Barriers a barrier to developing Portage and Main, property owners say

Streets signs for the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Portage and Main intersection is considered the centre of downtown. Don Denton/The Canadian Press

The owner of a vacant lot near Winnipeg’s most famous intersection says it would like to develop the empty property, but the lack of access due to barriers is blocking development.

Harvard Buildings Inc. says the barriers at Portage and Main mean the vacant lot at 416 Main St., which lies just to the north of its 33-storey tower at 201 Portage Ave., is unlikely to be developed.

“I think the single biggest impediment to us moving forward with a vision for development is the fact that people can’t get to it,” said Rosanne Hill Blaisdell, managing director for Harvard Buildings, the company that owns 201 Portage and 416 Main.

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“And so the opening of Portage and Main would really spur the opportunity and the interest and excitement around what can be at this corner.”

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The comments were made for a video for the Coalition for Portage and Main. Global News currently leases a floor in 201 Portage.

Across the street, the owners of the Richardson Building agree.

“The property owners … have invested significantly in our properties over the years and continue to do so today,” said Dave Finnbogason, vice-president of corporate development with James Richardson & Sons.

“The revitalization of the downtown core … [can] only occur if people want to work and live downtown.  We are seeing this already with a large number of new residential developments complete or underway.

“More needs to be done,” Finnbogason said.

Portage and Main was closed to pedestrians in 1979 under an agreement with the property owners at all four corners in an effort to drive traffic to an underground mall. The agreement is up in 2019 and all four property owners have signed letters of support for the removal of the barriers at Portage and Main.

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Winnipeggers will vote in a plebiscite on Oct. 24 as part of the civic election on whether to bring the barriers down. Support for their removal is at its lowest level in decades. The Coalition for Portage and Main started a fundraiser to drum up support, which has raised $9,615 of their goal of $100,000.

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“If the plebiscite asked citizens to support economic growth, we’d achieve almost unanimous support,” said Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Loren Remillard

“The vote on Portage and Main is an opportunity to do just that, in the heart of our city. The fact the surrounding property owners are all on the yes side should speak volumes. They have hundreds of millions invested at that corner. They want the barriers to be removed for a reason.”

WATCH: Lisa Bright from Artis Reit and Sherry Amano from Mercatino, share their views on removing the pedestrian barriers at Portage and Main.

Click to play video: 'Portage and Main: Businesses below'
Portage and Main: Businesses below

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