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Portage Place developers working with stakeholders to create safe, active community space

The street view looking north at the proposed new development at Portage Place.
The street view looking north at the proposed new development at Portage Place. Starlight Developments

The developer behind a $400-million redevelopment project for downtown Winnipeg’s Portage Place mall released some more details about its plans for a proposed community space Thursday.

Glen Hirsh, COO of Starlight Investments, told 680 CJOB the developers engaged with stakeholders to work out how best to accommodate everyone with “P3Commons,” the proposed 10,000-square-foot community area.

“It is meant to be inclusive, it is meant to be open to the public, it is meant to be programmed — to which particular group that applies to is early — but we are having several discussions with various stakeholders and we’re excited about it,” he said.

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

Hirsh said they’re still ironing out where the community centre will be at the site and just how it will look, as there are a lot of ‘moving parts’, but it was clear the space was needed.

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“This is exciting for us, because we have gone out and conducted several consultations with stakeholders, and what clearly came up several times was this need for a community hub,” he said.

“Something of a community space, open to all the public in the area — particularly accommodating to some of the communities that frequent the mall currently — would be something that would be very, very well-regarded and looked upon.”

Glen Hirsh on community consultations for Portage Place
Glen Hirsh on community consultations for Portage Place

Hirsh said his group has heard safety concerns about Winnipeg’s downtown, but isn’t worried the site will become a hub for illegal activity.

“When you bring in community programming, when you bring in assistance to people coming into town for the first time, and trying to get their bearings, trying to find housing… that creates a network of safety and administration as opposed to a place where nefarious activity goes on.”

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Working with organizations like Winnipeg police to ensure the safety of the community area — and the redeveloped Portage Place site as a whole, he said — is also something Starlight plans to pursue as things progress.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas
Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

One of the stakeholders engaged by Starlight was the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) who said in a statement that the community commons will be a “welcome addition” to the site.

“The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs had initial concerns relating to the transaction, but through various conversations and dialogue, we are pleased to see that Starlight Investments understands our needs and has worked diligently to establish a new centre that will benefit Winnipeg’s downtown,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

“This is a welcome addition that should be celebrated by all.”

The deal to redevelop the mall, however, isn’t a done deal yet.

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

“This is not an easy deal to get done. It is complex, and there are various constituents that have to be considered,” said Hirsh.

“While we’re working through the complexity, we have to deal with the due diligence – being sure we know what we’re buying and understanding the asset.

“We’re going through that in-depth. We’ve spent a lot of time in Winnipeg, and we got to know the area extremely well, we know the asset extremely well.”

Can Portage Place revamp improve safety in downtown Winnipeg?
Can Portage Place revamp improve safety in downtown Winnipeg?

Starlight has also launched an interactive website at p3commons.com for members of the community to share opinions on the mall’s transformation.

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“I think the next step is to make it more of a public forum where we can invite people in and we can get their thoughts,” said Hirsh.