An Exchange District building with a link to Louis Riel that was without a name for 133 years is getting a new lease on life, and a name, as a 39-unit residential complex.
The building at 104 and 108 Princess St., on the northwest corner at Bannatyne Avenue, has been purchased by Winnipeg’s Legatum Developments, and work is underway to create apartments, loft-style apartments, retail space and a rooftop patio.
Warehouse 1885 is slated for occupancy by the end of 2019.
Co-developer Alex Boersma said the opportunity to blend old with new was too great too ignore.
We’re standing in the northern section of the property, a nondescript brick addition that replaced the half of the original building that was destroyed by fire in 1945.
"Part of why we wanted this building was this part, this particular facade, is not heritage-protected," Boersma said. "I like that we’re able to combine something new and fresh and modern, with the character of the historic building next door."
This part, the front of 108 Princess, will get a modern, new facade about 10 feet back from the sidewalk, with a patio for a tenant, such as a coffee or sandwich shop. Next door, the historic-protected section of the property will get period-correct balconies for tenants on floors two and up, and the rear of the main floor is already leased as office space for a tenant, which has yet to be announced.
Most of the 39 units will be traditional apartments, while prime units will be two-storey loft-style apartments, with the bedroom located above the kitchen, overlooking the rest of the unit. All will be rentals, Boersma said.
Boersma’s partner in Legatum — which has two other projects, an apartment building in St. Norbert and an industrial complex in east Winnipeg — is Ryan Ridge.
"We are so pleased to see this building find a new life," said Angela Mathieson, president of CentreVenture Winnipeg. "The development team has a good vision for the project, right in the heart of the Exchange District.
"It will be another positive addition to this growing and thriving neighbourhood."
David Pensato, executive director of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone, said residency in the area has grown to nearly 3,000 from 200 in the past 15 to 20 years, "not to mention the daytime population that the growing office worker and student population bring to the area.
"The residential projects we’re seeing in and around the Exchange — increasing the population without displacing long-term businesses and arts groups — can only enhance the vitality of the district."
The building has two addresses, but began life as a single building, and retains a common foundation between the two addresses.
Heritage Winnipeg said the building was constructed in 1885 as a speculative venture by the Confederation Life Association and was never given a name, instead being identified only by the various businesses that occupied it.
That it was built in 1885 at all is remarkable, because that was during the conflict with Louis Riel. Heritage Winnipeg said that year, many of the city’s construction workers enlisted as soldiers in opposition to Louis Riel. Only two other large buildings were constructed that year.
The building’s first occupants were Hodgson, Sumner and Co., a dry goods wholesaler, in the south half, and Sutherland and Campbell, a wholesaler of groceries, in the other half.
Originally, the building was a square, three-storey structure, with two traditional storefronts facing Princess Street. In 1904, the facade was changed to incorporate 12 large arches — six facing each of Bannatyne and Princess — each with one or two doors and four or five windows.
Two storeys were also added in 1904, but a massive fire in 1945, fuelled by stores of alcohol, turpentine and bags of sawdust, destroyed the northern section, which was demolished. "I heard it burned for four days," Boersma said.
In 1950, a nondescript brick building, using the original foundation, was built to replace the destroyed section. A section of the original brick construction is visible at the rear of the building.
Retaining the building’s "story" is important, he said, pointing to the current state of the building’s brick walls. What some might see as flaws, he sees as features.
"I could have my guys sandblast this whole wall, but there’s a story to this building, and I don’t want to lose it."
Under Legatum’s plans, that part of the building will get a two-storey addition to provide more rental units plus access to the rooftop patio. It will also be home to the new development’s elevators and staircase. Rental rates won’t be decided until summer.
Boersma said the parking lot behind the building will be available, but he’s not offering parking with the rentals.
"We think the modern, urban buyer is looking to live without a car," he said. "We think not providing parking is actually an asset."
The first floor will comprise 5,500 square feet of commercial space. The architect for the renovation is 5468796 Architecture.
Some of the rental units at Warehouse 1885 will offer two-storey, loft-style living.ARCHIVES OF MANITOBA
Warehouse, 104-108 Princess Street, not long after its construction, ca.1885. The warehouse at Princess Street and Bannatyne Avenue contained the firms of Hodgson, Sumner and Company, a dry goods wholesale, and Sutherland and Campbell, wholesale groceries.
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.