A vacant Portage Avenue lot just beyond the limits of downtown could become the site of a 20-storey, mixed-use apartment building.
If approved, the proposal would spark construction of the city’s tallest new building outside of the downtown since 1984, when a 26-storey residential tower went up at 11 Evergreen Place.
The new plan for 634 Portage Ave. is well-suited to its site along a prominent street, according to an urban planning professor.
"It is a good fit for the street, for the location. It’s in an already-dense corridor along Portage Avenue that’s already surrounded by residential, which is great. It’s right beside several large (residential) towers already and (close to) a (rapid) transit corridor on Portage," said Jino Distasio, a professor of urban geography at the University of Winnipeg. "We want our main avenues like Portage, our image routes, to reflect changing times."
The site at the southwest corner of Portage and Furby Street, previously played host to an automotive centre, which has since shut down and been demolished.
"This space itself has been underutilized for a long time," said Distasio.
The development would add 206 apartments and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space to the West Broadway neighbourhood, as part of a "high-rise multi-family cluster," a city report notes.
The site is about a one-minute walk from the University of Winnipeg campus and a six-minute walk to Balmoral Station, the downtown end of the BLUE bus rapid transit line.
Distasio said that would ideally have potential residents using public transportation and other existing city infrastructure.
"It is a matter of promoting higher (residential) density to take advantage of transit and also to take advantage of the nearby amenities that the West Broadway and West End neighbourhoods have available.... It’s taking an empty lot that has the demolition sign still up (to) develop some new rental opportunities," he said.
The city staff report recommends that council approve a subdivision and rezoning application for the proposal, noting the large project in an existing neighbourhood could also help prevent urban sprawl.
"The proposed development serves as an example of intensification of one of the city’s major corridors," writes city planner Andrew Ross.
The proposal calls for 172 parking stalls and 120 bicycle stalls, with developers predicting residents will often opt to walk, bike or ride transit to their daily destinations.
The mixed-use building would also feature a restaurant, five additional commercial spaces, indoor and outdoor bike storage, four "amenity" spaces and a fifth-floor rooftop garden.
The proposal’s inner-city location is also close enough to the downtown to help its businesses recover from COVID-19, adding to their base of potential customers, according to the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.
"(We) need to increase the number of people who support (our) downtown businesses outside of... typical office hours. Any time that we can see residential growth happening, we’re in support of that," said Pamela Hardman, the organization’s communications director. "Relying on the office workers alone for economic recovery and for building that momentum again would be very limited."
On Oct. 29, the City Centre Community Committee will hold a hearing on the proposal, which would require full city council approval.
The project’s developer declined comment on the proposal until the approval process takes place.
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.