July 14, 2020

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Area residents win initial battle, prepare for lengthy war over Wellington mansion's fate

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/6/2019 (400 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Crescentwood residents who rallied to save a stately, historic mansion from the demolition wrecking ball last week are now gearing up for their next fight: an expected multi-year battle at city hall to secure their neighbourhood protection as a designated conservation district.

In the meantime, however, they’re not taking their eyes off the home at 514 Wellington Cres. Throughout the week, residents will be stationed at the property in shifts to ensure a last-minute stop work order issued by the city is respected by the owner and hired contractors.

"We’re still looking into the possibility of a court-ordered injunction and whether that’s necessary, but right now both the owner and the demolition company are observing the stop work order," said Christine Skene, a neighbourhood spokeswoman and organizer.

"There’s no action at the site right now, but we’re going to be here all week to make sure nothing changes."

The mansion at 514 Wellington Crescent was built in 1909 and has been home to several prominent Winnipeggers during its lengthy history. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

The mansion at 514 Wellington Crescent was built in 1909 and has been home to several prominent Winnipeggers during its lengthy history. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Built in 1909 and home to several prominent Winnipeggers during its lengthy history, the 8,000-square-foot home is owned by a numbered company — 4319907 Canada Ltd. — which was registered in Manitoba in 2012.

Jeff Thompson, a local business owner, is listed as the numbered company’s director, president and secretary. The home was purchased for roughly $1.25 million.

The city initially granted the owner — who had previously expressed interest in knocking down the building and constructing a condominium complex in its place — a demolition permit for the home April 25.

However, last Thursday Winnipeg’s property, planning and development department — headed by director John Kiernan — nominated Crescentwood as a designated conservation district.

The city recently named Armstrong Point Winnipeg’s first heritage neighbourhood — a process that took several years to finalize — thereby paving the way for Crescentwood to possibly get similar protection.

Community spokesman Christine Skene said neither she nor other neighbourhood activists — who locked arms and blocked an excavator from beginning demolition at the property last Friday — have heard from the owner in recent days. (Sasha Sefter / Free Press files)

Community spokesman Christine Skene said neither she nor other neighbourhood activists — who locked arms and blocked an excavator from beginning demolition at the property last Friday — have heard from the owner in recent days. (Sasha Sefter / Free Press files)

A city spokesman said Kiernan made the nomination because he "determined that Crescentwood has heritage values that are likely, upon further review, to result in the designation of the proposed (historical conservation district and) are of widespread significance to the entire city."

While Kiernan’s nomination — which came on the eve of the mansion’s expected demolition and suspended all outstanding permits for the neighbourhood — appeared last minute, Skene said it was actually the culmination of years of legwork by area residents.

"The nomination wasn’t out of the blue. We had been working with the city’s planning department for three years. I don’t want to speak for anyone at the city, but I think in view of what could have been a travesty, they went ahead and nominated us," Skene said.

"I think it will be about a two-year process and it’s largely public consultations and discussions around what level of protection we need to put on the neighbourhood. That’s going to be the big job; getting the demolition stopped was just the little job."

Skene said neither she nor other neighbourhood activists — who locked arms and blocked an excavator from beginning demolition at the property last Friday — have heard from the owner in recent days.

Kelly Boileau (from left), Ben Shedden, Jane Goodridge and Nick Logan were outside the mansion Saturday afternoon to ensure the last-minute stop work order was respected. (Mike Sudoma / Free Press files)

Kelly Boileau (from left), Ben Shedden, Jane Goodridge and Nick Logan were outside the mansion Saturday afternoon to ensure the last-minute stop work order was respected. (Mike Sudoma / Free Press files)

The next steps for the group are to prepare for their first meetings at city hall for the nomination and to work towards getting an excavator — which has been parked at the rear of the Wellington Crescent mansion since last week — removed from the property, she said.

The fine for ignoring the stop work order and demolishing the property would be $5,000, an amount area residents fear isn’t much of a deterrent for the owner.

"The nomination was absolutely the lifeline that we needed, otherwise the house would be half-demolished by now," Skene said.

"Nobody is there now. It sort of seems like the drama is over. Our next goal will be to get that excavator off the site, because having it sitting there just makes all of us nervous."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

The next steps for the group are to prepare for their first meetings at city hall for the nomination and getting an excavator off the property. (Sasha Sefter / Free Press files)

The next steps for the group are to prepare for their first meetings at city hall for the nomination and getting an excavator off the property. (Sasha Sefter / Free Press files)

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
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Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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