Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/1/2016 (2139 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If there was ever any doubt about True North Square going ahead, it was erased Monday morning.
The $400-million project received an important boost when both the province and city announced at a press conference that they would share $17.6-million of tax increment financing to invest in more than two acres of public space within the development. That space will include a skating rink, a public stage, public seating and green space.
A further $9 million could be coming from the city under an expanded program for public amenities for the Sports, Hospitality & Entertainment District (SHED), which would be in the area surrounding True North Square. This money still has to be approved by city council.
Both Premier Selinger and Mayor Bowman said they believe the investment in the $400-million True North Square will be revenue positive.
"As these properties develop, they generate new revenue for taxation and those revenues get plowed back into these public assets, public parks and public spaces," Selinger said.
"If you look at the plan True North has, it generates $50 million of provincial sales tax right off the top. We’re putting $8.8 million up front. It’s a good investment."
Bowman agreed and said a $400-million private sector investment will be "transformative" in downtown Winnipeg.
"It’s on a scale that we’ve never seen. The residential component, in particular, is something I’m very excited about. (Combined with) the retail and commercial, it really pulls together all of the components that the (SHED) was intended to promote. Using tax increment financing to support a development of this scale is a good investment," Bowman said.
True North Square is expected to include a total of three highrise towers — two on the Cityplace lot at 225 Carlton St., along with an outdoor plaza area, and one across the street on the former Carlton Inn property.
Jim Ludlow, president of True North, said his team went to school on mixed-use real estate developments in other cities, such as Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square and L.A. Live in Los Angeles, and determined the site just outside its corporate head office was the premiere development site in Winnipeg.
He said such developments have succeeded in becoming focal points near the city’s hockey arenas.
"What I think is really integral to the success of any mixed-use development is how it works for people, tenants and retailers. This is one of our biggest opportunities, to create space that will work outside of the MTS Centre and the district and use it as a way to move people inside and outside," he said.
Angela Mathieson, CEO of CentreVenture, said the public spaces will be a great place to "have a Sunday morning coffee after leaving your condo or apartment."
"We use the SHED as a primary marketing tool for attracting new business investment into the central business district of the downtown," she said.
Neither she nor the mayor were concerned about extra attention for True North Square taking away from the towers at Portage and Main and the surrounding area. In fact, it may contribute to speeding up the removal of the pedestrian barriers at Winnipeg’s most famous intersection, which was one of Bowman’s election promises.
"I’d like to see it happen sooner than later," Bowman said. "What you see with major centres is there’s more than one focal point (downtown). That’s something Winnipeggers should be embracing. We are joining the big leagues. As we grow to a million people, we are going to have multiple venues for people to congregate. You’ll have The Forks, Portage and Main, Old Market Square and True North Square will offer a more modern venue point for people to go."
Ludlow said the deals for True North Square and buying the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011 are similar in their complexity and need for attention to detail. The current real estate side of things is a product not only of the return of the NHL, but the construction of the MTS Centre more than a decade ago, plus other major projects, such as the upgrading of the RBC Convention Centre, the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and ongoing development at The Forks.
"The introduction of NHL hockey makes Winnipeg a different place. (All of the other developments) start to drive people downtown and give you a feel and view for a rebirth of downtown and a better feeling about it," he said.
It didn’t go unnoticed that Ludlow was there in place of Mark Chipman, chairman of True North and with whom the mayor had a public disagreement regarding the project last year. Ludlow said there was nothing to read into Chipman’s absence.
"We divide and conquer. We’re really busy on the Jets side, too," he said.