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End near for historic home?

Scrap heritage designation, demolish it for parking: Great-West

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2011 (2123 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the latest demolition proposal to come before city hall, Great-West Life Assurance wants to dismantle a heritage building to make way for more surface parking at its downtown campus.

On Monday, the Winnipeg insurance company will come before council's downtown, heritage and riverbank committee to request permission to strip the heritage status from William Milner House, a Dutch Colonial-style home that's stood on Balmoral Street for 102 years.

Heritage supporters say William Milner House is architecturally rare in the city and fits in with its surrounding neighbourhood.


Heritage supporters say William Milner House is architecturally rare in the city and fits in with its surrounding neighbourhood.

If Great-West Life is successful, it will demolish the home, which sits at southwest edge of the company's property, straddling the border between downtown and the West Broadway neighbourhood. Great-West Life owns the 2.5-storey heritage building, which has been empty for 20 years.

"Over the past 10 to 15 years, Great-West Life has considered a number of options to salvage the house. However, we ultimately concluded that to bring it up to code or relocate it would be cost-prohibitive," Great-West Life assistant vice-president Marlene Klassen said in a statement.

"The company's plan would be to expand the green space along Balmoral Street from Broadway to Mostyn Place. As well, the company would apply to extend the staff parking lot to accommodate 40 additional spots."

Built in 1909, William Milner House was one of 63 homes in what was then one of Winnipeg's first suburbs. Great-West Life entered into a deal to purchase the building in 1959 with the provision the Milners could occupy the home until the last member of the family died.

That didn't happen until 1991, when the home was already the last dwelling standing on the east side of Balmoral Street, between Broadway and Mostyn Place. The following year, the city's historical buildings committee recommended the structure be granted heritage status.

Earlier this year, the historical buildings committee re-evaluated the home and found it in good condition, despite "primarily cosmetic" issues involving the roof and foundation, due to a lack of heating.

As a result, heritage planners have asked council's downtown committee -- Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) and Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood) -- to preserve William Milner House.

"The committee may consider a building be delisted in extraordinary circumstances where it has been entirely or substantially destroyed, or is no longer of special architectural or historic interest," heritage planner Jennifer Hansell writes in a report to councillors.

"However, in this case, the longtime connection to the Milner family as well as the architecture makes the house of particular importance. It is an excellent example of the Dutch Colonial style, and one of only a few remaining in the city. It also speaks of the establishment of Winnipeg's early suburbs and is consistent with the dominant character of the street and continuity of the neighbourhood."

If Great-West Life gains permission to demolish the home, it must then seek approval to rezone the property to allow for more parking.

According to Hansell's report, Great-West Life has 750 existing parking spots on its downtown campus, which she calls "an anomaly within the downtown," considering a large number of transit routes service the site.

Hansell also notes the city approval for a long strip of the company's parking lot expired in 2002 and has not been renewed. The lot in question runs parallel to green space along Balmoral Street, between Broadway and Mostyn Place

Klassen said Great-West Life just learned the agreement had lapsed and will seek a zoning variance to maintain the existing parking.

"The company continues to live up to the agreement we struck with the city in 1994 for the surface parking lot along Balmoral, by continuing to maintain the green space along Balmoral Street," she said.

Earlier this fall, the city's acting property director granted the owners of the Fort Garry Hotel permission to demolish an 89-year-old Fort Street building to make way for a new surface parking lot opposite Winnipeg Square.


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