A Threat to the Exchange District
Should Rules be Broken?
In 2001, The Exchange District was named a National Historic Site of Canada because of its ...”harmonious representation of one or more styles or constructions, building types, or periods that has a sense of history....” That designation could be in jeopardy if the plans for the development of a 12-story skyscraper goes through and opens the door to other high-rise development in the Exchange District.
The developer, Alston Properties, also responsible for the 7-story pump house project, is proposing to build a 145’ building in the parking lot at 127 Bannatyne, in the East Exchange. The City has rejected the planned height of 145 feet in accordance with the 2004 Downtown Winnipeg Zoning bylaw No. 100/2004 that stipulates a maximum height of 100 feet. The developer has petitioned for a variance and has a hearing scheduled for April 19, 2021. Essentially they want to break the rules.
What's the Current Lay of the Land?
Most buildings in the Exchange average 4-8 stories. In the East Exchange, aside from Main Street, only 3 buildings are at or near the maximum 100’ height (two on Waterfront and one at the corner of Market and Rorie), two are 6 stories (including Ashdown Warehouse) and all the rest are significantly smaller. A modern-looking, 12-story tower would become an unwanted beacon and detract from the historic aesthetic. A 6 or 8 story building would be a better fit; at least in terms of height. So far, there has been no public decisions regarding the facade materials and colour of the proposed building.
While it is good news to contemplate more people living in the Exchange (something I have promoted for years!), the bad news is a building of this size will affect the aesthetic feeling relative to the other historic buildings in the area. More importantly, this building could set a dangerous precedent that could open the doors to the development of even taller buildings in the area which, in turn, could lead to a deterioration of this historic jewel of Winnipeg.
If you have the same concerns that I have, please join me in opposing the height of this development. Here are 3 ways you can help:
- Register to speak against the appeal at the April 19th Zoom hearing (call (204)986-8665 or email CLK-Appeals@winnipeg.ca by 2:30 on April 16)
- Send me an email to voice your opposition to the appeal of the height restriction (please include your full name and address)
- Pass the word around to your friends and neighbours.
I will be at the meeting. I think we would be quite effective if we show a united front at the meeting, as well as to have a significant showing of emails from fellow residents that are against a building well in excess of the 100’ limit. Let’s work together to preserve our historical neighbourhood.
Does Size Really Matter?
The architect’s (ATLRG.ca) rendering below shows a view of the proposed building down Bannatyne from Rorie. From this perspective and angle the building doesn’t look too obtrusive.
However, if we look at the proposed building from a front view, you can see the impact it will have compared to everything around it. The rendering is a bit rough but is to scale. The numbers on the surrounding buildings indicate the number of stories.
How Would a 12 Story Tower Impact the Existing Exchange Roofline?
I'm sure you would agree that this proposed building might stick out as a prominent shiny tower amongst buildings that are all over 100 years old?
Here is the architect’s rendering of the proposed view.
Here is my rough but to scale rendering. Quite a difference from the architect’s view.
Who is the Developer?
Alston Properties’ current project in the Exchange is located at the James Avenue Pumping Station. The 7-story, 28 unit, motel-like building in front of the pump house (see picture)is leased and nearing completion. They are working on the foundation of the second much larger 65 unit dual rental building (see rendering) behind the pump house.
The developer is quite committed to new projects in the Exchange District. In addition to owning the parking lot at 127 Bannatyne, we understand they also own the parking lot directly across Ashdown Warehouse, so possibly that is their next development opportunity.
Who is the Architect?
The architect for the proposed 12-story building on Bannatyne is ATLRG. They have other projects on the go, or planned, for the Exchange including this proposed building which would be located at the iconic centre of the Exchange District at the corner of Albert and Arthur Streets.
This architectural wedge would sit on the site where the old service station building once stood. While the concept is very cool and would look great in many areas of Winnipeg, most people think it doesn’t belong in the centre of the historic Exchange District.
What About Parking?
Parking is always a hot issue, for residents of the Exchange as well as for tourists, shoppers and concert-goers. Will this development help or hurt parking? Here are the facts for 127 Bannatyne:
Current number of parking spots in the lot: 40
Number of parking spots in the building: 32
Number of apartments in the building: 90
So, assuming an average of 1.5 people per apartment, there will be 135 additional people (most with cars) and 8 less parking spots than today. Clearly a nice addition to the resident numbers, but it would make the parking problems worse.
How to Take Action?
Again, if you have concerns about this development, please join me in opposing the height of this development. Here are three ways you can help:
- Register to speak against the appeal at the April 19th Zoom hearing (call (204)986-8665 or email CLK-Appeals@winnipeg.ca by 2:30 on April 16)
- Send me an email to voice your opposition to the appeal of the height restriction (please include your full name and address). You must register by Friday April 16 at 2:30 p.m.
- Pass the word around to your friends and neighbours.
Spring Spruce Up
We hope to see you at our second annual Exchange District Spring Spruce Up on Wednesday, April 21! (NEW DATE)
In celebration of Earth Day, the Exchange District Biz is hosting a community cleanup to get the Exchange District looking fantastic for spring.
When: Wednesday, April 14, 9 am - 12 pm
Where: Old Market Square
Gloves and cleaning supplies will be provided. If you're interested in joining in, please register.
We’d love to have you join us but if you can’t make it out, you can still do your part by cleaning up around your building!
Come out and connect with your community, and let’s work together to beautify the area and take care of our small corner of the planet.
Indigenous Dining Experience
In October 2019, the historic Exchange District played host to Ishkode, a dining experience celebrating Indigenous cuisine. Four Indigenous chefs, including Melissa Urban Brownee, Glenna “Cookum Daisy” Henderson and Steve Watson will develop a 7-course meal inspired by the theme of "pre-colonization.”
There were only 5 seatings of this not-to-be-missed experience, and Ireserved one of them for the Residents of the Exchange District! The R:ED seating was on Thursday October 24th at 6:00.
First Nations people have worked toward building various platforms to showcase the beautiful traditions and teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation. Ishkode incorporates Indigenous cuisine with traditional plants/medicines and wild game that have fed First Nations’ families for generations.
Education and sharing knowledge are core components of Ishkode and we focused on incorporating traditional and historical knowledge to give our participants an all-around culinary and learning experience, including cultural and food sovereignty.
Ishkode also featured indigenous artists works from up and coming artists Dwayne Bird and Nicole Leclair.
This special evening was hosted for R:ED by Long Plains First Nation member Kyra Wilson and Metis restaurateur Noel Bernier. Ishkode aims at bringing light to an entirely new generation of Indigenous Chefs as they begin to create modern Indigenous cuisine.
This event was offered at a cost of only $99. What makes this even more spectacular is that while the general public will pay $149 to have an entry and wine/beer pairing included with dinner, for this R:ED event, the pairing has been sponsored and will be included in the $99 charge. An amazing deal!
The event took place in the historic and stunning Cloakroom, on the 2nd floor of 70 Albert Street.
New Waterfront Development
Details have been released on two new developments on Waterfront Drive by a Calgary developer that will bring an additional 330 rental units to the East Exchange.
The $100 million development will include 170 units on the site currently occupied by Great West Metal on Waterfront Drive between Alexander and Pacific Avenues. It will be designed as a very modern structure that will wrap around the heritage building behind it which will be converted to commercial space.
The second part of the development will be two six story buildings on the corner of Waterfront Drive and Galt Avenue.
The deal was recently closed by CentreVenture and the buildings have been designed by Exchange District based 5468796 Architectural.
See this WFP article for further details: WFP-2019-10-08
Market Lands - 5 Proposals
The Market Lands design competition was exciting! A reality-TV talent competition, but with architectural designs and no Simon, all in front of a panel of judges who will decide on the ultimate winner. Twenty minutes for each presentation, eight minutes for questions from the judges.
I had the pleasure to be in packed audience and despite the lack of buzzers or spinning chairs of the TV talent shows, it was exciting to see the amazing and varied ideas that five talented teams from across Canada had for the same plot of land.
After two years of public consultations, CentreVenture determined that use will be a mixed-use development encompassing a multi-storey affordable-housing building, a ground-floor space for local arts groups, retail spaces for local artisans and a public plaza so this formed the basis of all of the presentations.
The winner will work with Centreventure to finalize the design of Market Lands development, expected to be a $30 million development between the Exchange District, City Hall and China Town
Check out the Market Lands website for details on the proposals; a decision will be announced on December 14.
St. Charles Hotel vs Residents
It started in December of 2015 with a yellow poster from then MLCC on the boarded up windows of the long abandoned St. Charles Hotel. They were applying for a dining room licence and a beer vendor licence. Wait a minute: the building has been abandoned for years -- how can they apply for a liquor licence?!
I sent in an objection to the beer vendor licence application on behalf of R:ED. CentreVenture also objected. In a July 2016 R:ED newsletter, I asked for residents to email their thoughts on having another beer vendor in the area. The negative responses were definitive in their opposition with many giving personal negative experiences with the current vendors and some with the St. Charles when it was open years ago. The 50 responses were an integral component of my submission of opposition sent to the MLCC.
The MLCC Executive Director allowed the owner of the St. Charles to proceed with a dining room licence, but the beer vendor licence was declined. The reason it was turned down: opposition by the residents. Yay - a win!
The owner appealed. After many delays by the owner in June 2018 the board set a date and said it would not be changed or delayed.
I again agreed to appear in person before the board to present our "case." Does it sound like a trial? It felt like it, and by the way, the hotel owner is a lawyer.
There was over an hour of presentations by Angela Mathieson, CEO of CentreVenture, and by me, representing R:ED. Then some 'cross-examination' by the owner and then final statements by all sides. The board left the room to deliberate and returned about 20 minutes later with a unanimous decision: the appeal was declined - the original decision to not allow the beer vendor licence held!
Two lessons learned. First, the process is onerous, legal-heavy and slow. The second lesson was valuable: When a new licence is under consideration, the interests of local residents are taken into account and are a significant factor.
Construction Update - McDermot Ave.
The last block of McDermot Ave, between Rorie and Waterfront has been changed from a two way to one way traffic heading east, to be consistent with the rest of McDermot. As a result of the success of the angled parking pilot project on Bannatyne Ave last year between Rorie and Waterfront, the new block of McDermot now has angled parking as well.
I have been lobbying for years to have a sidewalk built on this block of McDermot on the south side. I was told by many at the city that it couldn’t be done, and that an unnamed property owner would not allow it (despite being on city land). As a compromise, a couple of years ago, the city built a sidewalk on the north side of the street, where it is not really needed and where there was nice grass — one of the few grass boulevards in the area. ugh.
As part of this year’s street renovation project, they did build a sidewalk on the south side of this block of McDermot, getting rid of the ugly gravel sections and the dumpsters behind the new building addition close to Waterfront Drive.
Construction Update - Bannatyne
What a mess! First they tore up Bannatyne between Waterfront and Rorie, then they patched it. Businesses and residents went without water for hours a few days in a row as construction workers replaced a water main that was installed in 1890! The 128 year old water main pipe they replaced had a 4” diameter, and we were told that given the age and sediment, it probably only had 1 ½ inch opening. It was replaced with a 12” pvc pipe.
Then they dug holes in the next block (Rorie to Main) causing grief for the many residents and businesses. Then they patched it, then, they tore it all up again, patched it and now they are cutting new sections out…
Cycling Improvements in Exchange
The City’s recent protected bike lanes project has had significant changes on travel down Bannatyne or McDermot. Not only is there now a protected lane dedicated to cyclists, but there are changes for drivers too.
“No right turn on red” signs have been installed at all of the intersections. The reason is to protect cyclists — drivers turning right tend to look left and are not as aware of cyclists (or pedestrians) on their right. This change is effective now.
In addition, special signals have been installed on all intersections with traffic lights. When uncovered, these signals will give cyclists a few second head-start on the cars — much like transit priority signals for the busses at some intersections. Again, these new signals are to make cycling more safe.
Welcome: Generation Green
Welcome to a new store/cafe in the Exchange -- Generation Green & Acorn Cafe right at the corner of Main & Bannatyne (main floor of the passport building).
They offer some conveniences such as some bulk food items, a sourdough breadshare program where you preorder your bread once a week and then pick it up there. Also, since they have an all vegan cafe that is open 7 days a week, they also offer a pre-ordering program for vegan cheeses that are all made in house.
In addition to Acorn Cafe, Generation Green offers natural, safer alternatives to conventional products such as house cleaning, bath & body and cosmetics and have a refill station for some of those household items as well.
Also note that they are having a Monthly Cleanup Cleanup -staff and friends of Generation Green/Acorn Cafe help us pick-up litter throughout the Exchange. Next date is June 27 from 6:30 to 7:30 (more info on Facebook)
Reimagined: James Avenue Pump House
Much of downtown Winnipeg was threatened in 1904 when a fire raged out of control at James Ashdown’s Main Street hardware store. The domestic water supply, fed by artesian wells, proved inadequate to fight a fire of this scale. Untreated Red River water was pumped into the domestic supply in a desperate attempt to increase water pressure. The fire was extinguished but contamination of the city’s water supply resulted in 1,300 cases of typhoid fever in the following days.
Winnipeg already had North America’s highest rate of typhoid since much of the immigrant population north of downtown had no access to the artesian wells and regularly consumed river water. Regardless, the business-oriented civic leaders saw fire protection for their new commercial buildings as the priority. James Ashdown, owner of the fire-ravaged hardware store and foremost member of Winnipeg’ commercial/political elite, led the way in the construction of the James Avenue High Pressure Pumping Station. He became Winnipeg’s mayor in 1906.
The Pumping Station was considered the most sophisticated in the world. Water was drawn directly from the Red River and pushed through an eight-mile network of high-pressure lines to more than seventy downtown fire hydrants. The system was completely isolated from the domestic water supply. Four large pumps were each capable of delivering 1800 gallons per minute and two smaller pumps each produced an additional 900 gallons per minute. As a result, any hydrant in the network could produce a 600-foot stream of water, roughly the height of a fifty-story building. By this time Winnipeg had its earliest steel-frame “skyscrapers”. It was anticipated that the new steelframe technology would send buildings much higher in the future. The Pumping Station assured fire protection for existing as well as prospective buildings.
The British built pumping machinery was set in place in working order before the handsome brick building was constructed over it’ a true example of form following function. An excellent example of early industrial architecture, the building is designed in a straightforward and utilitarian manner. The sole decorative feature is the corbelled brickwork above the large arched windows.
In 1919, the station was connected to the new Shoal Lake Aqueduct. This source was preferable to the muddy water of the Red River. A neighbouring coal gas producer plant and large gas storage tank were demolished in 1962 when the engines were converted to natural gas and electricity. The James Avenue Pumping Station was taken out of service in 1986, a victim of higher operating costs, deteriorating water mains, and modern pumper trucks which offer firefighters greater flexibility.
Two residential buildings connected to the Pump House will be built on east and west end of the parcel. The buildings will be separated from the Pump House by two muses. The development scenario allows for the great pump hall - a well-preserved example of the “golden age” of machinery - to become accessible to the public. At the moment the team is pursuing funding avenues for a dedicated public access and interpretive content.
The architects are going to present the conceptual drawings, models and renderings to illustrate the proposal.
Private Tour for Residents
At our upcoming R:ED event, Colin Neufeld, from 5468796 architecture will take us inside the pump house -- a building that few have seen the inside of. The tour will take residents into the underbelly of the City, a place of beautiful infrastructure, that has been closed for so many years...
James Ave Closure / Pump House Development
Many have noticed the yellow signs on James Ave indicating a "road closure." James Ave is not closing! The City is seeking approval to make it narrower, essentially closing one lane (see plan). That will still leave one lane in each direction and one lane of parking (see attached graphic). Along with this will be sewer upgrades, new sidewalks, boulevards and new light fixtures.
You may have also noticed an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about the most recent (in a long series) plan for the pump house at James Ave and Waterfront Drive. I met with CentreVenture CEO Angela Matheson last week to discuss this latest development, and she shared with me the preliminary plans and artist concept drawings of the proposed development. I was not able to take any with me, but they will be made public after they are presented to a City committee in two weeks.
After having seen many of the past ideas/plans, including the most recent 26 story skyscraper concept, I think most people will like this. According to CentreVenture, this could be the one that actually happens!
The best part of this plan -- the pump house is totally restored and the pumps (photo gallery) would be fully preserved for viewing. There would likely be a mezzanine level built over the pump house floor (which is below grade) with either commercial or residential space that includes viewing down to the pump level.
The development includes a 4 story building constructed in front of the pump house, and a 6 story building on the surface parking lot immediately behind -- both raised on a very high pedestal allowing for easy sight lines to the pump house.
All of this is contingent on many things happening, so who knows?
Making "Mad Men" Inspired Cocktails
Once it was discovered that there was a bartending school in the Exchange, it was a no-brainer that we needed to hold a R:ED event there. The owner, Brandon Whyte, not only has his business in the area, but he is a R:ED member too!
On Tuesday November 4th, about 35 R:ED members and guests packed the Exchange Bartending School on Princess for what was billed as an "educational" evening: Making Mad Men Inspired Cocktails.
We were greeted at the door with a French 75 cocktail - and with that the "education" began! Brandon talked to us about cocktails and bartending -- clearly a man with passion for his career.
He gave us detailed instruction in the fine art of making the cocktail brought back to fame by the Mad Men TV show: the Old Fashioned. Then his lovely staff of bartenders went to work to make an Old Fashioned for each.
Next it was our turn for hands-on bartending: the classic martini. Brandon discussed the history of martini's, and talked about shaken vs stirred, dryness and techniques. Then four groups of two went behind the bar to make their own martini.
Our last cocktail was a Negroni (or Boulevardier, if you substituted bourbon for the gin). Yum!
The evening included a lot of time for sipping on your cocktails and meeting new neighbours. There was a lot of community building at this event!
Continuing with the Mad Men theme, we had a door prize (generously donated by the Exchange Bartending School) for the best Mad Men look. The winner was Lindsay P. (aka "Betty Draper), who not only had the look and the outfit, she even made a package of Lucky cigarettes. It was Lindsay's birthday, so her win was doubly appropriate.
It was a very fun evening. Special thanks to Brandon Whyte and his bartender staff for doing such a great job hosting us.
[check the photo gallery for more images]
Secret Dinner: the true secret...
The basic concept of the secret dinner is that you commit to the evening without knowing where or what you will eat, just that it will not be in a restaurant, and that some adventure will be involved.
At our first Secret Dinner in 2012, residents met in the Fairmont hotel lobby, and were taken by cab to a surprise location on Higgins.
For our second Secret Dinner, on a chilly December 10 2013, about 50 residents were only told to meet at HutK Furniture on Princess. The building was built in 1883 as the first Oddfellows Hall for the Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Expecting to be transported to the dinner location from there, most were reluctant to take off their coats and relax. It wasn't until champagne was served that they realized we were not immediately heading onward. Then came the baby cobs of corn wrapped in prosciutto, and now the coats were coming off!
While the relaxing, mingling and drinking was proceeding, the first group was asked to assemble in the back. Most thought we were going to slip out the back door. Instead, the plan was to take the freight elevator upstairs. On the third floor, is the original ballroom used by the Oddfellows and Rebekahs for their events; for us, a spectacular dinner, created by Chef Alejandro Mora, awaited.
However, the adventure was just beginning for the first group. Ten of us, armed with coats and drinks, squeezed into the old freight elevator. When the gate closed, we moved a few feet then stopped dead. Yes, we were trapped in the elevator! [click for FULL STORY]
Secret Dinner: "Stunning!"
"Stunning" was the first word out of City Councillor Mike Pagtakhan's mouth as he and his wife Minas stood on the catwalk entrance and gazed at the dining venue. At the bottom of the stairs, a server waited with a tray full of champagne and in the corner of the room, behind huge art installations, an 8 piece orchestra played Christmas music.
That was the scene that greeted the 36 wary R:ED adventurers that signed up for the R:ED Secret Dinner. Starting off at the Fairmont lobby, the group headed out in a procession of taxis, with no idea where their dinner was to be held.
After a brief tour of the Exchange, designed to mislead some, and debunk the destination theories of others, the cabs stopped at a decrepit looking building on Higgins.
Confused residents were greeted at the door of The Graffiti Gallery by Pat Lazo and guided into the administrative offices. The looks on the faces said it all: "what the heck are we doing here??"
Shaw TV coverage of R:ED Secret Dinner
But passing through the doorway to the two story high gallery, and looking down at the stunning sight, the concern turned to literal jaw dropping, and a steady chorus of "wow!"
A cocktail reception complete with tasty hors d'oeuvres gave participants a chance to check out the amazing art which was an exhibition called "The Undesirables," by emerging Winnipeg artists. I say "was," because unfortunately the exhibition has ended.
The creative genius behind the evening was Alejandro More, General Manager for the Carnaval Brazilian BBQ restaurant opening in January 2013 on Waterfront Drive.
The group sat down to a beautiful five course dinner, served family style. Conversation was lively, food was plenty and the venue was stunning. And it was all helped along by wine pairings with each course, from De Luca Fine Wines.
We were not only having a good time, we were doing good. A portion of the event price is to be donated to buying hampers and toys for the 7th annual Christmas Eve Feast.
It is a testament to our community in the Exchange District, that an event like this can sell out -- that people are willing to pay a significant price to have a dining adventure: they did not know where we were going to eat, what we were going to eat, and how were were getting there. Congrats to those that took the leap of faith -- they were rewarded with a dining experience that they will boast about for a long time.
Check out the event pictures here (R:ED) or here (immagine.ca).
If the price tag of the Secret Dinner was too much of a leap for your budget, fear not -- our January event is free!! Click on "R:ED Events" button
in the left margin of your browser and check out the preliminary plans for the first half of 2013.
Looking for an older article? Check the R:ED archives