A St. Boniface group has made an offer to buy the former police station at 227 Provencher Blvd. from the City of Winnipeg.
Spearheaded by the Old St. Boniface Residents’ Association, the group includes Entreprises Riel, Centre culturel franco-manitobain and Provencher Boulevard BIZ. The group is collectively known as The Heart of St. Boniface Inc.
The offer of $1 was made on Sept. 28, which was the extended offer deadline.
The 21,525-sq. ft. building, designed by legendary architect Étienne Gaboury, was originally put up for sale in June for $470,000 and was to be demolished as a condition of the sale. The demolition condition was lifted after community members opposed the move and area councillor Dan Vandal intervened.
Walter Kleinschmit, a long-time area resident and OSBRA’s president, said the group’s priorities are to maintain the building’s exterior, as it is part of the area’s architectural history, and "maintain the integrity of the town square" that currently exists.
If the offer is conditionally accepted, Kleinschmit said the group will commit to a 14-month feasibility study.
"We need to demonstrate the viability of the building. Basically, our primary interest is that the building is not demolished or put into private hands or that there’s a lack of access to the public," he said.
"We want to keep the integrity of the old town square intact. And if an outside party comes in with a similar offer, we wouldn’t object."
Kleinschmit, who is also the president of a consulting practice specializing in retail real estate in the Middle East, is open to different potential uses for the building — including legal services, office space for non-profit community organizations, a bistro and a co-operative arts centre — but said the priority is to maintain its place in the community.
"St. Boniface residents have taken a high proprietary interest in the property since it was developed.
It was built and paid for over many years before St. Boniface was amalgamated and since the city no longer needs it, we want it back in the community," he said, noting he doesn’t expect to hear anything from the city for at least a month.
"When you design a community, you start with the core of a community — the heart. The police station represents the heart of St. Boniface, along with the post office, fire hall and city hall buildings."
Ginette Lavack Walters, executive director of Festival du Voyageur, said the future use of the building should reflect the values, culture, history and heritage of the community.
"We’re not in disagreement with the group, as the building adds vitality to the neighbourhood," said Lavack Walters, whose office is located next door to the former cop shop.
"Whether it is used for arts, culture or the judicial system, its evolution will be interesting to watch."