Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 18/3/2016 (2039 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Some developers think big, and then there’s Winnipeg developer Anthony Panchoo.
Panchoo is the driving force behind DreamScape Winnipeg, a jaw-dropping proposal that would see a multibillion-dollar, climate-controlled theme park built near Winnipeg.
The sheer size of the proposed development is mind-boggling — up to 500 acres enclosed within a giant, geothermal heated and cooled, glass, steel and concrete superstructure that will be 75 metres high at its highest point.
Then there are all of the things he and his partners plan to build inside that giant structure. They include an amusement park, water park, winter park, regulation-size skating rink, two golf courses, two large luxury hotels (1,400-plus rooms), a 300,000-square-foot convention centre, a 20,000-seat amphitheatre/concert hall, up to 600 retail/office outlets, and about 500 condominiums. There will also be parks, walking trails, gardens and a grotto.
The DreamScape website (www.dreamscapewinnipeg.com), which has been active for about two years, boasts it will be "the biggest, boldest construction and development undertaking" in Winnipeg’s history.
'We are building it.Whether it's here or somewhere else,we are building it'‐ Developer Anthony Panchoo
Panchoo, who has been in the development and construction industry for more than a decade but has never undertaken a project anywhere near this big, said non-disclosure agreements prevent him from revealing who else is involved in the project. But he said they include a number of well-known, international "blue chip" companies.
He said a number of international, private investments firms that don’t want to be publicly identified have agreed to fund the project because they believe it’s a concept that could be duplicated in other locations around the world.
"The project (itself) is bankrolled. There are no issues with that," he said.
He and his partners will ask the three levels of government to provide exterior infrastructure improvements to support such a development which, they believe, will attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
"In order to deal with that volume of traffic you need highways and a bigger airport and all kinds of things," Panchoo said. "So the issue is whether Manitoba is going to be the location... and that depends on how well things go with the governments and how well Canadians embrace this."
He said the reason they’re looking at building it here is because it was his concept, and this is where he’d prefer to build it. But it all hinges on them getting the necessary public and government support.
"We are building it. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, we are building it," he added.
He and the chief engineer for the project — Jessica Manness of Winnipeg-based Jessica Manness Engineering Inc. — said while nothing this big has been built before, there’s no question it can be done. One of the challenges will be convincing others, including government officials, it’s possible.
"This (type of construction) is happening all over the world," Manness added. "I don’t know for sure if there’s anything that’s 500 acres, but they’re getting pretty close. The way the designs are going, you can just modularly expand it these days."
Panchoo said he has had preliminary discussions with a number of government organizations during the last 18 months, including Travel Manitoba, Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW), Tourism Winnipeg, and Yes! Winnipeg. But so far, none has offered any type of support for the project.
EDW is the umbrella organization for both Tourism Winnipeg and Yes! Winnipeg. EDW’s new CEO, Dayna Spiring, said the agency needs to see more detailed information about the DreamScape Winnipeg project before deciding what role it might play.
"I’d love to talk to the people who are financing this for him, and if there is a way that we could help him move it forward, we would look at that," she said.
"But it’s one of those things where the devil is in the details. If he can give us details, he’s going to get support from my office. If he can’t, we’re going to have to wait until it’s fleshed out a little more because we’re not in the business of development. But we are there to help spur on economic growth and development in our city. We are huge supporters of that."
At the moment, the largest building in the world by volume is the Boeing airplace factory in Everett, Wash. It covers 39.7 hectares (98 acres) and Panchoo noted it was built in the late 1960s.
He said he’s had preliminary discussions in the past 18 months with a number of tourism and government officials, but so far no one has committed to supporting the project.
He said he and his partners already have a tentative deal to acquire a large parcel of land near Winnipeg.
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It’s contingent upon the site being suitable for the kind of extensive, underground geothermal network that would be required to heat, cool and power such a massive development. He said the results to this date of ongoing environmental, engineering and site-assessment studies are encouraging, and they hope to know for sure by this fall.
The next milestone will be getting the different levels of government on board, and Panchoo said he hopes to begin more in-depth discussions with them in the next few months.
He said if all goes well, they hope to begin construction within the next 18 months.
The theme park would be developed in three stages. The first stage would include the water park, amusement park, two hotels, nine-hole golf course, a number of sports complexes, an international food market and retail and entertainment venues.
It would likely take about six years to complete. The second phase would take about three years and the final stage about two years.
Who is Anthony Panchoo?
48 years old, married, with three children
Born in Trinidad and moved to Winnipeg in 1981.
Former owner of JAKS Contracting & Services, a Winnipeg company that completed a number of infill residential and commercial developments during the last 10 years, including the redevelopment of the former Alycia’s Restaurant & Deli building on McGregor Street into seven rental apartments along with fellow Winnipeg developer Chris Lucas.
Before forming his own construction company, Panchoo worked in the restaurant industry and as a cable installer for Shaw Cablesystems Ltd.