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The grand old homes, boulevard elms and storied history make Armstrong’s Point a neighbourhood unlike most in Winnipeg. And soon, the West End enclave will become the City’s first heritage conservation district. 
The process to get the neighbourhood’s heritage status recognized by the City of Winnipeg has been a decade in the making and was kick-started by resident April Kassum and several of her neighbours.
 Kassum was driven to protect the area’s defining features when she found out one of the neighbourhood’s original mansions, commonly called Bannatyne’s Castle, had been razed to make room for a new development.
"We don’t have the ocean, we don’t have mountains… the only thing we’ve got is some really spectacular architecture in the city, so I thought we really have to try and see if we can preserve some of this," said Kassum, who is chair of the Armstrong’s Point Association’s heritage committee.
While the City’s planning, property and development department was on board with the idea, it didn’t have a mechanism in place to give heritage designation to an entire neighbourhood. 
The City had to get authority from the Province to create heritage districts and amend its charter before diving into a detailed case study of the neighbourhood based on research and public consultations. 
Jennifer Hansell, superintendent of planning and portfolio management for the City, said Armstrong’s point was a "no-brainer" for heritage status because of its geographical constraints, architectural integrity and history.
"It is definitely one of those places that you go into in Winnipeg and you feel like you’re in a special area," she said.
She and her team took inspiration from heritage districts in other cities and started working with residents to develop a plan forward in 2013.
"When you’re talking about people’s property, you’re talking about something that’s very personal," Hansell said. "There’s no point in creating something that has legal implications that people aren’t onside with — then enforcement is just a nightmare."
Residents were clear that they didn’t want to invite the 
"design police" into Armstrong’s Point, but were more interested in preserving the facades of houses and the streetscape. Generally, heritage permits won’t be required for interior renovations, but will be required for additions that drastically change the look of a home. 
The neighbourhood feel — which includes the width of the streets, the height of the houses and the tree canopy — will also be protected under the designation.
"Aside from the built environment, there’s also the natural environment, which I consider part of the heritage," said resident Darlene Irwin. "If you imagine this neighbourhood without the trees it might be just another neighbourhood."
The neighbourhood’s HCD designation is currently being reviewed by the city’s legal department and a decision is expected in the next several months. 
Residents and business owners Crescentwood, North Point Douglas and the Exchange District have also expressed interest in heritage designations.

 

The grand old homes, boulevard elms and storied history make Armstrong’s Point a neighbourhood unlike most in Winnipeg. And soon, the West End enclave will become the City’s first heritage conservation district. 

The process to get the neighbourhood’s heritage status recognized by the City of Winnipeg has been a decade in the making and was kick-started by resident April Kassum and several of her neighbours. 

Kassum was driven to protect the area’s defining features when she found out one of the neighbourhood’s original mansions, commonly called Bannatyne’s Castle, had been razed to make room for a new development.

"We don’t have the ocean, we don’t have mountains… the only thing we’ve got is some really spectacular architecture in the city, so I thought we really have to try and see if we can preserve some of this," said Kassum, who is chair of the Armstrong’s Point Association’s heritage committee.

While the City’s planning, property and development department was on board with the idea, it didn’t have a mechanism in place to give heritage designation to an entire neighbourhood. 

This 1906 map of Armstrong's Point shows lots for sale in the neighbourhood.

SUPPLIED PHOTO/MANITOBA ARCHIVES

This 1906 map of Armstrong's Point shows lots for sale in the neighbourhood.

The City had to get authority from the Province to create heritage districts and amend its charter before diving into a detailed case study of the neighbourhood based on research and public consultations.

Jennifer Hansell, superintendent of planning and portfolio management for the City, said Armstrong’s point was a "no-brainer" for heritage status because of its geographical constraints, architectural integrity and history.

"It is definitely one of those places that you go into in Winnipeg and you feel like you’re in a special area," she said.

She and her team took inspiration from heritage districts in other cities and started working with residents to develop a plan forward in 2013.

"When you’re talking about people’s property, you’re talking about something that’s very personal," Hansell said. "There’s no point in creating something that has legal implications that people aren’t onside with — then enforcement is just a nightmare."

Residents were clear that they didn’t want to invite the "design police" into Armstrong’s Point, but were more interested in preserving the facades of houses and the streetscape. Generally, heritage permits won’t be required for interior renovations, but will be required for additions that drastically change the look of a home. 

The neighbourhood feel — which includes the width of the streets, the height of the houses and the tree canopy — will also be protected under the designation.

"Aside from the built environment, there’s also the natural environment, which I consider part of the heritage," said resident Darlene Irwin. "If you imagine this neighbourhood without the trees it might be just another neighbourhood."

The neighbourhood’s HCD designation is currently being reviewed by the city’s legal department and a decision is expected in the next several months. Residents and business owners Crescentwood, North Point Douglas and the Exchange District have also expressed interest in heritage designations.

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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