Sale of Portage Place, land and parkade approved by Winnipeg city council
Winnipeg city council has approved the sale of Portage Place, its land and the parkade.
Toronto-based Starlight Investments offered $22.9 million for the shopping centre, with an additional $47 million for its land and underground parkade.
Winnipeg architect Brent Bellamy told Global News that Portage Place was well-designed in the 1980s, but never lived up to its potential.
“It brought high-density residential, it had theatres, live theatre, IMAX, office space – it had everything you would think would make it successful, but it really failed along the street,” he said.
“Almost instantly, those stores were closed to the street. They were intended to be shops, just like the shops that were there that it replaced.
“It’s true, it’s not going to ever save downtown like it was sort of promised many years ago, but I think it’s exciting to see some change happening, and hopefully it does become a better contributor for the downtown.”
Bellamy said whatever the mall’s fate is, he thinks a big part of its success will be opening it back up to Portage Avenue.
“Portage Place takes up three solid blocks of the most important street in Winnipeg, and it’s not living up to its potential… and hasn’t really since the place opened in 1987.
“Something has to happen, and I do see this as an opportunity to redefine a big part of the downtown.”
The idea of redefining the area without the input of community residents, however, is rubbing some downtown advocates the wrong way.
Central Neighbourhoods director Marieke Brunelli told Global News that there’s concern with – among other things – the speed at which the sale process appears to be going through.
“Portage Place is a very interesting place to be,” Brunelli, one of the community organizers behind the ‘Humans of Portage Place’ Facebook group.
“It’s such a lively and busy space for the community that actually lives in that neighbourhood. There are so many different features in the mall from the food court, to the beautiful trees and planters, there’s benches, there’s a fountain and the piano… but there’s also so many community organizations that provide services and programming there. That goes from family programming to youth programs and arts, music, and also adult ed.
“It’s a very different vibe than your regular mall and it’s clearly serving a purpose in this neighbourhood that doesn’t have a community centre.”
One man who was sitting in the mall’s food court told 680 CJOB it’s become a meeting place for him and his friends, adding he has been coming to the mall for more than 30 years.
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