Dozens of Winnipeggers crammed into the new Merchants Corner on Saturday, celebrating the opening of the hub for education and affordable housing in Winnipeg’s North End.
Formerly the Merchants Hotel at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Andrews Street, many don’t recognize the property that was once an eyesore and known for drug activity.
“We used to called it ‘dirty merch’ because it was a lot of drinking and drug use and that was the nickname for it,” said Lisa Strong, who grew up in the area and now lives in the revitalized building.
The old Merchants Hotel, along with six neighbouring city lots, is now home to the University of Winnipeg’s department of urban and inner-city studies and the Community Educational Development Association – Pathways to Education.
The revitalized property also includes 30 affordable rental housing units, with priority for students with children.
The federal and provincial governments contributed more than $15 million to the project and the community raised an additional $2.7 million.
A coalition of about 20 local organizations joined forces to help redevelop the 100-year-old hotel.
“This new complex, which incorporates education and housing will make a critical difference and help bring the area back to life in a positive way,” Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux said.
Strong, who plans on taking full advantage of what the new facility has to offer, hopes others will too.
“It’s changing the community for the better,” she said. “It’s like giving the community a brand new start.”