$1B Polo Park project in hands of city council; councillors need to ‘inform’ themselves, says Lukes

Architectural renderings show a possible redevelopment of land around Polo Park. Shindico/Cadillac Fairview

The fate of what developers call a “shovel-ready” project that could bring up to $1 billion to the city lies in the hands of Winnipeg city councillors this week.

A proposed development at Polo Park will be voted on by the full council, after going through three committees.

Mall owners Cadillac Fairview and developer Shindico want to build nearly a dozen low and medium-rise buildings on Polo Park’s property.

READ MORE: Exclusive renderings show possible apartment development plans around Polo Park

The mixed-use project would take up about a third of the mall’s current parking lot.

A passenger and vehicle path would connect the west side of Polo Park to St. James Street at Ness Avenue.

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The property would include ground-floor retail and Shindico says additional parking would be considered — with an extension of the current north or east-side parkades a possibility.

The developer previously told Global News it wants to re-imagine the 80-acre land around Polo Park, including vacant land on the site of the old Winnipeg Arena.

READ MORE: Residential development proposed for Winnipeg’s Polo Park rejected by EPC vote

So far, it has councillors divided. It went to last week’s Executive Policy Committee meeting without a recommendation after a 2-2 tie in voting by the property and development committee earlier in April.

At that EPC meeting, it faced a damaging blow — with the committee voting 4-3 to send it to council with a recommendation to reject the proposal.

But some councillors, including Tuxedo-Westwood-Charleswood’s Kevin Klein, say it’s going to get a fair shake come Wednesday.

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The battle over the development concerns the nearby James Richardson International Airport.

The Winnipeg Airports Authority says a mixed-use build that close to their property could lead to noise complaints, and threaten its 24/7 operation, having a big effect on the booming cargo business.

The WAA intends to add a third runway in the future — plans for that would see planes fly just 300 metres above the property, some of them at night.

There is an existing apartment building just steps away from the proposed build site: the Towers of Polo Park.

The WAA says the 15-storey building doesn’t have an impact on current operations.

However, it too would be directly under the flight path of the proposed third runway.

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Residential construction on the Polo Park grounds is prohibited by a set of rules under the Airport Vicinity Protection Area Secondary Plan (AVPA). The purpose of the AVPA is to “protect the 24-hour air operations of the airport by limiting residential noise complaints.”

READ MORE: Battle over Polo Park development clears first hurdle at Winnipeg City Hall

Earlier this year, councillors on the Assiniboia Community Committee passed a motion for proposed amendments to the area’s bylaw that would allow the build.

Waverley West councillor Janice Lukes has seen both sides.

“I’ve been involved [for years] in the development of Centreport. The airport is very important to Centreport. You try to go into every meeting neutral, but I realize how important it is.”

READ MORE: Polo Park development vote ends in stalemate at Winnipeg property and development committee

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Lukes says she was skeptical about the development until she sat through a lengthy meeting that covered the topic of noise technology.

“An expert came in from Montreal who studied noise around airports. We learned about the advancement in aircraft design and the advancement in commercial and residential development.”

After the four-and-a-half-hour presentation, Lukes was convinced.

“We can have both. We can have 24/7 airport [operation] and we can have [this] development.”

Now, she’s asking her peers to give it the same thought she did before deciding on such a massive project.

“Not everyone is going to do this; not everyone on council will probably do this. But I encourage them to sit through both sides of the presentation,” she says. “I will be supporting the development.”

Lukes says it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around often, and Polo Park is ready.

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“We’ve got great infrastructure there already, excellent roads that are being upgraded, transit, cycling, retail. We’ve got everything there.”

Council will give the project a final vote on Wednesday.

With files from Elisha Dacey and Shane Gibson.

Click to play video: 'Noise rules need to be rewritten before Polo Park development: Winnipeg Airports Authority' Noise rules need to be rewritten before Polo Park development: Winnipeg Airports Authority
Noise rules need to be rewritten before Polo Park development: Winnipeg Airports Authority – Mar 2, 2020

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