Year-long consultation planned for vacant downtown Winnipeg police building and parking lot

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winnipeg public safety building
The vacant Winnipeg Public Safety Building and an adjacent parking lot are to be redeveloped for public uses

The public is being invited to participate in a year-long consultation to come up with a new use for Winnipeg’s vacant Public Safety Building property and the adjacent civic parkade, The Winnipeg Free Press reports.

CentreVenture, city hall’s downtown development agency, is leading the process.

“I believe this area represents a tremendous opportunity to further refine and renew the Exchange District and to better connect the east and west exchanges and build a downtown we can all be proud of,” Mayor Brian Bowman said at a January news conference to start the consultation process.

Bowman and CentreVenture executive director Angela Mathieson explained how the consultation process will eventually lead to a redevelopment of the 2.4-acre property , most likely sometime in 2018.

Mathieson said the public is invited to weigh in on CentreVenture’s website as to how the location, called the Market Lands, should be developed.

CentreVenture will present a concept on how the project should be developed this spring, she said. then the organization will develop more specific uses for council’s consideration by year’s end.

“This really is an important site,” she said. “It has been a centre of civic and community life since the founding of the city of Winnipeg…. It really is a fulcrum or centre point on so many of the amazing, emerging assets that we have in our downtown.”

The property, formerly home to the Winnipeg’s police headquarters, was gifted to the city in 1875 with a caveat that it remain in the public use, which has prevented a sale to private developers.

The parkade, which is not subject to the same caveat, was hastily shut down in 2012 because it was found to be structurally unsound. It could not be demolished at the time because its underground was still being used by the Winnipeg Police Service and there was concern demolition would impact the PSB, the Free Press reported. The police have since relocated in the former Canada Post building on Graham Ave.

The administration recommended demolishing both the PSB and the parkade, selling the parkade land and developing the PSB site as a public green space. However, officials say other alternatives could result in the property developed in a civic campus design, which would include either a large or smaller parkade.

Bowman didn’t want the PSB building saved — it opened in 1966 and is considered an example of brutalist architecture — and argued it should be demolished in favour of a public meeting place.

He said the two buildings won’t be demolished this year.

Mathieson said a formal request for development proposals will likely be sent out early in 2018, after council approves the site’s official plan.

Bowman said he is eager to see the ideas to come from the community, adding there has been tremendous development throughout the downtown in the last 15 years and there are several new projects are happening, including the $400-million True North Square and a multimillion-dollar project from Artis REIT for a new residential and commercial tower at 360 Main Street.

“I want to continue building on this momentum,” he said about the PSB site. “I want to continue building on a downtown where increasingly people can live, work and play. I’d like to see a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly (development), a place that engages and excites Winnipeggers about downtown.”

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