Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/3/2016 (475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The City of Winnipeg’s inability to find tenants for the office tower it purchased as part of the troubled police headquarters project is part of the rationale for demolishing the Public Safety Building.
City council’s property committee will today consider a plan to demolish the six-storey structure after the Winnipeg Police Service completes its move into its new headquarters on Smith Street. The plan calls for creating a new public space on the PSB site, which cannot be sold to a private developer because the land was granted to the city in 1875 on the condition it serve a public function.
A study conducted for the city by consulting firm Deloitte concluded the PSB is "unsuitable for a significant and costly restoration project."
It concluded the building is not worth saving because it has accessibility issues and barriers on the main floor, doesn’t have main-floor windows, can’t have underground parking, relies on mechanical systems currently located in a soon-to-be-demolished parkade and is covered in crumbling Tyndall stone.
The Deloitte study found no structural problems with the PSB, contrary to erroneous statements made by Mayor Brian Bowman in February.
But another rationale emerged in the report to council recommending the demolition: moving city offices into the PSB would hamper efforts to fill a 10-storey Graham Avenue office tower acquired by the city as part of the $29.25-million purchase of the former Canada Post complex.
This tower, which is attached to the new police HQ, is mostly empty and requires major renovations.
City property managers have struggled to find office tenants for the tower — and fear this would be complicated if city offices move into the PSB.
"Civic reuse of the PSB would limit strategic alternatives for any civic reuse of the tower," capital projects manager Brad Erickson and civic accommodations manager Brent Piniuta write in their report to council.
The frank admission has angered critics of the demolition, including Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona).
"They’re blowing up the wrong building," Wyatt said Monday. "We know there’s nothing structurally wrong with the Public Safety Building. It’s an asset. They need excuses to knock it down.
"The fact they’re doing this because they have an empty tower on their hands besides the cop shop is outrageous."
Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s foremost expert on modernist architecture criticized the city report recommending the demolition of the PSB for failing to take the unique design of the building into account. "This is one of the finest examples of the brutalism style in Canada," University of Winnipeg art history prof. Serena Keshavjee said in an email.
— with a file from Randy Turner