Critics take aim at Bannatyne Avenue building proposal


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A group of Exchange District residents is fighting to reduce the height of a proposed building project, which they claim would otherwise clash with the area and tower over neighbouring structures.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/04/2022 (282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of Exchange District residents is fighting to reduce the height of a proposed building project, which they claim would otherwise clash with the area and tower over neighbouring structures.

However, the developer says it should complement the area and attract new residents.

An 11-storey, mixed-use building is proposed to replace a surface parking lot at 127 Bannatyne Ave. The City of Winnipeg says the building would be 123.5 feet (37.6 metres) tall, before its mechanical roof deck and parapet are factored in. That would exceed the maximum height of 100 ft. set for the character sector of downtown.

It's not economically viable to build a 100-foot building, says Bryce Alston, director of Alston Properties. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

John Giavedoni, head of the Residents of the Exchange District group, said the height of the residential, commercial and office structure has triggered plenty of opposition. He said he’s received messages from more than 200 people who oppose the height exemption being sought by developers.

“The buildings on either side are 55 feet tall. It’s going to tower over the area (and) we don’t want that in the Exchange,” said Giavedoni.

Winnipeg’s planning, property and development director rejected a request to vary the maximum height, which the project’s proponents are now appealing.

A city report recommends the director’s decision be upheld.

“Building height restrictions are in place to encourage density while ensuring that the built form respects the character of the district. As the property is located within the historic Exchange District (a national historic site), it is particularly important to respect built form in this area,” Kurtis Kowalke, a city planner, writes in the report.

The average building near the site is between four and six storeys, Kowalke notes. If the added height is approved, he argues the owners of other surface parking lots within the Exchange could also propose similar developments, which could eventually combine to “erode the district’s historic character.”

Last year, the property and development committee voted to allow a previous version of the proposal to reach 110 ft., after the director rejected a 145-ft. building.

The current proposal would include commercial units on the ground floor, office units on the second, and 90 residential suites spread between floors three to 11, according to a city report.

Giavedoni said he believes a shorter structure could work for the area but fears a taller one would open the floodgates for similar proposals to follow.

The structure’s height is necessary to ensure the project makes financial sense, the project’s developer says.

“This project, it’s just not economically viable to build a building at 100 ft., as per the bylaw,” said Bryce Alston, director of Alston Properties.

The structure’s first four stories would “stitch in to the urban fabric” of surrounding heritage buildings, which is what most pedestrians will notice, said designer Chris Wiebe.

“We’ve worked for the last two years with the city to try and make this the most sensitive architectural intervention, as an infill on a surface parking lot. We really believe in the project and this densification,” said Wiebe, a principal designer with AtLrg Architecture.

He expects the project will attract 400 residents and employees to the area.

Council’s property and development committee will consider the appeal during a public hearing April 25. The hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed due to technical difficulties that prevented online participants from attending.

Cindy Gilroy, committee chairwoman, declined to speak about the appeal before the hearing.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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