Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2019 (315 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A historic Winnipeg building that originally housed the Manitoba College of Pharmacy has been renovated, reinvigorated and put up for lease as modern office space.
The one-storey, white brick building at 422 Notre Dame Ave. might be more familiar to Winnipeggers as the former home of the Winnipeg Modern Brush Company, whose name still adorns the facade.
"This is an old part of town, as we all know," said commercial real estate agent Tom Snowdon with Avison Young, who’s in the process of finding a tenant for the property.
"So, from a real estate point of view, we’re encouraged to see the investment and redevelopment, which is going to add to the revitalization of the neighbourhood."
The Manitoba College of Pharmacy built the modest structure in 1899, the Manitoba Historical Society said. It was gifted to the University of Manitoba in 1919, around five years after the college joined the university.
Research by society president Gordon Goldsborough suggests the Manitoba College of Pharmacy’s first principal, Henry E. Bletcher, was eager to move out of the building a few decades after its construction. In a 1920 report to the university, Bletcher lamented the building’s small size and poor natural lighting.
The "imperfectly heated" basement "cannot be considered of any value for teaching purposes," he said.
"The building is on the street and is closely surrounded on the other sides by dwellings, most of which have been erected since the college was built," Bletcher wrote in his report, which Goldsborough found in the University of Manitoba archives.
"Neighbourhood noises are always in evidence and constitute a serious handicap."
The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League occupied 422 Notre Dame during part of the 1930s, said Goldsborough.
The society said that Nicholas and Mary Syzek bought the building at some point in the 1940s and made it the headquarters of their family broom and brush business. Their son Alexander Syzek, who died in September, was well-known in the neighbourhood for standing in front of the Winnipeg Modern Brush Company building and hawking his wares to passers-by, no matter the weather.
"I’m told by people who bought his brooms, they were really good brooms, they were top-quality brooms," said Goldsborough, who recently toured the renovated building with the Free Press.
The property title changed hands in early 2016 for $85,000, records show. Current owner Pedro Costa originally considered using the structure as a new location for his embroidery business, Snowdon said.
"For one reason or another, including more favourable conditions where he’s at now, he’s decided to keep this as an investment," he said.
Until recently, 422 Notre Dame was mostly obscured from view by dense trees, Goldsborough said.
When those trees were removed after the building was sold, Goldsborough worried demolition was next — despite its history, the structure isn’t designated as a heritage building by the city. But instead of facing the wrecking ball, the building was restored.
"Hallelujah!" exclaimed Goldsborough, who said heritage preservation doesn’t always have to be all encompassing.
"The reality is, you don’t have to keep everything," he said. "Sometimes, there’s a perception that you must keep the building in its original, intact form — no! I mean, yeah, it’s nice to have some buildings like that. But I think in the greater scheme of things, the fact that they’ve kept the exterior, the fact that it still has the name of the Winnipeg Modern Brush Company on the top, that’s cool."
The nearly 1,600 square feet of newly renovated office space has been listed with a base monthly rent of $1,980. Upgrades include a smart thermostat, an alarm system, safety upgrades and emergency lighting, a new furnace and new plumbing and electrical, Snowdon said.
The basement has been partially renovated, and will be finished to the specifications of the building’s next tenant. Although 422 Notre Dame hasn’t yet been leased, Snowdon said he’s in negotiations with an unspecified provincial government body that’s considering renting the space.
Goldsborough expects the renovations will keep 422 Notre Dame going for decades to come.
"I really commend the owner for doing a wonderful job at giving this building a new life," he said.
"Because he could just as easily have torn this building down and replaced it with a modern, featureless, boring building. Instead, he’s got one that’s got true character."
Know of any newsworthy developments in the local residential, commercial or industrial real estate sectors? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.