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This article was published 12/1/2016 (589 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A home-grown proposal to save a block of heritage buildings on south Main Street won over a competing proposal to demolish the buildings for a major hotel project.
Councillors on the property and development committee voted today to impose heritage designations on three buildings — the Winnipeg Hotel (214 Main St.), the Fortune Block (232 Main St., home to Times Change(d) bar), and the adjoining MacDonald block (226 Main St.) — rather than see them demolished to make way for a $35-million, 150-room hotel.
"I believe (the buildings) are of heritage value to the city but we know we can’t let buildings crumble to the ground and be unsafe," Coun. John Orlikow, chairman of the property and development committee, said following the committee meeting.
Technically, the councillors weren’t considering the competing development proposals — only whether a heritage designation should be placed on the three properties.
The property owners told the committee they opposed the designations, arguing the buildings are in such poor shape they are not salvageable. The owners also have an agreement to sell the properties to a Toronto development group, which plans to demolish the properties for the hotel project.
Harry Christakis, the spokesman for the Toronto group, said his engineering reports said the buildings are structurally unsound and not worth saving.
Local businessman John Pollard, co-CEO of Pollard Banknote, urged the committee to impose the designations, explaining that he’s developed a plan to buy two of the properties — the Fortune Block and the MacDonald Block — and invest whatever is necessary to save the buildings.
Pollard said he’d consider buying the Winnipeg Hotel and incorporate it into his redevelopment plans.
Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said he was persuaded to support the heritage designations because of Pollard’s interest in saving the buildings.
The question of the buildings heritage status will have to be answered by all of council. Because the building owners formally opposed the designation, a vote on the issue will be put to all council members.
Christakis said after the meeting he will appeal to the executive policy committee and council to reject the heritage designations.
"I am disappointed with (the committee) decision," Christakis said, adding his group still has the exclusive option to buy the buildings the develop the site for their hotel project.
Orlikow said the two competing development proposals are only vague ideas at this point, adding there have no formal applications to city hall from either side.
Orlikow said he hopes Pollard will be successful with saving the buildings and that the Toronto group will consider another downtown Winnipeg location for the hotel project.
Christakis said his group was focused on the south Main Street location for the hotel, adding the project will not proceed if council upholds the heritage designations.