Local company goes back to the future
Project combines residential, commercial space
By Murray McNeill
Artist's conception of a multi-phase redevelopment of the former Canadian Red Cross building at 226 Osborne St. North, which will include commercial, residential and office space.
A local firm is going back to the future with the newest development project for downtown Winnipeg.
Inlett Properties has begun work on a new multi-phase redevelopment of the former Canadian Red Cross building at 226 Osborne St. North, which will include commercial, residential and office space.
That kind of mixed-use building concept dates back to an earlier time in Winnipeg's history, when it was fairly common to see buildings that included commercial space on the ground floor and apartments above, Doug Russell, Inlett's director of operations and finance, said yesterday.
"It's basically a return-to-the-grassroots kind of thing," Russell said in an interview.
"You see that in some of larger cities like Chicago."
Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, said those kinds of multi-use buildings were fairly common in about the 1930s and '40s in Winnipeg. He said it's the kind of development that's particularly welcome in the downtown. "It just brings so much more vibrancy to the neighbourhood."
Russell said there are some practical reasons why a mixed-use concept seemed to be a good fit for this project.
For starters, it reduces the market risk because it should be easier to fill 102,000-square-feet of space with three different types of tenant, instead of just one.
A second consideration was location. The site is across the street from Memorial Park, and Inlett officials wanted to take full advantage of the view by including two floors of one- and two-bedroom condominiums (seven on each floor) that would face onto the park.
Russell declined to reveal the price-tag for the project.
He said the plan is to develop the project in four phases, and hopefully to have everything complete within about three years. The first phase, which got underway about a month ago, involves an overhaul of the two-storey, 23,050-square-foot building at 226 Osborne St. North. That includes stripping down the interior to the bare walls, installing new mechanical systems, and then rebuilding the interior space for new offices and common areas.
The building exterior will be cleaned up, the front entrance rebuilt, and larger windows installed on the east facing Osborne and the park.
The second phase, planned to get underway next spring, will involve adding two floors onto the existing building (each 7,500 square feet in size) to house the 14 condos. They hope to have that complete by the end of next year.
The third phase, tentatively scheduled to get underway the following spring, would involve the construction of a one-and-a-half-storey glass atrium that will serve as a main entrance for the complex and also house about 9,000 square feet of commercial space. Russell said the plan is to fill the space with a couple of food-service-related business, such as a restaurant and coffee shop.
The final phase would involve the construction of a new eight-storey office tower that will be attached to the atrium and be built on what is now a gravel parking lot on the southwest corner of Osborne and York Avenue. Russell said each floor will be about 9,000 square feet, and the plan is to designate the bottom floor as commercial space and the rest for offices. There will be a combination of indoor and surface parking to accommodate the commercial, office and residential occupants.
Russell said although the first phase is being done without any tenants being signed up, remaining construction won't proceed until at last 50 per cent of the space in each phase is leased or sold. Inlett officials say they are optimistic the project can be completed within about three years.
He noted that with the renewed interest in redeveloping the downtown, this is a good time for Inlett to be proceeding. The Winnipeg-based firm owns about 400,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space in the three Prairie provinces and Northwestern Ontario, but this is its only property in downtown Winnipeg.
© Winnipeg Free Press, June 15, 2004. Reprinted with permission.