Proponents say announcement is expected soon on re-development of vacant 650,000-square-foot concrete monolith in downtown
Winnipeg, but some remain skeptical
After years of proposals and marketing ideas, rumours are swirling in Winnipeg that an announcement is imminent on the future of the massive and shuttered Hudson’s Bay store at 450 Portage Avenue in the city’s core.
The six-storey building, designated a municipal heritage structure, closed its doors in November 2020.
The owner of the Hudson’s Bay building, which has loomed its 650,000-square-foot bulk over Winnipeg’s downtown for nearly a century, has been trying to find a buyer and a new use for the site.
“We believe there is value in this building, and we are in active discussions with strong organizations on its potential future,” Ian Putnam, president and CEO, HBC Properties and Investments (HBCPI) said last July.
According to an HBCPI statement, the company “has received interest from a number of stakeholders about the future use of the location.”
In early March, Angela Mathieson, president and CEO of economic development agency CentreVenture, told 680 CJOB that she’s expecting news about the iconic department store building in the next few weeks.
“I’m very optimistic about The Bay. I think there’s a lot of merits in the building,” Mathieson told the Winnipeg radio station.
“I think in very short order, we’re going to hear about a successful attempt to redevelop that building.”
Sandy Shindleman, president of Shindico Realty Ltd., founded in Winnipeg in 1975, suggests the “stakeholders” that proponents talk about is some form of government money. In the April 2021 provincial budget, the province set aside a $25 million trust fund to help with redevelopment of the building.
Shindleman led a committee a decade ago that studied plans for the Hudson’s Bay building for two years.
“We looked at every proposal,” Shindleman said, and he reached the same conclusion then he holds now: the building is worthless and would require a minimum of $50 million to $100 million to revive it.
Other Winnipeg real estate veterans were equally skeptical of a commercial rebirth of what should be centre-ice real estate in the heart of Canada’s seventh-largest city. In a 2019 appraisal, Cushman & Wakefield valued the old building at zero dollars, citing the work needed to renovate it.
Recently, HBCP announced that the Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Vancouver would be redeveloped into a mixed-use office and retail complex.