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Major ground floor changes coming to Manitoba’s tallest building at Portage and Main

Pedestrians tend not to use the walkway, says the building owners. Elisha Dacey/Global News

Manitoba’s tallest building will get a fresh ground-floor makeover if Winnipeg’s city council approves their plan.

Representatives from Stantec Architecture and Harvard Developments, which owns 201 Portage, told Winnipeg’s planning and property development meeting Monday they are hoping to give an unused piece of real estate some use.

A glassed-in walkway, originally intended to give pedestrians some shelter from the wind and elements as they traversed around the building, is rarely used as such and has prevented potential tenants from leasing retail space right behind it, the committee heard Monday.

The glassed-in walkway, also called an arcade, could be incorporated into the building for retail space. Elisha Dacey/Global News

The protected walkway was originally part of the development agreement between 201 Portage and the City in 1979, said principal architect Michael Banman, but is not being used by pedestrians.

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“The walkway is primarily used for smoking and other forms of exchange, becoming a security concern,” he said.

“While good-intentioned, the approach set out in the development agreement has not succeeded.”

Now, for the first time, a tenant is interested in leasing space behind the walkway, but wants to do away with the round walkway and incorporate it into the space, which is “currently unusable, unleaseable, and actually has never had any kind of presence whatsoever,” said Roseanne Hill Blaisdell, COO of Harvard Developments.

The main floor of 201 Portage will be renovated over the next year. Elisha Dacey/Global News

Hill Blaisdell said the company plans to redevelop the lobby, which hasn’t changed since the building opened in the early 1990s. With those renovations, they would like to improve the exterior of the main entrance of the building along with the absorption of the walkway.

The renovations will mean much more visibility on the main floor and will be more energy-efficient, said Hill Blaisdell. In the end, the lobby will be twice as big with new amenities.

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The committee was asked for the portion of the development agreement that governs the walkway be amended to “remove the requirement to provide” the sheltered walkway.

The property and development committee concurred. The issue now goes before city council.

Global News Winnipeg is located on the 30th floor of 201 Portage.