Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A man was waiting to cross Osborne Street last week when he turned around to see a giant hole in the ground where a Village icon used to be.
"It’s just so strange," he said. "I walk past here almost every day and I can’t get used to not seeing it."
He was of course talking about the Osborne Village Inn, a hotel whose reputation stood far higher than its three storeys for over 50 years. It opened in 1965 as the Champ’s Motor Inn, switching hands and becoming the Plaza in 1970. Later that decade, it was sold and became the Osborne Village Inn, a name it held until it was shuttered in 2015.
Then in April, it all came tumbling to the ground to make way for what will stand there next — a mixed-use, six-storey residential development that will feature 89 units, and a ground floor reserved for commercial use. Behind that lot, the Inn’s beer vendor was also demolished, and the site, along with an adjacent parking lot, will be redeveloped as two four-storey buildings with 59 units each.
The project is a collaborative effort between BLDG Architecture, Pre-Con Builders, and the developer Private Pension Partners, and it’s been years in the making. "It’s been a long time coming for this site," Coun. Sherri Rollins said at a city committee meeting last September.
After the hotel, which was designed by Winnipeg architects Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor and Hanna, went up for sale, there were a series of plans about its future that sputtered out in quick succession.
First, it was set to be converted into a boutique hotel. Then, there was talk of converting the top two floors into "micro apartments" — ranging from 250 to 450 square feet — with comparatively macro rents: proposed monthly fees ranged from $975 to $1,400. When that plan faltered, the idea was to redevelop the top floors into boutique office space, with a coffee shop and restaurant on the main floor.
The new development marries some of those ideas, repackaging them into a project that Private Pension Partners chief operating officer Karl Loepp says does justice to the "village" idea of the neighbourhood.
"We have a hope that this is going to be, really, the fabric of the neighbourhood," he said a few days after demolition began.
Along with the apartments, spread across three buildings there will be around 6,000 square-feet of commercial space at grade, plus "live-work" units that could see businesses like therapists or other professionals. The group behind the development has retained the name "Zu" — a reference to The Zoo, the inn’s music venue — as a possible homage to the site’s past.
The rental suites will include some universally accessible units, and parking will be found both at grade and underground.
"We think this is going to be a funky, fun addition to the neighbourhood," Loepp said.
He said demolition of both the inn and the beer vendor, which closed in 2017, was smooth, even as COVID-19 restrictions were in place for construction industries. While he said the design and layout of the project are always evolving, the pandemic could have an influence on the development; touchless amenities or other changes to address concerns were being discussed and studied, Loepp said.
With demolition complete, the site is being readied for its next stages, and Loepp hopes to break ground either in the fall or early in the spring.
Waiting in place of the once-busy venue is a giant hole in the ground, with a few brown bricks scattered throughout. Soon, crews will arrive to start building the lot’s next, and hopefully, best iteration. But for now, the man staring at the pit put the inn’s absence best. "It’s just so strange," he repeated.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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