A pair of St. James organizations are looking to join forces and are eyeing the fire hall on Berry Street as a potential new location for their headquarters.
Although construction of a new fire hall at Portage Avenue and Route 90 is significantly behind schedule, the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce and the St. James Village BIZ hope to take over the old site when construction is complete.
The organizations submitted a request to the Assiniboia Community committee at an April 10 meeting. Councillors asked city administration to report back in September on the viability of entering into a lease with the organizations.
"The opportunity to maybe get a decent lease on this heritage building would really be a boon to us and give us a visibility we don’t have at the present time," said chamber executive director Ernie Nairn.
First established in 1930 as the St. James Board of Trade, the chamber continues to grow, Nairn said. More than 100 businesses have joined the chamber since 2007, pushing membership past 400, Nairn said.
Still, the organization continues to operate out offices in the back of Mike’s Barber Shop on Portage Avenue. If you don’t use the back lane between Ferry Road and Collegiate Street, it’s hard to know the chamber exists, Nairn said.
Nairn pointed to a slew of commercial growth in west Winnipeg the association would like to capitalize on — construction of IKEA and Cabella’s in Tuxedo, the Centreport development, and new projects slated for the old arena and stadium sites at Polo Park.
"This side of the city seems to be where all the activity is happening," he said. "It’s an exciting time and I think to have a visible presence on a major thoroughfare in a heritage building would be great."
The city doesn’t list the fire hall, at 200 Berry St., on its building conservation list. Still, area Coun. Scott Fielding called the old fire hall a "community asset."
The groups are also the first to express interest in repurposing the building, he said.
"I think it makes some sense," Fielding said. "The BIZ and chamber of commerce are great organizations and if we can help them out, I think we should do it."
A representative from the St. James Village BIZ could not be reached for comment.