Angela Mathieson, president and CEO of economic development agency CentreVenture, told 680 CJOB’s The Start that she’s expecting news about the iconic department store building at Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard in the next few weeks.
“I’m very optimistic about The Bay — I think there’s a lot of merits in the building,” Mathieson said.
“I think in very short order, we’re going to hear about a successful attempt to redevelop that building.”
The now-vacant six-storey building, which first opened in 1926 and closed its doors in November 2020, was given a municipal heritage designation in 2019.
In April 2021, the province announced that money from the $25-million Bay Building Fund — previously announced as part of the 2021 budget and held in trust by the Winnipeg Foundation — will go toward eligible projects to be completed over a 10-year period.
“Since the Bay went dark in 2020, there’s been a really good coalescing of community around options for that building,” Mathieson said.
“It’s a tough one — very, very large, it’s over 600,000 square feet. To put that in perspective, it’s the size of the Richardson Building, or more than the Richardson Building.
“It’s a big building to fill, especially in the context of the pandemic, but you’re going to see something there that’s going to be a mix of uses and I think it’s going to be a very positive project for the downtown, and I would say you’re going to see that in the next month or so.”
Across the street from the historic building lies another familiar downtown site that has been the subject of controversy over the last few years: Portage Place mall.
Mathieson said while plans are “definitely stalled” at this point, plans to redevelop the space aren’t necessarily dead in the water.
“I think it has, in large part, to do with the scale of the plan,” she said.
The proponents were looking for certain levels of support that weren’t really available to achieve the vision that they had.
“I would assume that group and maybe potentially even others are regrouping to look at what might be a more feasible and maybe more affordable plan.”