Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 12/1/2015 (2286 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Vancouver company that specializes in the restoration of downtown heritage buildings is putting the finishing touches on the first of what could be several new projects in downtown Winnipeg.
Next Friday, Venexo Corporation and its joint-venture partner, Urban Sparq Hospitality, will celebrate the official grand opening of their first Winnipeg development -- a 346-seat sports pub called the Pint Public House.
The Pint is located in the 93-year-old, two-storey, Norris Block at 274 Garry St., and an adjoining one-storey annex built in 1951.
Venexo managing director Jon Sharun said the partners spent more than $2 million on mechanical and structural upgrades and renovations to the two buildings, which have been joined together to create a single structure, and on designing and outfitting the new pub.
'We really like the downtown plan that Winnipeg has with the SHED (sports, hospitality and entertainment district)'‐ Jon Sharun, managing director, Venexo Corp.
Although they still have some more work to do -- they plan to add an outdoor patio area -- Sharun said they're already thinking ahead to their next possible project.
"We've already looked at (doing) another acquisition very quickly... within the downtown area. We typically like to do what we call mini-clusters, so we'd love to do some other projects close to where we've set up shop on Garry Street," he explained.
"But we just finished this project," he added, "so we want to take a big breath and (then) we'll start looking at stuff a few months from now, after we see how successful our first project is."
Sharun said Venexo, which is a private equity investment and real estate company, looked at a number of properties inside and outside the downtown area before buying the two Garry Street buildings and a nearby 20-stall parking lot.
"We really like the downtown plan that Winnipeg has with the SHED (sports, hospitality and entertainment district)."
He said they chose the Garry Street properties because they're on the edge of the SHED, which is a key component in CentreVenture Development Corporation's plans for revitalizing the downtown, and within a couple of blocks of the MTS Centre and the new downtown police headquarters.
Although CentreVenture is seeking a buyer/developer for its St. Regis Hotel property, which is only one block west of the Pint on Smith Street, Sharun suggested that might be too big a project for the company to take on at this time.
"We're keeping an eye on it. You never say never," he added.
The Garry Street pub is Urban Sparq's fifth Pint outlet in Western Canada. It also has two in Edmonton and one each in Calgary and Vancouver.
Sharun, who is also the spokesman for Urban Sparq, said the company might consider opening another Pint outlet elsewhere in the city if this one does well and the right property becomes available. He also wouldn't rule out Urban Sparq bringing one of its other hospitality concepts, which include Knoxville's Tavern and the Old Strathcona Rack, to Winnipeg.
Although the Pint hasn't done any advertising since quietly opening for business on Dec. 23, general manager Riley Creighton said word-of-mouth promotion seems to be working its magic.
"Our lunch crowd has been amazing. It's been a very business clientele -- in and out, wanting quick service and great... comfort food," he said.
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It also attracted good crowds for the Winnipeg Jets' last two home games, he added.CentreVenture and Downtown Winnipeg BIZ officials said the Pint is a welcome addition to the downtown.
"We commend the Pint for their efforts to convert a vacant and underutilized building and their significant investment that is contributing to the resurgence of Garry Street," said CentreVenture president and CEO Angela Mathieson. "Private Investment and the opening of a new business such as this is a positive indicator that we are heading in the right direction."
"The Pint is a well-recognized national chain, and we are excited that they decided to locate their first store in downtown Winnipeg and on Garry Street next to the proposed Fortress-Sky Development and within walking distance to several downtown attractions like The Forks and the MTS Centre," added Downtown Winnipeg BIZ executive director Stefano Grande.
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The Norris Block
HERE'S a bit about the history of the Norris Block at 274 Garry St. and the adjoining one-storey annex at 276 Garry:
The two-storey building was built in 1921 for J. Norris and Co. Merchant Tailors.
John Norris's family continued to operate a shop there until 1965. In the subsequent years, a number of other businesses occupied the building, including a law firm (Richardson and Company), Sally's Flower's, Four Nations Confederacy, and two Chinese food restaurants (Royal Manor and Kam Kong Restaurant) .
The last tenant was Aqua Books, a used-books store/bistro/performance outlet which closed in 2012.
The building at 276 Garry St. was built in 1951 and its first tenant was Despatch Taxi. It appears after the building sold in 1965, it became part of the Norris Block.