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$400 M Portage Place redevelopment to include large 24-hour community space

Glen Hirsh on community consultations for Portage Place
Starlight Developments' Glen Hirsh on safety and community consultations around Portage Place.

The redevelopment of Portage Place Shopping Centre will include a 24-hour community space complete with public washrooms, confirmed to the developer behind the project.

Starlight Investments, which is known as P3 Commons for the redevelopment, confirmed to 680 CJOB the re-brand of Portage Place will feature a 10,000 square foot community area, saying it is an important component to serve the larger needs of the community.

An announcement with more information is expected to be made Thursday.

READ MORE: Portage Place to undergo up to $400-M retrofit, multi-income residential towers added

In an exclusive interview with Global News in December, Starlight revealed the struggling mall will be “retrofitted” starting in 2021, and replaced with two 20-storey rental residential towers. New shopping and office spaces, as well as a pedestrian-friendly courtyard, are also included in the plans.

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The retrofit and addition of the rental housing towers will cost anywhere from $300-400 million and take four to five years, said Glen Hirsh, COO of Starlight, and the towers will have 500 to 550 rental units of varying sizes. Starlight is also looking at finding a grocery chain for the space, he added.

The courtyard at Edmonton Street for the proposed new development at Portage Place.
The courtyard at Edmonton Street for the proposed new development at Portage Place. Starlight Investments

After the story was published, community members expressed concern about possibly losing the public space the mall provided.

“It is an important gathering place for many people who in some ways, on a day like today, have to get out of the cold, huddle over a cup of coffee and conversation,” said Dr. Jino Distasio, a professor and urban planning expert with the University of Winnipeg, in December.

“The downtown is much more diverse [since the mall was built.] Portage Place has become an international gathering spot. So I’m not surprised that people are concerned.”

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Hirsch said at the time that Starlight Industries ws aware that Portage Place caters partly to a community of vulnerable people, including the city’s homeless and refugee population, and said he wants to make sure their voices are heard.

“If we come in and we renovate and there is a displacement, let’s talk about that. Let’s see what options are available. Let’s get it all out there on the table. But we’re going to need people to be involved.”

READ MORE: Portage Place revamp hopes to keep community ‘that’s desperately needed’

Portage Place was built in the 1980s as part of a revitalization effort in the area. To build it, the North Portage Development Corporation was established as an arms-length government committee and the group announced the building of the mall in 1984.

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The mall is located on the north side of Portage Avenue between Vaughn and Carlton streets and several buildings along the stretch of Portage Avenue were demolished to make way for the three-storey, 439,000 sq. ft. shopping centre and residential apartments.

The cost was $80 million, or $157 million if it were to be built today.

Less than a year after it opened, store owners complained of a lack of foot traffic and asked for reduced rent, according to a news report.

The mall continued to struggle and in 2010, the IMAX theatre closed, followed by the Globe Theatre three years later.

Downtown Winnipeg BIZ CEO Kate Fenske told 680 CJOB the public square is important to anyone who lives and visits downtown.

“It is really about connecting with community members as well, so what I love about this proposal and this commitment from Starlight as part of this Portage Place project is that it is including a community space.

“It’s not just opening up washrooms and trying to manage that, but it is part of a much broader vision.”

-With files from Richard Cloutier and Brittany Greenslade

Starlight Investments’ Josh Kaufman says speaking to the community is vital to shaping the project
Starlight Investments’ Josh Kaufman says speaking to the community is vital to shaping the project