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This article was published 13/9/2016 (343 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Another century-old Portage Avenue office building is poised to be converted into rental apartments.
Four years after the Avenue and Hample buildings were successfully converted into 75 modern apartments by Winnipeg developers Mark and Rick Hofer, another developer is planning to convert the eight-storey Sterling Building into residential suites, real estate industry sources said.
They said the 105-year-old building on the northwest corner of Portage and Smith Street has been plagued by high vacancy rates in recent years and needs to be converted to a different use.
A spokesperson for the owner of the building — 283 Portage Ltd. — could not be reached for comment.
Two of the leaders in the ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Winnipeg — CentreVenture Development Corp. president and CEO Angela Mathieson and the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone executive director Stefano Grande — said they’d also heard a developer was interested in buying the Sterling Building. They couldn’t confirm if a deal has been finalized, who the buyer might be or what plans any new owner has for the building.
However, they both said converting the building into rental apartments would be a great fit for the downtown. Especially in light of other high-profile residential developments on Portage Avenue in recent years, including the Avenue Building redevelopment, the newly completed Glass House condominium tower on Hargrave Street just north of Portage, and Artis Real Estate Investment Trust’s plans to build a new 40-storey apartment building on the southern-most foundation pad on top of the Winnipeg Square underground shopping mall at Portage and Main.
"We’re really starting to see a residential resurgence on Portage Avenue, which is what we like to see," Mathieson said. "So we’re very supportive of projects like that."
Grande said a Sterling project also would breathe new life into a heritage building which has outlived its original purpose.
"It’s no longer viable, so renewal is critical. Especially with that building, which has so many floors," he said.
"The second thing is housing is so important to us, especially on streets like Portage Avenue. This is part of the entertainment district and we want to make sure there are good housing options for people to live (there). It’s also really important to have people living there to activate that space seven days a week."
Mathieson confirmed CentreVenture was approached some time ago by a party who was looking into the possibility of redeveloping the Sterling Building and wanted information about what government incentives might be available to them. She doesn’t know what came of that discussion.
She said a developer planning to convert the building to rental apartments may be eligible for assistance under either the Live Downtown rental development program or the Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District program. But a "special consideration" would have to be made in the case of the latter, she said, since incremental taxes generated in the SHED are currently used to help fund streetscaping and other public-amenity improvements within the district.
Mathieson said the last she heard, the second phase of the Live Downtown program was still awaiting final approval from the province.
The Live Downtown program, which was launched in December 2014, is designed to stimulate the construction of 750 to 900 new rental apartments in the downtown by offering developers up to 20 years of rebates on any increase in the city or provincial property taxes they would have paid as a result of the redevelopment of their property. It replaced the former city-provincial Downtown Residential Development Grant program, which provided $40 million in grants and tax incentives to developers of new downtown rental-apartment and condominium units.