will be a huge, huge boost in publicity... it will be a building designed for us. We think it is exciting."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2011 A2

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