In three years, a new 40-storey apartment building should be towering over Winnipeg’s most iconic intersection — Portage and Main — but the additions to the area won’t end there if the local developer has its way.

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In three years, a new 40-storey apartment building should be towering over Winnipeg’s most iconic intersection — Portage and Main — but the additions to the area won’t end there if the local developer has its way.

Artis REIT president and CEO Armin Martens told a news conference Thursday there is a second foundation pad on top of the Winnipeg Square underground shopping mall, and Artis officials have it earmarked for a new five-star hotel.

"We haven’t finalized plans there yet. But we would like to see a five-star hotel built there."

Martens said in an interview that Artis isn’t allowed to own a hotel. So it would need to either sell or lease out the pad to a hotel developer that would build and own the hotel and find a hotel chain to manage it.

"We are in discussions with the major hotel chains," he said. "There is interest."

But it will likely be at least a couple of years before any deal can be finalized, he added.

It would take a couple of years to build it. He said the pad was designed to accommodate a six-storey office building, but could handle a six- to eight-storey hotel. And it would likely have from 300 to 400 rooms.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Mr. Armin Martens, President & CEO, Artis REIT, announces his company's plans Portage and Main.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mr. Armin Martens, President & CEO, Artis REIT, announces his company's plans Portage and Main.

The construction of a hotel would be the third phase in Artis’s redevelopment plans for its Winnipeg Square/360 Main St. property, which is on the southwest corner of Portage and Main.

The first phase is a $25-million facelift for the 30-storey office tower at 360 Main. That would involve the renewal of the building’s existing curtain wall and environmental barrier, including replacing the windows.

Martens said the west side of the building will be done this year, with work starting within the next few weeks, and the east side will be done next year. All of the work will be done at night to minimize disruption to tenants, he added.

Phase 2 of the $165-million project is the construction of the new apartment tower — which would be the tallest building in town — on a foundation pad at the south end of the property above Winnipeg Square. Martens said work on that will begin in February 2017 and will take two years to complete.

He said the final design hasn’t been completed, but it’s expected to be about 40 storeys, with retail or office space on the first four storeys and about 400 rental apartments above that.

He didn’t disclose sizes or rental rates, or whether 10 per cent of the units would be "affordable" suites, which would allow the project to qualify for property tax rebates under a program administered by the city’s downtown development agency — CentreVenture Development Corp.

CentreVenture CEO Angela Mathieson said her agency has had discussions with Artis, but Artis hasn’t said yet if it plans to include affordable units in the project.

Even if it doesn’t, the apartment tower will still be a great addition to Portage and Main and downtown, Mathieson said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The new tower by Artis REIT is expected to include about 400 rental apartments and three floors of commercial space.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The new tower by Artis REIT is expected to include about 400 rental apartments and three floors of commercial space.

And the same goes for a new five-star hotel — if it’s built.

Artis’s plan to build the apartment tower and give 360 Main St. a facelift were first reported March 29 in the Free Press. But it wasn’t until Tuesday that Artis disclosed more of the details and revealed it hopes to have a hotel built on the centre pad.

He said the redevelopment project may include a 15,000 to 25,000-square-foot grocery store either on the main floor of the apartment tower or in Winnipeg Square. It all depends on whether two other new downtown projects — the True North Square office/retail/hotel/condominium project and the proposed SkyCity Centre condominium project, also include grocery stores. But even if one of the True North buildings has a food store, it’s far enough away that Artis could still include one in its project, he added.

Martens was asked whether, with a new apartment tower now in the works, Artis was in favor of the city reopening Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic. He started off by saying he was "kind of neutral" on the subject, but then went on to say anything that makes the intersection "more relevant and a better business destination and experience" would be a plus.

"So I’m open to any and all ideas," he added.

Martens noted, however, that it may not matter what he thinks because the long-term agreement between the area’s property owners and the city, which bans street-level pedestrian traffic at the intersection, expires in two years.

"The city has full control at that time and the destiny of Portage and Main is totally in the hands of the city."

Martens admitted Artis’s first choice would have been to build another high-rise office tower on the south-end pad. But there isn’t enough demand to justify that, he added.

But he’s convinced there is a need for more new rental apartments in the downtown. Especially in the Portage and Main area, which is still Winnipeg’s business hub and has the highest density of office workers in the city.

"We think there is a decent demand for people to live and work downtown. And we think this unique location... will make it (the new apartment tower successful," he said. "It’s possible this property could take up to four years to lease up, instead of two years. We’ll see. But there’s no doubt in my mind it will be successful."

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca