One of the city’s century-old downtown heritage buildings has a new name.
The Crocus Building, which is located on the northwest corner of Main Street and Bannatyne Avenue, is now called the McKim Building after one of its largest tenants — McKim Communications Group — acquired the naming rights to the building for the next 10 years for an undisclosed sum.
Workers removed a cardboard covering to reveal the new sign on Wednesday afternoon. Although there was no formal unveiling ceremony, it was still a proud moment for McKim owner Peter George.
"We’re very excited about it. It’s a great building in a great location — a really busy spot," George said in an interview. "It’s definitely the realization of a long project."
He said McKim, which has been a tenant in the six-storey building since 2005, had approached the previous owner about 10 years ago about acquiring the naming rights to the building.
"But it was just not affordable at the time," he said, so the company put the idea on the back burner until about a year-and-a-half ago, when the building was converted into commercial condominiums and it purchased 2 1/2 floors (about 19,000 square feet).
"Once we became an owner in the space, it just made sense (to reapply for the naming rights). We presented our idea to the board of directors of the building, and it was approved."
George, who is a member of the condo association’s board of directors, said the name change signals the beginning of a new chapter for the building, which has played a significant role in the history of downtown Winnipeg.
Although the existing building was built in 1904-05, its roots date back to 1871, when prominent Winnipeg businessman J.H. Ashdown built a hardware store on the site. When that building burned down in 1904, Ashdown replaced it with the current six-storey structure.
The building remained an Ashdown hardware store until 1970. Since then, it has changed hands several times, underwent a $6-million renovation in the early 2000s and has operated under a number of different names, including the Big 4 Building and the Crocus Building.
The Winnipeg-based Crocus Investment Fund was a tenant in the building until its demise in 2004. A lot of Winnipeg investors lost money as a result of the fund’s collapse, but its name remained on the building long after it ceased operations.
Asked why the building’s owners waited so long to change the name, George said, "I think the thinking was that the crocus is the provincial flower, and it’s Manitoba thing, and there shouldn’t be any more to it."
"But it has been really hard to escape the association with the Crocus Fund... and in order to be successful, I really felt that it needed to be rebranded," he added.
"So then the question was what would it be rebranded to."
He said McKim is the tenant that would benefit the most from having its name on the building because of the added exposure it would bring, "so it made sense for us to do it (obtain the naming rights)."
The other co-owner/tenants in the building are Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, the School of Contemporary Dancers, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Across the Board Café, which is in the process of relocating from a nearby building on Albert Street and will be opening later this month. The Government of Manitoba and Shelter Corp. also own space in the building, George said.
He noted that at one point in the early 2000s, the city was going to demolish the building. But some Winnipeg arts organizations proposed it be turned into an arts facility, which led to the $6-million renovation. Although a number of arts groups subsequently moved into the building (and are still tenants there), for some reason it never became a full-fledged arts facility, George said.
He said McKim uses about 10,000 square feet of the space it owns in the building and is hoping to find tenants to rent the remaining 9,000 square feet.
George said it would be ideal space for creative businesses, a tech business or a professional-services business such as a law office.