Sherbrook Flats, a new six-storey rental building on the east side of Sherbrook Street between Broadway and Portage Avenue, represents building designer Sotirios Kotoulas’ vision for sustainable living in downtown Winnipeg.
"I feel like downtown is our future, definitely, and we did want to invest in downtown, and we did want to invest in a vision of a healthy, dense urban core," says Kotoulas, a Winnipeg-born architect who splits his time between New York and Winnipeg and designed the project in partnership with Cibinel Architecture as the local architect of record.
Kotoulas says his confidence in West Broadway was inspired by recent investments and new development in the area, especially initiatives undertaken by former University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy.
"The neighbourhood just kept on transforming, the people of West Broadway kept on investing in Sherbrook, there were more cafés, there were more shops, and so we really saw potential there. Osborne and Corydon had already been established, and Sherbrook was up and coming."
The building is owned by the Kotoulas family and managed by Akman Property Management. Sotirios’ father, Alpha Masonry president Kostas (Gus) Kotoulas, bought the land at 267 Sherbrook St. around nine years ago. It had been a surface parking lot.
Sotirios Kotoulas says rents for the building’s 71 units are comparable to rental prices for new rental buildings downtown, starting at $965 for some one-bedroom apartments. (Heat, air conditioning, water and hydro are included.) Tenants, including Kotoulas himself, started moving in this June, and the building is already half-full.
"I have to say that it is an incredibly diverse and wide range of people that are moving in," Kotoulas says.
"From professionals, recent graduates, students, medical students, doctors, health-care professionals, people who work for the military, a lot of design and tech, a lot of people in the creative industries. It really is a wide range."
The apartment units are bright and modern, with polished concrete floors and floor-to-ceiling windows. Amenities include in-suite laundry and a rooftop patio, as well as an underground parking garage and some outdoor parking stalls, with two spots for car-sharing vehicles from Peg City Car Co-Op. The building has fewer than one parking stall per unit — Kotoulas says he used long-form census data on transportation modes for the area to convince the city that local zoning rules requiring one and a half parking stalls per unit shouldn’t apply.
"I was able to understand how people move around, and how people transport themselves around the city. And what you see is, almost 18 per cent walk to work. About eight per cent bike to work. About 33 per cent use public transit. So knowing that allowed me to really question the zoning laws in the area... The zoning was quite antiquated, and I would say it was really suburban."
The exterior of Sherbrook Flats is clad in local Tyndall stone limestone from Gillis Quarries, which Kotoulas hails as "the bedrock of our city." The structure was built of non-combustible materials, and designed with a focus on environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.
"For us, environmental sustainability equals economic viability, and the most sustainable building is the building that’s built to last," Kotoulas says.
The Manitoba Masonry Association has installed sensors throughout the building, which will measure data like dewpoint, moisture levels and energy loss to see how the building performs over time.
Sherbrook Flats isn’t just a residential building: the project includes four commercial units at street level, one of which will be a commercial art gallery operated by Kotoulas and his girlfriend, New Yorker Karline Moeller. The remaining three spaces are still up for lease.
"It could be a wide range, anything from healthcare to office space to retail, to food and beverage," Kotoulas says. "It’s quite flexible, there’s really no limitation to the space, what can be there."
Kotoulas says his family’s building has been welcomed by West Broadway residents who want to see more density in what he describes as a "really rich inner-city neighbourhood."
"It’s culturally rich. You can go eat foods, and listen to languages, from any part of the world. You can go to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, you can go to Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art within five minutes. You can catch an amazing lecture, or a concert at Goodwill. It’s awesome."
Signage throughout Sherbrook Flats is in three languages: English, French and Ojibwa.
"It’s a 21st century Canadian building, and I am a child of immigrants… I am the product of a Canadian dream, you know?" Kotoulas says. "And for me, the official languages of Canada must include an Indigenous language. We are all citizens of Treaty One."
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.
Updated on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at 9:37 AM CDT: Corrects erroneous description of utilities included for renters