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This article was published 5/1/2009 (3032 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The non-profit organization, which represents about 100 amateur sporting groups, wants to move from Main Street into the Smart Bag Company Building, a Pacific Avenue structure that most recently served as a factory outlet for Prosperity Knitwear.
Sport Manitoba wants to convert the newer, five-storey component of the warehouse into offices and build a fully enclosed athletic facility on the site of an older, three-storey section of the heritage building. A formal announcement will be made this morning, spokeswoman Tara Skibo said Monday.
However, the plan to demolish the three-storey section of the warehouse, which dates back to 1884, automatically triggered a heritage review because the structure is listed on the city's heritage building inventory.
On Dec. 12, the city's historical buildings committee recommended protecting the empty warehouse on the east edge of the Exchange District because it's "an outstandingly early, rare and handsome example of the Romanesque revival style" of architecture.
This morning, city council's property and development committee must make a difficult choice between sparing the unusual structure from the wrecking ball or making room for a new development that would create recreational opportunities in the heart of the inner city and also expand Winnipeg's tax base.
"These types of issues obviously require a balance between maintaining the historical nature of buildings that make our city unique and providing for new opportunities," said property committee chairman Scott Fielding.
Current building owner Prosperity Knitwear and downtown development agency CentreVenture are expected to appear before the committee to argue in favour of the demolition, while Heritage Winnipeg and historical buildings committee chairwoman Jenny Gerbasi will argue against it.
"This sounds like a fabulous project. The only concern I have is do we need to remove a very important historical warehouse, right next door to our national warehouse district, in order to make it happen?" asked Gerbasi, adding she loves the idea of new recreational opportunities downtown. "We're pitting two goods against each other. Can't we find another place to go?"
One of downtown's many surface parking lots would be a better place for the sporting development, said Gerbasi, lamenting the fact she has not seen a formal proposal from Sport Manitoba.
The non-profit organization has been working on a concept for its new headquarters for several years, spokeswoman Skibo said.
A spokesman for Manitoba's NDP government said the province will offer Sport Manitoba loans in order to allow the organization to remain downtown, but the bulk of the cost of the new training centre may require a fundraising campaign.
Sport Manitoba currently occupies three floors of a 200 Main St. office building owned by Wawanesa Mutual Insurance, which wants to move some of its own offices out of its headquarters on Broadway.
"We're bursting at the seams and we need the extra space," Wawanesa vice-president and chief financial officer Gary Timlick said.
Sport Manitoba's lease with Wawanesa is up, but the organization will be able to stay on Main Street until its new offices are renovated, Timlick added.