‘Winnipeggers are going to be thrilled’: Heritage director on work at former downtown Bay building

Click to play video: 'Inside look at downtown Bay building in Winnipeg'
Inside look at downtown Bay building in Winnipeg
Curious about the future of Winnipeg's iconic Bay building? So were we! The Southern Chiefs' Organization and Heritage Winnipeg brought Clay inside this morning to talk about building community – Sep 14, 2023

To downtown passersby, Winnipeg’s landmark Hudson’s Bay Company building on Portage Avenue may look the same as it has for almost a century, but inside, new owner the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) has been hard at work on the building’s transformation.

Heritage Winnipeg executive director Cindy Tugwell told Global Winnipeg that since taking over the building in the spring, the SCO has been prepping it for construction — and that when all is said and done, the new mixed-use space should play a big role in revitalizing the downtown.

“I’m thrilled to see this project underway,” Tugwell said. “This is an amazing downtown landmark building — this is a very conspicuous building and it’s really important that this be retrofitted, rehabilitated so that people can come back to downtown and enjoy this building.

“Since the summer, the Southern Chiefs Organization has been doing an immense amount of cleaning, from the penthouse, the sixth floor, all the way down.

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“The main floor is the last area to be done, and then they’re starting the light demolition, so there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that’s being done that Winnipeggers aren’t seeing on the outside of the building.”

Click to play video: 'Hudson’s Bay Company calls donation of Winnipeg building an act of reconciliation'
Hudson’s Bay Company calls donation of Winnipeg building an act of reconciliation

The former department store, which opened its doors in 1926 and remained a Winnipeg staple until finally closing in 2020, was gifted to the SCO in 2022, in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an example of “reconciliation in action.”

The massive six-storey building, once the company’s flagship store, was transferred to the SCO with a symbolic “rent” payment of pelts and furs — reflecting on the legacy of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s historic role in the fur trade and its impact on Indigenous people.

Tugwell said the Indigenous-led redevelopment project is something Winnipeg’s downtown really needs.

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“I think what’s really important about this project is it’s mixed-use, and that’s really critical for downtown.

“Housing is also critical. It’s Indigenous-led, there will be Indigenous housing, and I think that is really, really needed in the downtown. You’re (also) going to have doctors’ offices, coffee shops, restaurants…. It’s going to mirror that downtown department store that opened in 1926.

“I think you’re going to have that excitement and energy again when this reopens.”

When the department store first opened 97 years ago, Tugwell said, a whopping 50,000 Winnipeggers showed up to get a glimpse of the enormous 15 acres of retail space — and making it a destination once again is the goal for its eventual re-emergence.

“This is what I love about this project — it’s going to bring back (the building) as a hub, as a gathering place.

“I’m very confident that Winnipeggers are going to be thrilled when this project and this building will be open.”

Click to play video: 'Transfer of ownership of former Bay building complete'
Transfer of ownership of former Bay building complete



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