THE former St. Boniface police station may soon be protected by a heritage designation, which its owner fears could thwart development plans.
On Monday, Winnipeg council’s property and development committee cast a 3-1 vote to add the building at 227 Provencher Blvd. to the city’s list of historical resources.
The designation would protect it against demolition and preserve set "character defining elements" — if council casts a final vote of approval.
The building’s owner said that status could hike the price and extend the timeline to create a proposed medical centre at the site, putting the project in jeopardy.
"I really think that a heritage designation on 227 Provencher would possibly put an end to the medical centre altogether," Dr. Marc Frechette told the committee.
Frechette said the label could add challenges to the already complex building code standards for a medical facility. He fears it could drive the price up to two times higher than his original budget.
"It was not sold to me as a heritage building. I paid full price for this building," said Frechette.
The doctor stressed he doesn’t want to change much about the building and has no plans to tear it down. But he does want to maintain some flexibility to repair and add on, if needed.
"I, in no way, want to malign this building and change its appearance… This whole heritage thing is really a moot point because it’s just going to slow down the medical centre," he said.
If council approves, the designation would protect a long list of "character defining elements," including several features of the property’s yard, façades, concrete-and-steel structure, roofs, parapets, exterior walls and raised skylights. Inside, the designation would protect elements of the entrance, wood ceiling and a skylight.
As part of the St. Boniface civic plaza, the former police station opened in 1964, and remains an "excellent example" of brutalist architecture, according to a City of Winnipeg report.
Members of the francophone community also urged the property and development committee to grant the heritage designation.
"The civic campus is an integral part of our collective memory… The proposed historical designation protects our past and secures our ability to have a sustainable future," said Walter Kleinschmit, past-president of the Old Saint Boniface Residents Association.
Others stressed they support both the heritage designation and the medical centre project.
"Heritage designation adds value to a property," said David Dandeneau, president of the Saint-Boniface Development Corp.
After hearing more than a dozen delegates on the matter, the committee voted in favour of the heritage designation, moving it forward.
"If we didn’t keep some of these defining characteristics of these aging buildings, we would not have the city that we have now… We have to protect them and, if people are choosing to own those buildings, they have to take good stewardship of our heritage buildings and be part of that process," Coun. Cindy Gilroy, head of the committee, told the Free Press on Tuesday.
Gilroy joined Couns. Janice Lukes and Vivian Santos to vote in favour, while Coun. Kevin Klein cast the sole vote against.
Klein told the Free Press he is concerned such designations on privately-owned buildings could hinder development.
"The (city) needs to become engaged in finding reasonable solutions that protect heritage and investment. (Otherwise), I am concerned we will see more vacant buildings in our communities," he said.
A separate motion to approve a heritage designation for the former St. Boniface health unit building at 233 Provencher Blvd., a city-owned part of the civic plaza, passed unanimously in a final vote at Monday’s meeting.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.