Neechi Commons searches for financial saviour
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/07/2022 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The co-operative behind Neechi Commons is hoping for a lender to help settle a debt of nearly $4 million so it can once again operate its Main Street building.
“We’ve got strong interest from a couple of the most prominent (charitable foundations) in Winnipeg, but they can’t move in with interim financing,” treasurer Russ Rothney said Thursday.
Neechi Commons opened at 865 Main Street in 2013, where it hosted a restaurant, grocery store and art gallery. It closed in 2018 due to a $3.9-million debt, and Assiniboine Credit Union took control of the building.
Neechi Commons Multi-Stakeholders Co-operative still owns the property title.
It’s rushing to find interim financing to pay off its commercial loan because ACU has accepted a prospective buyer’s conditional offer for the building. Neechi Commons can pre-empt a purchase by retiring its loan before the sale is completed.
Depending on the lender, Rothney said they’d need to drum up between $3 and $4 million in interim funds to pay their loans. It may seem hefty, but it’s not a gamble, he said, because the property was appraised at $6.28 million before operations were suspended.
“That’s a lot of collateral behind a loan between $3 and $4 million,” he said.
Around 30 people gathered at Barber House on Euclid Avenue Tuesday night to discuss goals for a new Neechi Commons, including opening an Indigenous arts centre, providing long-term housing options and reopening Kookum’s Bakery.
Particularly, Rothney said, they want to focus on selling local specialty food.
“(We’re) looking to have a big emphasis now, bigger than what it was before, on local, healthy foods. Not just because it’s good for people, it’s because that would greatly help with the financial viability,” he said.
“Because there’s so much awareness now, in the COVID era, people have become more and more conscious about the need for healthy local foods, so it fits in very nicely.”
While the co-op is exploring options — Rothney said there’s been interest from the University of Winnipeg and other organizations — it hopes someone will step forward.
“If it was an individual, it’s going to be somebody with deep pockets,” he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.