Three days after the historic announcement that saw Winnipeg’s iconic Hudson’s Bay building transferred to the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, Grand Chief Jerry Daniels says he’s ready to get to work.
“We just want to make the most of it that we possibly can,” Daniels told 680 CJOB’s The Start.
“We have a timeline and we have plans for the final look of the building — it’s about 36 months that we’re looking at.”
Daniels said the SCO wants to get moving on construction as soon as possible, and despite concerns about the state of the almost 100-year-old landmark — which sat vacant for two years prior to Friday’s announcement — he says his organization has crossed its T’s and dotted its I’s.
“We have a great team that’s taking a really close look at the condition of the building, and we’ve done a very, very conservative estimate…. We’ve done our due diligence on this.
“We’re making our plans, we’ve costed it out. We have a timeline, we have specifics around what will be in the building and also the management going forward — the costs of running the building for the next 20 years, 30 years. All of that has been included.
“I think that what we have now is already very well thought out and will make a big impact on the community.”
The project, named Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, meaning “it is visible,” has been cited as an example of reconciliation in action by federal and provincial officials, the Hudson’s Bay Company itself, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Winnipeg Friday for the announcement.
The six-storey building is expected to include almost 300 affordable housing units, as well as a child-care centre, a museum, an art gallery and restaurants.
“For the Southern Chiefs’ Organization to become the new stewards of the Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Winnipeg is an inspiring and inspired act of reclamation,” Trudeau said.
“The history of the Hudson’s Bay Company is a long one in this country — woven in inextricably with the story of Indigenous Peoples, the story of the need for reconciliation.
“This moment today is a tangible example of the kind of steps that are being made in communities across the country between Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners.”
Daniels said one of the biggest challenges leading up to the formal announcement was keeping news of the long-in-the-works project quiet — both from the media and from members of the 34 First Nations served by the SCO.
“We kept things under wraps as much as we could,” he said. “It’s tough when you have partners with the HBC, you have your federal partners, you have your provincial and everyone wants to keep it under wraps.
“I think the community’s very happy with what’s happening here. It’s certainly an opportunity for hundreds of our citizens — thousands as you take into consideration the amount of time and the legacy of this building and the people who will be coming through the building.
“It’s a great impact, and hopefully it changes some of the social dynamics and changes the narrative as well…. We really need to see that First Nations can do well, that we can thrive, we can do major projects, we can manage major projects and be successful.”