Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Winnipeg's Exchange district good news

The Exchange district is home to a conglomeration of some of the nicest old buildings in North America. The fact that it exists is one of the few things in Winnipeg that give me any sense of pride in this city. When I heard that the owner of one of my favourite buildings had plans to demolish it for a parking lot, I was incensed. Granted theres nothing I can really do about it, but still, what a dick.

Bedford Investments has owned the building for almost two decades. They wanted to demolish the building, which is not only a heritage structure itself, but is located in a national historic site. They've wanted to do this for two decades. They've wanted a parking lot there for two decades and were willing to let this building rot for that period of time and unwilling to sell because they knew if they waited long enough, it would fall apart or they would get government funding. Well, they got their wish, in a sense.

All article quotes are in italics:

Back in June, city building inspectors broke down the front door, found the block infested with pigeons and on the verge of collapse. Insane! Disgusting. How can we as a city allow this to happen? I mean its a national historic site, and its a heritage building! Why aren't we creating laws to punish bad building owners who sit on property and own surface lots? Why aren't we encouraging development with creative taxation methods? People who own surface lots in the downtown should pay higher taxes than they do for it, and people with buildings should get some sort of tax repreive for keeping their property well maintained and having tennants and basically helping the city look alive and vibrant.

But city council voted to at least save the King Building's facades, which form part of the visual landscape of Old Market Square. Mayor Sam Katz and several councillors even mused about expropriating the block if a deal could not be reached with Bedford Investments.
I wish they had expropriated it, thats probably what got Bedford Investments to come to the table. At least this means the building facade will stay, and the parking lot next door to it will see some development and probably with a facade that maintains the visual appearance of the area even further, more than the piddly little parking lot Bedford has been milking for years which used to be home to a building just like 104 King Street.

"I believe 104 King Street is like the canary in the mine. If we lose this building, we may as well put up demolition signs all over the Exchange District, because it sends the message that government does not believe in preserving heritage buildings," said Coun. Russ Wyatt, who chairs council's downtown development committee.

Russ Wyatt is right. That's exactly what it is. Nothing lasts forever, but as a society we should do what we can.

Either way, all parties appear confident the King Building can avoid the wrecking ball. "We feel under the circumstances this is in fact a win-win situation, where the multi-storey structure, along with the retail component, will be developed," said Bedford director Ken Reiss. "That was always our No. 1 objective."

Righto. Your number 1 objective. Unfortunately your number 1 objective could have been accomplished 20 years ago, and probably cheaper, if that really was your number 1 objective. No, your number one objective was to get money from the city for owning something you have no moral right to own.

Reiss claimed "several parties" are already interested in the main-floor commercial space, which would be kitty-corner to Old Market Square.

Of course they are! It's a great site! Visable from all sides!

So, I'm glad the building is being saved for the most part, disapointed in society, bedford investments, and the city for letting things get to this level, and optimistic that the Exchange district isn't going to be run into the ground any more, especially now that its getting a lot of momentum and investment lately.

Link to the Winnipeg Free Press article I quote from

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