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This article was published 19/3/2010 (3845 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The first stage of the long-awaited redevelopment of the historic downtown Hudson's Bay Co. building is about to get underway with the conversion of the lower level into a Zellers store.
Real estate industry sources said Friday HBC officials have completed plans for the Bay to vacate the basement level so its sister company -- Zellers -- can move in.
They said the Bay will continue to occupy the remaining six floors in the landmark building, located at Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.
HBC has said it would like to sell the building and lease back the bottom two floors and the basement. And Winnipeg real estate developer Shindico Realty Inc. has said it would like to buy the building and convert the top four floors into office space if it can find tenants.
Shindico president Sandy Shindleman said Friday the company is in ongoing talks with the provincial government about the possibility of one or more government departments or Crown corporations leasing space in the building.
"We need to start with about three floors of development," he said. "They (provincial officials) have not ruled it out, but we don't have anything done."
He said Gary Doer was committed as premier to finding a redevelopment solution for the Bay store and his successor -- Greg Selinger -- has said he is, as well. So that's encouraging, the realtor said.
Industry sources say Manitoba Lotteries Corp. is one of the Crown corporations being considered as a possible tenant for the building. Its headquarters are in a 20,175-square-foot building at 830 Empress St.
MLC officials were unavailable for comment and a provincial spokesman would only say negotiations between the government and Shindico are continuing.
Shindico, which has been marketing the Bay space for nearly eight years, says ideally it would like to find a single tenant for each floor. But each floor is 75,000 to 80,000 square feet in size and it's hard to find tenants needing that much space.
Shindleman said while it would be possible to subdivide the floors, "it would add to the costs" of redevelopment.
He said he didn't know HBC officials had decided to convert the lower level into a Zellers, although they have said they were considering it.
"It would be great to see some more activity in the Bay," he said "It would help us do what we need to do" in terms of finding tenants for the other floors.
The industry sources said the conversion of the lower level is expected to get underway in June, after the Bay clears out its inventory.
The grand opening for the Zellers store is scheduled for Nov. 4.
HBC officials could not be reached Friday for comment, so it's unclear what will happen to the basement groceteria, which is popular with downtown residents. One option might be to incorporate it into the Zellers store, since Zellers outlets usually carry some grocery items -- mainly canned goods and packaged products.
A lower-price, mass-merchandise retailer like Zellers would fit with the vision being promoted by some downtown advocates. In a report earlier this year, New York consultant Michael Berne said Portage Avenue no longer has the population or enough big income earners to attract most big-name stores, so it should content itself with becoming a bargain destination.
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