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This article was published 4/4/2010 (3517 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Work is to get underway this July on a major retail development that will breathe new life into a struggling section of north Main Street.
That's when construction crews are to begin work on Neechi Foods Co-op's $5-million redevelopment of the former California Fruit Market property on north Main Street.
Although details still have to be completed, Neechi Foods has lofty plans for the property it acquired last September.
Not only will its Neechi Commons development be home for a much-expanded Neechi Foods supermarket, but also for 10 to 15 retailers and several office tenants. And if everything falls into place, it could also be home to a culinary-arts school, a hydroponics operation and a year-round farmers market.
Astrid Lichti, administrator for the Mosaic Business Improvement Zone, said BIZ officials and area residents can't wait for the new development to open.
Lichti said there have been a number of high-profile commercial developments on Main Street south of the CP Rail underpass, including the new Winnipeg Regional Healthy Authority and United Way of Winnipeg headquarters.
"But we haven't seen a major, large-scale development like this in our zone in at least 15 years," she said of the area immediately north of the underpass. "So we're absolutely thrilled."
With last fall's closing of California Fruit, Lichti said the area no longer has a larger grocery retailer that sells fresh fruits and vegetables. And a year-round farmers market would be welcome because the other one in the area is a seasonal operation.
Because of the specialty foods and products that will be offered, Lichti expects Neechi Commons to draw shoppers from all over the city and bring new life to an area that is plagued by a number of empty storefronts.
"That is certainly our hope and intention," said Neechi Foods' Russ Rothney, who is managing the redevelopment. Rothney said the retail courtyard will hopefully become a meeting place for area residents. "The idea is that people will be able to sit down there and have a coffee or some bannock or whatever."
And Neechi officials also hope it will draw in commuters and other passersby. One of the reasons the co-op wants to relocate from its current address on Dufferin Avenue is because there is little drive-by traffic and no bus service on that street.
He said the move to the new Main Street site will enable Neechi Foods to more than double the size of its retail store and its 12-member staff. And the combination of a higher-profile location and a broader product offering should enable it to also triple its sales within the first two years.
Bridgman Collaborative Architects, which successfully converted a historic bank building at Main and Higgins Avenue into its corporate offices, has been hired to plan and oversee the redevelopment.
Owner Wins Bridgman, who is a fervent supporter of the area, said the two buildings will be converted into a "green" retail complex that meets Leeds Silver standards for energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. Some of the features being considered include a geothermal heating and cooling system and a heat recovery system to recover and reuse heat from the supermarkets' freezers and coolers.
He said new insulated interior walls will also be added, and the exterior of the buildings will be sandblasted to expose the original bricks. Skylights will also be added, along with new windows. "The place will be filled with natural light."
If it gets the go-ahead, the farmers market facility would be built along the front of the parking lot to make that stretch of Main "more pedestrian-friendly," he said.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail, or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 697-7254.
Where: Former California Fruit Market property on the southeast corner of Main Street and Euclid Avenue.
Developer: Neechi Foods Co-operative.
Architect: Bridman Collaborative Architects.
Cost: About $5 million — $4 million to redevelop the property and about $1 million to purchase the property and some new equipment.
The vision: To convert the two buildings on the property into a "green" retail complex with a 7,000-square-foot Neechi Foods supermarket on the main floor and offices, classrooms and possibility a commercial kitchen on the second floor of the north building. A large hole would be cut into the floor on the second storey of the south building, the roof would be raised, and a mezzanine floor added to create an open-style, two-level retail courtyard with 10 to 15 specialty shops and kiosks opening onto the courtyard. The retailers, most of them aboriginal-themed, could include specialty-food shops, crafts stores, a books/music store, art galleries, a bakery and a community cafe. A hydroponic/horticultural operation is a also possibility.
Farmers market: An outdoor farmers market is also planned for the parking lot on the south end of the property, but Neechi officials hope to eventually build a 4,500-square-foot, all-season farmers market facility that would feature a series of glass overhead doors, to be opened when the weather is nice.Timetable: Neechi officials hope to complete the development plans within the next month, to begin Phase I construction in July and to complete it by the end of next March. If approved, Phase II (construction of a year-round farmers market facility) would be undertaken within the next couple of years.
— Sources: Neechi Food Co-op and Bridgman Collaborative Architects