On the rise

Former downtown parking lot moving on up to become 14-storey apartment block

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What was most recently a commercial parking lot in downtown Winnipeg will soon be home to a highrise apartment building with a 10,000-square-foot restaurant as its anchor tenant on the ground floor.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2022 (183 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What was most recently a commercial parking lot in downtown Winnipeg will soon be home to a highrise apartment building with a 10,000-square-foot restaurant as its anchor tenant on the ground floor.

At the corner of Donald Street and St. Mary Avenue, former parking stalls in the 32,000-square-foot lot have been dug up and construction is underway on a 14-storey, mixed-use apartment block with 120 units, as well as a 100-stall above-ground parkade adjacent to the building.

The developer is Donmar Properties, with local firm NumberTEN providing prime architectural and design services. Akman Construction Ltd. is overseeing the project, and the company’s director of operations Jared Akman said it has been in the works for quite some time.

Red brick and a nine-metre-high arched entryway will give the property a contemporary look that harkens back to Winnipeg’s rich history. (NumberTEN)

“We started planning this pre-pandemic,” he said. That meant over two years prior to construction beginning in March 2022.

Akman said the lot represented a significant opportunity to the developer, with whom his company had worked on a 155-unit apartment complex in the city’s Linden Ridge neighbourhood. “The developer had what I would say is tremendous foresight in seeing potential in the downtown area,” Akman said.

Though not as tall as nearby buildings, the project will likely stand out, with red brick covering its primary facade and a large, windowed arched entry to the eatery envisioned on the main floor. Akman said there is already an agreement with a restaurant to serve as a tenant — nearly two years before the project is complete — but would not specify which one.

Inside the building will be 120 units (48 two-bedroom, two-bath; 72 one-bedroom, one-bath). Of the one-bedroom units, 12 — or 10 per cent of the total unit count — will be wheelchair accessible. In addition to the 100-stall parkade, there will be an internal bike-storage area with room for 50 bikes. Akman said the rents will be “mid-range, very approachable.”

Around the corner, on Smith Street, Akman Construction recently wrapped up work on another downtown apartment building, this one developed by Edison Properties. The circumstances of the building’s acquisition, and its prior struggles, are well-documented.

In 2015, water pipes burst in what was to that point a 300-unit Manitoba Housing complex. Flooding occurred, as did major mechanical damage, leading every tenant to be relocated. The building sat empty for three years, while housing advocates warned the provincial government of an ongoing availability crisis for affordable, safe units in the downtown.

Then, in the spring of 2018, the province put the 1970s-era building on the market and sold it to Edison, which purchased the vacant building for $16.2 million, more than $4 million higher than the price calculated by a city evaluation a year earlier.

At the time, then-families minister Scott Fielding said the cost to renovate to the standards of Manitoba Housing would be prohibitive, and that the highrise “was better-suited to a group with a focus on downtown revitalization.”

NumberTEN The building’s tiered silhouette is much more visually interesting than a surface parking lot.

Over a two-year construction process, the building’s unit count was reduced from 300 to 250, in part to accommodate the transformation of 60 units into two-storey loft units spread throughout the building. The renovation was highly complex, Akman said, and involved the removal of core floors and a complete redevelopment of the building envelope. The finished product looks like a completely different building, and will serve a mostly different clientele.

Several units are available at affordable rates, and are barrier-free, according to the building’s website. Studio apartments begin leasing at $1,110, one-bedrooms at $1,585, two-bedrooms at $1,810, and a penthouse unit at $2,060 per month.

Tenants have already moved into the newly dubbed Smith Street Lofts. Move-in day at Donald and St. Mary is still about two years away, if all goes according to plan.

ben.waldman@winnipegfreepress.com

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
Reporter

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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