Riverview-area residents spent Wednesday afternoon chalking about what a valuable asset a boarded-up three-storey building could become.
The Concerned Voters Group hosted a chalk party in front of the Rubin Block, which sits on the corner of Osborne Street at 270 Morley Ave., and invited passersby to spell out their ideas for possible tenants, once hoped-for renovations have taken place.
"It's this huge building, prominent place in the neighbourhood, that's empty, subject to vandalism and graffiti," said Jean Altemeyer, lead organizer of the chalk party and resident of the area for more than 50 years.
"It's difficult on the neighbourhood to have something like that."
The past 12 years have not been kind to Rubin Block, which is owned by Composite Holdings Ltd. The former bank building was damaged by fires in 2007 and 2014, and has been vacant ever since.
The Free Press could not reach company directors Alan, Joel and Barbara Werier for comment Wednesday.
Rubin Block measures 7,283 square feet and, as of April 2018, has an estimated value of nearly $1.4 million.
It has a C2 zoning designation, which, according to the City of Winnipeg website, means it was intended to accommodate commercial sites that do not have a local or neighbourhood orientation, but would include attractive commercial, institutional, recreational and service facilities needed to support the surrounding neighbourhoods and broader community.
In the past, the two upper floors were used for apartments.
A slight rain delay Wednesday afternoon did not stop Winnipeggers from marking up the sidewalk with ideas for future possible tenants at 270 Morley Ave., as rush-hour traffic drove by on Osborne Street.
Dozens of suggestions were written, such as a beer store, doughnut or bike shop, daycare, art studio or musician jam space.
Barbara Ediger, who has lived nearby on Baltimore Street for 32 years, wrote several suggestions on the concrete.
"It's just time something's done," Ediger said. "It's wrong. (The building) is an eyesore."
Area residents said the two most essential uses for Rubin Block would be affordable housing and a bank, as the RBC a block south is closing in September.
A temporary ATM will remain there until someone buys the building, but Ruth Cameron, one of the organizers of the chalk party, said the nearest banks will soon either be on Pembina Highway or in Osborne Village.
"You can't walk there," she said.
Altemeyer said the Concerned Voters Group has forwarded a list of recommendations to the city that could be used to amend the Vacant Buildings Bylaw, such as increasing fees and fines for boarded-up properties.
The Rubin Block was built by architect Max Zev Blankstein in 1914. It lost its protected status in 2014, when the city developed new criteria for heritage buildings. The property currently only has commemorative status.
The main floor once was home to a branch of the Merchants Bank of Canada, and barber and tailor shops.