Saturday, January 03, 2009

A silk gym on a parkade's head

What's the best way to demolish a building in pristine condition--one of the oldest warehouses in the Exchange District--and replace it with a parkade? Talk about "ground-floor retail"? So 2008. The thing to do now: put a gymnasium on top of it.

That way, it need not be considered yet another parkade to dominate downtown's vast, gap-toothed and tragic landscape, but "a major recreation complex." When asked about a parkade being built, you can deny it out-right, just like Centre Venture is currently.

Prosperity Knitwear Co. building (1913), and the threatened Smart Bag Co. building (1884), seen from Alexander Ave.

Bartley Kives is right in his Free Press story that suggests "an inner-city rec centre would be an easier sell" than a parkade would be. Talk about redeveloping property, and you'll have the happy slaves to government-led "growth" amidst perma-stagnation (who pass for Council's "conservative" wing) on side. Talk about "accessibility" to the facility for low income people, and you've got the NDP Councillors and nearby Point Douglas poverty activists wrapped up.

Having the apparent approval of a toothless and silent Heritage Winnipeg doesn't hurt either.

What is actually planned to replace the 125-year-old Smart Bag Co. warehouse at 145 Pacific Ave., is a three-level parking garage with a gymnasium above it for "some kind of high-performance training centre" for Sport Manitoba, which will occupy the ironically-named Prosperity Knitwear building next door. A re-created brick facade will be "glued on to the side" on the north (Alexander Ave.) side of the parkade, which I'm sure will bear the same enduring beauty and craftmanship of the wrecked original.

Call it what you like, but this is still the destruction of an irreplaceable asset to Winnipeg's economic viability, for another parkade that does not need to be there.


Anonymous kid zubaz said...

What a complete pile of horseshit.

It is clear that Centreventure and Heritage Winnipeg, two organizations that should be standing up for what's right here, have no idea. Not a goddamn clue.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to mention the fact that we now have yet another example of a government or quasi-government agency being shifted around downtown - no doubt, at public expense on both the Sport MB and the CV side of the ledger - instead of some actual investment in actual growth of downtown commercial or residential use by newcomers to the area.

CentreVenture is a disaster.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Even in that picture there is a large parking lot right next to the buildings. Build the parkade on it and turn the beutiful old warehouse into the high tech training centre. There! Niw heritage lost.

1:54 PM  
Blogger BeerBellyBuddah said...

We need a revolution. The misguided Czar's at Centre-Venture need to be overthrown and done away with. They are but proxy's for the mayor's agenda.

They should have been supplanted years ago.

Heritage Winnipeg must become more transparent and open - how about a website that actually includes Agenda's of their upcoming meetings?

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well at least we get to keep 151 Princess. How did they describe it, "an excellent example of modernism "
Perhaps that explains the "taste" or lack thereof, when you consider its a complete and horrible piece of trash.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this story with interest and deep concern. What can be done to try to stop this plan? I have e-mailed my city councilor and members of the Property and Development Committee to register my opposition to this plan. Any other ideas? It's great to talk and rant about this stuff but would be better if we could take some action... any ideas???

12:25 PM  
Blogger Jamie Isfeld said...

They should rather consider doing like the Red River College Princess Street campus did and incorporate the old architecture into the new building.

There's little value to a parkade there. Why? Because everyone is too scared to venture downtown for long periods anyway.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Jamie, its his building, he can do what he likes. he doesn't need any of our opinions all he needs is a client.

This has nothing to do with fear but more with convenience. Its just part of doing business.

If there's a beef its not with the investor who's had the property for 25 years plus. he's paid his taxes, he's put his money on the line, he's found a client.

People don't like what he is doing, buy him out. Some of these buildings are nightmares to upgrade. The cost is way out of line. If we want to slavage these types of buildings , then the province should kick in and purchase them outright. To do what with, I don't know, unless you have a spare 350K to buy a condo or have your tax dollars subsidize a developer who'll turn a profit on your dime..

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incorporating the facade of buildings is costly. Deep pockets are required and this building won't be fronting anything big enough to warrant the cost unless a government funded entity moves in there and spends the coin.

You should have seen the structural steel required for the Princess facades, and they aren't even level.

Take a look at the building across the street from Mandarin. Forget the name of it. Beautiful building. Its been in that condition since I moved to this City 21 years ago. You ever wonder why ?

I was going to purchase it until I walked inside. It has no floors. It was a theatre or something . The cost to renovate that beast will be astronomical. The latest owner has cleaned it up inside but there hasn't been much activity. I'm thinking he's holding out for a City department and then , you and I can finance his investment.

Another building I looked at on Princess required an elevator upgrade to the tune of 60 K , thats just the elevator and that was 15 years ago.

These buildings are expensive to upgrade to todays building regulations. ( and if they have asbestos, yikes )

12:07 PM  
Blogger relic said...


Elevators are expensive whether it's a new building or old. Unfortunately for a city or urban landscape to remain livable in some sense there has to be restrictions on what can be developed where despite how much money can be made. you can bet that if I bought four adjacent lots in ABC suburb and wanted to put up a parking garage, you know what would hit the fan. why should it be any different in established urban areas of the city?

no arguments that a tear down, build like brand new approach is costly but is it unreasonable to look for innovative less ambitious approaches? like what is happening with the red road lodge? far as I know, no subsidies have gone into that place, but on the other hand I don't think anyone is making much money off it.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True relic, on the elevators.

There was nothing wrong with the elevator per se. That was the cost I would have had to incur in order not to have it shut down. That was the "upgrade " cost.

If you bought 4 lots and wanted to do what you liked with them and you followed all the rules, and were within the guidelines, I'd have to think you should be allowed to proceed, OR you get bought out if the rules were changed.

I don't know what Red load lodge is but if the owner bought it in good faith, I wouldn't expect the City to suddenly stop him from doing what he wanted with the property.

Unfortuantely, making money is the name of the game. Someone has to pay.

For me this is pretty simple. The building in question has no restrictions ( for whatever reason ). The owner wants to develop the site which is within City guidelines. Some people feel passionate about the building but they don't own it.

IMO, Its your choice, but seems to me the owner of the building has a leg up. I've already stated what should happen in order to save the building and respect the investor.

That or the City decides to screw the guy.

4:22 PM  
Blogger relic said...


I guess that's the thing, does plan winnipeg call for a parking lot here? would a parking lot require re-zoning? does this guy want public funds?

some people feel passionate about their city, neighborhood, street, tax dollars which they do have some degree of ownership of, who's getting screwed here?

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the owner has a problem developing the land as is described.He almost has the ability to level it. He has one meeting and its done.

The investor has paid his fair share of taxes and , unlike most people, he actually bought a building in the core area and tried to make a go of it.

Seems to me , he's getting screwed because people we pay can't do their jobs.

You can feel as passionate as you want, but your passion doesn't extend to taking the risk this investor took. You have zero ownership of this building except for the tax dollars you collect from the owner each and every year ( in his case x25 ).

Again, I like old buildings. I'd like to preserve them. But I'm against navel gazers collecting a salary and underachieving.

My hope is that his right of ownership is maintained and he is allowed to develop it as he sees fit within City guidelines.

At the government level I hope a whole bunch of pink slips are produced.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

Mr. Nobody, did you ever think that a parkade in place of an 1884 Richardsonian Romanesque architectural landmark ought to be entirely at odds with city guidelines?

Hey, it's MY house, *I* can do what I want with it. Basement dogfights Saturday nights!

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter what I think TRU. You are barking up the wrong Tree. Go ask the administration the same question.

As far as dog fights, I assume thats an illegal activity. I mean, somewhere the ink is on paper defining that.

I don't make up the rules. I just know he owns it, he can demoliton it if he gets his permit, and he can get screwed because people haven't done their job.

Did I ever Think, jeez, who you trying to impress. Stick with the facts.

If they can clear a whole block of buildings for the Modernist WHRA piece of junk, you are going to expound on city guidelines, gotchya.

And if I want to do something in MY house, as long as its legal, within guidelines, I guess I can do what I want in MY house.

12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "it's my building" proponents here - who I have some sympathy with - are missing an important point. Yes, the guy has the right to knock down his building to meet the needs of his client.

But we all know - come on, we KNOW - that the client isn't some guy off the street doing this to increase economic activity and invest in Winnipeg.

The intended tenant is Sport Manitoba, a creature of government, and I'd bet $100 that CentreVenture lured them north with some promise of incentives, once again financed by government, hoping to add another easy public deal to their thin list of announceable triumphs with other public agencies. Look again at the list: WHRA, Red River, and now Sport Manitoba?

If these 'clients' or 'buyers' or whoever (I assume Sport MB is working through a developer) didn't have public subsidies to make the deal work, would the owner of the building ever have bothered to empty out his tenants for this deal in the first place?

The real issue isn't poor owner's choices in the downtown; it's the buyer's choices.

And the buyer of choice is... US.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, this is the issue.

But Tang, whose company has owned the building since the mid-1980s, says that's news to him.

"That's 24 years that we had that building, and no one told us we are on a heritage list," Tang said. "If they want to make a decision, why not in the last 24 years? Why in the last minute?"

If heritage protection is granted to the building, Tang's plans to sell it would be scuttled, he said yesterday, noting it's the potential buyer who plans to tear down the structure, not Prosperity Knitwear itself.

Seeing that Manioba Sports, a quasi government body , ( where did they get 25 million ), stated they would continue with the project, I am happy Mr. Tang will get compensated for his investment.

Further, everyone should be happy , the building will be saved, at least the important 5 story structure, and your tax dollars are going to pay for it.

As it should be. Now give it a rest and go start harassing the government bodies that have dropped the ball.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Nobody, why do you even read this blog? You obviously don't have any appreciation for or understanding of cities and urban culture. I'm also willing to bet that, to anyone of an urbane persuasion, your real-life appearance is that of a badly dressed slob with no style. Your "it's his building, he can't do what he wants, why don't you pony up some cash and buy him out if you don't like it" argument betrays your thorough ignorance of aesthetic considerations in city planning. If the Exchange loses any more 100+ buildings the entire District (and hence the entire city, since that's all we have that's worth anything on an urban scale) becomes devalued.

I hereby suggest you fuck off and refrain from further demonstrations of your low intelligence by posting here and seek out more like-minded folk at the NASCAR forums.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty little fart aren't you. If you represent the definition of urban, no wonder the peg sucks as it does.

But yes, put some money behind your urbanist culture and do something rather then expect others do it for you.

City planning oh ya, and you'll be just the one to tell me all about it.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it not clear that the "War on Urban Blight" or whatever social democratic fantasy propelled the gawdawful CentreVentures and the rest of them, have BECOME the problem as the problem itself becomes worse?
War on Drugs = social nightmare and more drug use; War on Poverty = more poverty. And on, ad nauseum.
Whatever ludicrous battles government and pseudo public entities undertake to win always wind up with more casualties and unintended consequences. Winnipeg has become like one big clapped out urban planning bureaucracy.
Fire them all.

11:59 PM  

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