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This article was published 7/12/2011 (2965 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Entreprises Riel has been given the go-ahead by the city to explore the idea of transforming a historical St. Boniface fire hall into a youth hostel.
The city has asked Entreprises Riel — an economic development agency for Winnipeg’s French districts — to perform a feasibility study before it agrees to sell the building, said executive director Norm Gousseau.
The fire hall — built in 1907 — is located at 212 Dumoulin Rd., directly behind the old city hall building on Provencher Boulevard.
The city invited proposals for the development of the fire hall through an expression of interest in 2010.
Gousseau said a youth hostel would be a boon for the area.
He said the hostel would hopefully attract youth studying at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which hopes to draw as many as 20,000 young people each year with student programming.
Having some of those students stay in the area would provide a boost to St. Boniface’s economy, he said, as they would eat at local restaurants and shop at area stores.
‘We see this as a tool to increase the economic impact of the area," Gousseau said, adding Entreprises Riel would also like to see a hotel built on Provencher to serve museum visitors.
Oai Truong, chair of the Provencher BIZ, said the hostel is an exciting prospect for area businesses.
"Having close to 100 students staying in the area, eating at our restaurants and using the services available will make a positive contribution to the surrounding businesses," Truong said.
"More permanent residents living in the area and more tourists staying at hostels or boutique hotels on or near Provencher Blvd. are the key to the growth and vitality of Winnipeg's historic French Quarter."
While cautioning the plan is in its preliminary stages, Gousseau said the hostel would have as many as 100 beds.
Since it would likely be too expensive to bring the fire hall itself up code to allow people to sleep there, Gousseau said Entreprises Riel is looking at demolishing a 1960s addition to the building, and constructing new sleeping quarters.
He added the agency is working with partners — including the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (CDEM), and French youth groups Le 100 noms and Conseil jeunesse provincial — to explore creating not only a hostel, but a youth hub.
Gousseau said Entreprises Riel would ideally like to see the hostel operated as a co-operative, rather than a private enterprise.
"We think the ownership should remain in the community," he said.
The building’s heritage is also important, he said, adding a collection of fire hall memorabilia is currently stored in the building.
Gousseau said he’d like to see some of those artifacts — including a fire engine from 1920 — become a permanent display at the hostel that would be open to the public, but again cautioned all plans are preliminary.
Gousseau said he believes the best way to preserve heritage buildings is to reuse them.
"It would be a shame to see (the fire hall) demolished, or underutilized."