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Old hospital site could soon have new purpose

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Efforts to redevelop the Old Grace Hospital site at the corner of Arlington Street and Preston Avenue are once again moving forward after having been dormant for several years.

The question now being asked is when will the provincial government issue a formal request for proposals for the site.

Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation owns the property. It set up a steering committee of community members to help decide what to do with the site.

"All we know for sure at this point is that it will probably be housing," said Bruce McManus, chairperson for the steering committee.

The committee will help MIT determine what criteria should be included in the RFP. Wolseley Residents’ Association president Cynthia Neudoerffer said this is the community’s best chance to have a say in what happens at the site.

"It’s important that what information gets put into the request for proposals really represents the community’s desires, and that we have a good sense of what the community’s desires are," she said.

MIT announced it was vacating the building in 2007. The provincial government held a public meeting to gather community input. Community members expressed a desire to see the site become some form of housing, with a mix of affordable housing options for seniors, families and students.

The process stalled when the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority moved into the Old Grace building. The WRHA will be out by the end of December, and MIT is again working on an RFP.

When it will be ready is anyone’s guess. McManus expects a request could come within two months, with a proposal chosen by spring. Neudoerffer, however, thinks fall 2013 is the earliest anyone will see an RFP. 

There are a number of issues that need to be resolved before an RFP can be issued.
"We haven’t gotten clear guidelines from MIT about what level of detail needs to be in the request for proposals," Neudoerffer said.

Any asbestos in the building or under the parking lot will have to be removed before any work can begin on the building.

"If there are contaminants under the parking lot of the Old Grace...that could affect how they dispose of the building," McManus said.

Asbestos abatement could take up to a year to complete.

The process of converting a public building into housing is a new experience for the department.

"It was explained to me that they don’t usually become involved in the disposal of a property slated for housing in an urban area," McManus said.

Requests for an interview with provincial officials were not returned.

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Photographer Wayne Ferrand will release his new book One Thousand Days of Wolseley at the Grant Park McNally Robinson on Wed., Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.

Photos collected in the book depict the neighbourhood over a period of 1,000 days and 12 seasons. This is the second book Ferrand has released this year. The first, Conversations in Nature, was released in January. Ferrand’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Gallery Lacosse, Warehouse Art Works, and Medea Gallery.

Cameron MacLean is a community correspondent for Wolseley. You can contact him at cameronkdmaclean@gmail.com.

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