A controversial project for a 24-storey apartment tower on Waterfront Drive that cleared a hurdle at city hall Monday could trigger more development in the East Exchange.
Developer Peter Anadranistakis said he also plans to build a six- or seven-storey parkade, with 540 to 630 stalls, stretching from the rear of the apartment tower on Waterfront Drive, across Amy Street to Lily Street and the rear of the Warehouse Theatre.
Anadranistakis said if he can find tenants, the parkade would be ringed with retail and commercial shops along James Avenue.
"We're talking about a big, big, big parkade that ties into the back of the James Avenue Pumping Station, crosses Amy and all the way to Lily," he said, adding it would be connected underground to the concert hall.
He said city officials suggested ringing the parkade with tenants to give the structure a more pleasant street-level appearance.
'This is a huge monstrosity. This building does not fit at all with the vision and the energy, culture and community of the area'
"I said that's a great idea but I've got to get somebody to rent the shops."
Anadranistakis was in a more talkative mood after a civic committee endorsed his $70-million Exchange Tower project, dismissing concerns from residents of Waterfront Drive that the apartment tower is too big for the low-rise neighbourhood.
More than 40 residents — all opposed to the tower — were at the meeting, forcing the hearing to relocate from a small committee room to the larger council chambers.
The downtown development committee was presented with a petition bearing 400 signatures, from residents along Waterfront Drive and elsewhere, opposed to the tower project.
The civic planning department had approved the project, giving it a variance — a series of exemptions — from the zoning bylaw, which restricts building height to eight storeys and requires structures to be built close to the sidewalk.
The tower project violates both of those conditions, which residents pointed out repeatedly during the public hearing.
Residents said it would be inappropriate to stick a 24-storey tower in the middle of a low-rise neighbourhood: It would alter the look and feel of the street; cast permanent shadows on surrounding buildings; would set a precedent for further highrise construction.
Jenna McMahon said she bought a condo on Waterfront Drive because she believes it is an exquisite neighbourhood but said the tower doesn't belong there.
"This is a huge monstrosity," McMahon said. "This building does not fit at all with the vision and the energy, culture and community of the area."
The committee members unanimously supported the tower project.
Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said she understands the residents' concerns but added she's satisfied the project will have a "relatively minimal impact," on the neighbourhood.
"When you add up the positives, it's not too difficult to support this," Gerbasi said.
The tower will be built on the corner of Waterfront Drive and James Avenue, literally on top of the city-owned pumping station, built in 1906 and decommissioned in 1986.
The city has been unable to find a buyer for the James Avenue property, which was built to deliver water under high pressure for fire protection for much of downtown.
Anadranistakis and architect Sotirios Kotoulas said their project would preserve the street facade of the pumping station and its pristine mechanical works, which include six massive engines.
The roof would be raised and the tower built atop 18 caissons drilled into the floor.
Kotoulas said the mechanical works would not be touched and the former engine room would be converted into a community meeting space that would likely include a café or restaurant.
Kotoulas downplayed residents' concerns over the effect the tower would have on the building. He said he carried out 150 shadow studies and found the tower would not cast a shadow on buildings in the national historic site or Stephen Juba park.
"We're proposing a beautiful public space and a public amenity for the neighbourhood... an indoor winter garden," Kotoulas later told reporters. "The machines and pumps will be retained."
Anadranistakis said restaurant owner Noel Bernier — Hermanos, Prairie 360 — has agreed to operate a small grocery store on-site.
Aldo Santin Reporter
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.