An attempt to designate the Cityplace building as a historical resource by the City of Winnipeg has faced pushback from owner Manitoba Public Insurance.
Originally called the T. Eaton Co. Mail Order and Catalogue Building, the warehouse became the Eaton Place shopping centre and office building in 1979, survived the end of the Eaton's department store chain in 1999 and has since been renamed Cityplace.
The building, constructed during the First World War and later expanded, was nominated by the historical buildings and resources committee for its historical significance and definitive Sullivanesque-style architecture.
Historical resource buildings are protected by law from demolition, and owners are entitled to financial incentives. The title also prevents certain alterations to buildings depending on "character-defining elements" noted by the committee.
The character-defining elements the committee has suggested for preservation are solely exterior; a city report refers to the entirety of the building’s facade and flat roof as historically significant.
However, MPI has argued such a designation may interfere with previous talks with the city.
"Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the legal teams from Manitoba Public Insurance and the City of Winnipeg had been in correspondence to determine whether or not the city could designate a provincial, Crown-owned property," MPI’s response to the city reads.
"That determination has not yet been finalized, which had resulted in a pause on discussions for the owner regarding the heritage designation."
The response, signed by MPI corporate services director Cheryl Taylor, instead recommends the building be listed as a commemorative resource — a less-restrictive designation that allows demolition and alterations but encourages conservation.
Also being voted on at the historical buildings and resources committee's May 26 meeting is whether to recommend the former Monarch Life Building on Broadway be listed as a historical resource. The move is being opposed by its owner, the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, which argues the designation will interfere with necessary renovations.
The structure at 333 Broadway is considered definitive of modernist architecture in Winnipeg. The WCB has recommended the building be considered a commemorative resource instead.
The committee will issue its decisions to the property and development, heritage, and downtown development for further debate.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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Updated on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 5:50 PM CDT: Adds images.
May 22, 2020 at 7:14 AM: Adds details about history of building