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This article was published 27/2/2017 (1309 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new daycare complex that incorporated a 108-year-old mansion into its design is about to bring new life to a long-dormant stretch of land in the West Broadway area.
Over the next two to three weeks, construction crews will be putting the finishing touches on Great-West Life Assurance Co.’s new 100-space daycare complex, which has been under construction for nearly a year on the east side of Balmoral Street between Broadway and Granite Way.
The goal is to have the 11,000-square-foot facility open by the end of next month, said Don Lecuyer, vice-president of corporate properties for the Winnipeg-based insurance industry giant.
For years, the only building on that side of Balmoral Street was William Milner House, a two-and-a-half-storey, brick-and-stone home built in 1909 for William Edwin Milner, one-time president of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. The Dutch Colonial-style mansion had been vacant since 1990, when the last member of the Milner family died.
Great-West Life, which has owned Milner House since 1991, applied in 2011 to have the heritage designation removed so it could demolish it. The company had been acquiring and demolishing houses on that side of the street since the 1950s, with the intent of eventually expanding the surface parking lot for its nearby downtown campus.
The bid to demolish the historic Milner House met with stiff opposition from the city and the neighbourhood, so the plan was scrapped. Former Great-West Life president David Johnston then came up with the idea of building a new daycare complex that would include the existing home.
Lecuyer said Great-West Life had for some time been considering building a daycare centre for its staff. It also knew there was a need for more daycare spaces in Winnipeg.
"So the daycare idea just seemed to be the right idea for this project," he added. "It was a win-win."
Two-thirds of the spaces in the energy-efficient facility have been set aside for children of Great-West Life employees, and the remainder are for members of the public. The centre will be equipped to handle infants and preschool-age children.
The facility will be operated by the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg, the largest childcare provider in the province. The charitable organization operates four other infant/preschool programs in the city, as well as before-and-after-school programs at 35 schools in and around Winnipeg.
Lecuyer said Great-West Life doesn’t have the experience or the expertise to operate a daycare, which is why it is partnering with the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg.
Caryn LaFleche, the Y’s general manager of child and youth care, said it’s excited by the prospect of operating a daycare in a newly-built, environmentally-friendly facility.
"It’s going to be a really wonderful environment for children."
LaFleche said the organization also liked the idea of being involved in project with both the private sector and government, which provides funding for daycare services.
"It’s inspiring, actually, what we can accomplish together."
She and Lecuyer said they received more than 600 applications from families wanting to enroll their children in the daycare.
"We knew there would be a strong demand, but we didn’t know it would be quite this strong," Lecuyer added.
The new complex features Milner House in the middle, with a newly built one-storey wing on the north and south sides of it.
"We kind of took our sort of design strategy from looking at the (residential) neighbourhood across the street," Lecuyer said. "We wanted to build something that looked like it kind of belonged at the end of the day, so we made a cluster of buildings that look a lot like the community around us."
Because the original foundation was crumbling, construction crews had to raise the house and move it to the side so a new foundation could be poured. Once that was done, they moved the house onto the new foundation, and the two new wings were constructed.
Lecuyer noted that side of the street slopes from north to south, so they had to make the new foundation about one metre lower than the original one to ensure the floors in all three buildings would be at the same height.
"That was probably technically the most challenging part of the project. But it worked out quite well."
He also noted that before they could move the house, workers had to remove all of the exterior bricks and stonework.
"But we saved every brick we took off and it all went back on" once the house was moved onto the new foundation, he said.
He said the complex has been built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, gold standards, with a geothermal heating-and-cooling system, extra insulation, triple-pane windows and energy-efficient lighting. It also will emit virtually no greenhouse gases. It was also designed so that a solar-energy system can be added when that technology becomes more affordable.
Lecuyer declined to reveal the cost of the project. "Let’s just say it was very expensive."
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