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This article was published 30/3/2015 (2065 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Hydro’s plan to build a new downtown Winnipeg substation has created a domino effect in which three low-rise structures on Notre Dame Avenue are slated to topple.

In May, Manitoba Hydro plans to start building a new substation on a surface-parking lot at the northwest corner of Adelaide Street and Notre Dame — a plot of land the Crown corporation purchased from the nearby Calvary Temple.

To make up for the surface-parking stalls it gave up to Manitoba Hydro, the church has purchased a commercial strip at 312 and 318 Notre Dame Ave., as well as an adjacent surface-parking lot at the corner of Hargrave Street and Notre Dame Avenue.

Manitoba Hydro helped put together the package of transactions after its previous plan to build a new downtown substation — which involved gutting the interiors of three McDermot Avenue heritage buildings — was abandoned in the face of widespread criticism in 2009.

"We’re trying to meet demand for electricity in the downtown area," said Bill Henderson, Manitoba Hydro’s communications manager. "We approached Calvary Temple to purchase their land and we worked out a deal with them."

The deal wound up taking four years to conclude because the church was reluctant to give up any of its existing surface parking.

"We certainly didn’t want to get into a long, drawn-out (negotiation) with Hydro. We wanted to be a good neighbour," said Bruce Martin, Calvary Temple’s lead pastor.

"It wasn’t easy for them to replace our parking spots, but they worked long and hard at it. We’re very pleased with the way we’re being treated."

Martin said Calvary Temple has neither profited nor lost money on the transactions and said the church hasn’t gained any additional parking as a result.

"A surface-parking lot has been replaced by a surface-parking lot," he said.

The commercial strip at 312 and 318 Notre Dame Avenue is currently home to two vacant single-storey commercial buildings as well as one vacant two-storey building, built between 1948 and 1977. Those properties have been controlled by Winnipeg’s Lazareck family since 1933, said Mel Lazareck of S&L Holdings, which sold the commercial strip to Calvary Temple.

City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Michelle Finley said the church has yet to apply for permission to demolish the commercial strip, which sits inside downtown Winnipeg’s official borders.

Informally, city council has declared a moratorium on new downtown surface-parking lots, but there are no statutes enforcing the unofficial ban.

The city has approved Calvary Temple’s long-term use of the Hargrave surface lot. At the new lot, the church will be held to a higher streetscaping standard than it was for the Adelaide Street lot it sold to Manitoba Hydro, Finley said.

The city is in the process of reviewing Manitoba Hydro’s request for a building permit on the Adelaide land, Finley added.

The substation will replace an aging Exchange District substation on King Street, which suffers from structural and safety issues, Manitoba Hydro said in a 2014 newsletter.

Some of the King Street equipment will be moved to the new Adelaide Street substation, which has a total project cost of about $62 million, Henderson said. Manitoba Hydro does not know what it intends to do with the land on King Street once it becomes vacant.

The city, meanwhile, is pleased to see the Crown corporation leave the Exchange District.

"The relocation of the hydro substation out of the proposed use of heritage structures in the Exchange onto a current adjacent surface lot is a good solution and is required to support ongoing downtown development and investment," unnamed city officials said in a statement forwarded by Finley.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca