We must reimagine the downtown Bay


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/02/2021 (835 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Back on Nov. 18, 1926, the brand-new flagship store of the Hudson’s Bay Company opened its doors in downtown Winnipeg, just up the street from the Manitoba legislature that had opened six years before it. 

Can you imagine what an incredible sight that would have been?

At the time of its opening, the building was still under construction, but the first three floors were humming with customers. At the time, Winnipeg’s downtown Bay was the largest reinforced concrete building in Canada.

Supplied photo The downtown Hudson’s Bay Company building, shown here while under construction in the 1920, is an important piece of Winnipeg’s architectural and cultural heritage.

There was a time in Winnipeg when talking about Eaton’s and The Bay downtown meant excitement in anticipation of a shopping adventure.

Well, the Eaton’s store is no more and The Bay’s slow demise has been painful, but it is a sign of the changing times. Having said that, Winnipeg cannot afford to lose the old Bay building.

Ambitious partnerships, adaptive solutions and new federal funding tools are needed to resurrect this Winnipeg landmark, and numerous other heritage buildings in Canada.

These beautiful, old buildings aren’t a liability — they’re an irreplaceable asset.

It’s not too late for our Bay; the city has put together a group to review its fate, and now is the time for bold, visionary ideas to protect our history while putting it to use for our future.

Winnipeg has one of the best collections of heritage buildings in North America — but we don’t seem to appreciate them until it’s too late. Many people don’t realize that our architectural heritage has made us an incredibly popular location for motion picture productions. Directors from around the world travel to our Exchange District when they want to film in old 1800s New York or re-create gangster scenes from 1930s Chicago. The film industry is a huge contributor to Manitoba’s economy, bringing in over $269 million in 2018-2019.

Preserving these buildings doesn’t mean they need to be mothballed or sit unused and unchanged. We don’t need to look far for inspiration, either — Red River College preserved an entire block of heritage storefronts, while still adapting and renovating them for modern classroom use.

It’s Heritage Week, so show our city’s history some attention. You can share your love for our heritage on social media with the hashtag #HeritageDayCanada until Sun., Feb. 21, and you’ll be entered to win one of five subscriptions to Locale, the members’ magazine of the National Trust for Canada.

Kevin Lamoureux

Kevin Lamoureux
Winnipeg North constituency report

Kevin Lamoureux is the Liberal Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North.

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