Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mayor prefers to park Friends' plan

Says city working hard to be rid of surface lots

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Mayor Sam Katz said he's "disappointed" a non-profit group wants to turn part of Upper Fort Garry into a temporary surface parking lot.

This week, the Friends of Upper Fort Garry said they want to ask the city's permission to operate a temporary surface parking lot at the southwest corner of the property to generate operating revenue. They say the parking lot would operate until they built the interpretive centre and would be located where the city used to have a parking lot of its own. The group also plans to ask the city for property-tax relief.

The request comes as the non-profit group works to convert most of the downtown city block bounded by Main Street, Broadway, Assiniboine Avenue and Fort Street into a $19-million heritage park.

Katz said he's disappointed by the idea because the city has been working hard to get rid of downtown surface parking lots. He said the city had the opportunity to develop a highrise apartment block on the site and reluctantly decided to move ahead with the Friends' plans instead.

The city declared its portion of land surplus in 2006 and decided the following year to sell the southwest portion of the site to Crystal Developers, which wanted to build a highrise apartment tower. That plan was abandoned in 2008 after a lobbying effort by the Friends, who met the terms of a city deadline to raise $10 million to build what was then a $12.5-million project.

The Friends have about $12 million in private and public cash or future funding commitments to complete the heritage park, which would eventually see a heritage wall and an interpretive centre rise alongside Upper Fort Garry's final remaining wall.

Katz said the city had genuine concerns about the non-profit's funding for the project and the highrise apartment block would likely be complete by now. The mayor said he has not met with the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, but hopes to do so in the near future.

"That's going the exact opposite direction the city is moving," Katz said of the surface parking lot.

-- with files from Bartley Kives

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2012 A5

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