It took nearly five years, but a plot of land on Portage Avenue was officially dubbed Winnipeg’s second urban reserve by the federal government early Wednesday evening.
In front of a room filled with Peguis First Nations band members, Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, and Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson signed an agreement that repatriates 3.71 acres of land back to the community.
"It’s a beautiful day," Hudson exclaimed, holding the treaty to the sky with one hand after it was signed.
Peguis First Nation, located roughly 190 kilometres north of Winnipeg, bought 1075 Portage Ave. in 2014. But it took years of negotiations with the city before breaking ground to build the office/retail/residential complex that has taken over where the Motor Vehicles Branch once was.
The multi-development complex, which recently completed its first phase of construction, is occupied mostly by First Nations organizations and businesses, and will include retail space with a restaurant, cannabis shop and pharmacy and pain clinic. The whole project is said to cost $30 million, one million of which comes from the federal government.
"It means jobs, opportunities, growth," Hudson said. "Not only for First Nations here in Winnipeg, but for non-First Nations and the economy."
Bennett told reporters that "the work that’s happened here to get that agreement with the city is really a model for the future."
According to a Municipal Development and Services Agreement, the city will provide municipal services to the Portage Avenue site and Peguis will pay a service fee that is equivalent to 80 per cent of the annual municipal taxes on the property.
The provincial government agreed to cover the 20 per cent shortfall for five years with a one-time payment of $58,475, which was given to the city last year.
Meanwhile, Peguis has already made moves for more repatriated land. Last year, it broke ground on an urban reserve in Selkirk that will be developed into a commercial space. It also signed an agreement in principle for the development of Kapyong Barracks with the federal government and six other Manitoba First Nations.
Peguis is also a part-owner of Assiniboia Downs, which Hudson said equals another 162 acres of land.
The Portage Avenue property was Winnipeg’s second urban reservation. Long Plain First Nation operates a gas station and convenience store at 480 Madison St. in St. James, which received the designation in 2013.