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Manitoba creates $25M fund for downtown HBC building redevelopment

Click to play video: 'Manitoba creates $25M fund for downtown HBC building redevelopment' Manitoba creates $25M fund for downtown HBC building redevelopment
The province has created a trust fund to help preserve the landmark Hudson's Bay building in downtown Winnipeg, and invites the city to match it. Global's Malika Karim reports.

The province has created a trust fund to help preserve the iconic Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Winnipeg.

Manitoba finance minister Scott Fielding announced the fund during the 2021-22 Manitoba budget presentation Wednesday, adding it’s being created to help a future developer preserve heritage details of the building.

“Mayor [Brian] Bowman, of course, has set up a committee to look at ways to bring the Hudson’s Bay back to life,” said Fielding.

“And we want to start the ball rolling with a $25-million investment trust to renovate and make sure that part of our city is supported. We encourage Mayor Bowman to match that commitment.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s downtown stakeholders see promising signs, despite loss of iconic Hudson’s Bay store' Winnipeg’s downtown stakeholders see promising signs, despite loss of iconic Hudson’s Bay store
Winnipeg’s downtown stakeholders see promising signs, despite loss of iconic Hudson’s Bay store – Dec 1, 2020

The HBC building had already been in steady decline over the past few decades before being abruptly shut down in November after retail restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic finally killed it.

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The Hudson’s Bay Company first opened the downtown Winnipeg store to shoppers in 1926 and the building received a heritage designation from the city in 2019.

An appraisal of the building, done last year by Cushman & Wakefield for the Hudson’s Bay Company, valued the nearly 100-year-old building at $0 if it were to be leased back to the company.

Read more: Heritage Winnipeg sees opportunity in dismal financial appraisal of downtown Bay building

Cushman & Wakefield found with a little more than $91 million in upgrades, the building’s value would increase to $8 million if leased to a single tenant.

The company’s decision to shutter the store left many wondering what could occupy the iconic six-floor department store, but so far, no plans have been announced.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s downtown stakeholders see promising signs, despite loss of iconic Hudson’s Bay store' Winnipeg’s downtown stakeholders see promising signs, despite loss of iconic Hudson’s Bay store
Winnipeg’s downtown stakeholders see promising signs, despite loss of iconic Hudson’s Bay store – Dec 1, 2020

However, Downtown BIZ executive director Kate Fenske told CJOB Wednesday that the fund was a pleasant surprise.

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“It’s really great news,” she said. “It really helps potential developers to know what’s actually on the table that can help make this redevelopment happen.”

The building is a key heritage asset downtown, said Fenske, but to redevelop it is a complicated problem that needs creative solutions.

“There’s no shortage of interesting ideas out there,” she said.

President and CEO of CentreVenture Development Corporation, Angela Mathieson told CJOB Thursday that she believes the money will help other developers come forward.

“This is a 600,000 square foot building, it’s the biggest heritage building we have in the city I guess next to the Legislative Building,” Mathieson said. “We know that the investment to renovate this to some kind of modern use or mixed uses well over $120 million and that’s just really more than what a typical sort of rental performer can handle. So this type of support that’s being put on the table, I think was done based on some pretty clear due diligence that it’s needed to make a project viable and this will bring out people.”

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