Will province gamble on Bay’s future?


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We'll know in the new year where Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MLL) is going to set up shop downtown.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2014 (2919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

We’ll know in the new year where Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MLL) is going to set up shop downtown.

Requests for proposals for the merged Manitoba Lotteries and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, to lease or rent office space downtown, closed recently with recommendations to soon be presented to the board.

One place we know MLL is not going is 266 Graham Ave., the office tower attached to the new city police HQ in the former Canada Post Building. The city was forced to withdraw a bid to renovate the tower to house new headquarters for MLL due to the Crown corporation’s demand for a proposal with no conditions attached to it.

PHIL.HOSSACK / winnipeg free press files Could the Canadian Wheat Board building on Main Street be the new home of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries?

Or is there somewhere else in the works?

Under pressure from the government, MLL must look nowhere else in the city but downtown, much like Manitoba Hydro in building its Portage Avenue headquarters several years ago.

The question is, where could MLL go? Is there already existing space to accommodate about 400 people and to allow MLL to consolidate its operations under one roof? The plan is to put the majority of Lotteries administrative employees who work in that former Crown’s four locations, and the former MLCC office at Buffalo Place in Fort Garry, all in one place. The Fort Garry liquor distribution centre would stay.

Is there already existing space for these people — many of them, at least — to park their vehicles without cracking into their RRSPs?

For instance, is the space on Osborne Street kitty-corner to the legislative building suitable? It’s the former blood transfusion centre operated by the Canadian Red Cross.

And how about the former Canadian Wheat Board headquarters on Main Street? Would that fit the bill?

Joe Banfield of Banfield Office Properties Group says three other options are the “beautifully finished office space located at the corner of Ellice Avenue and Edmonton Street” and 200 Graham Ave. tower smack dab in the middle of things. Then there’s 136 Market Ave. in the Exchange District.

Any one of us familiar with the downtown knows about the downtown Bay department store at Memorial Boulevard and Portage Avenue. It currently only operates on three floors of the six-storey building, built in the mid-1920s.

Is this in the cards for MLL?

For MLL to move in, the building would need to be extensively renovated to today’s standards, a cost that would make it prohibitive for MLL to move in and be the only tenant. The idea of the merger of the two Crowns was to save taxpayers money, not spend it on saving a Winnipeg landmark.

Is there anyone else out there who’d piggyback with MLL without dipping into the provincial treasury to save the Bay?

Any idea who?

Bruce Owen blogs on the Free Press website.

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