Monday, February 23, 2009

The state of the Union Bank

There has been a great deal of wishing and hoping that a new press release will come down from the Red River College administration office, announcing they are once again going to save downtown, and are ready to get to work retro-fitting the Union Bank tower at Main and William. Meanwhile, the current owners of the 105-year-old structure seem to be letting it decline to the point where it is likely in violation of the City's Vacant and Derelict Buildings bylaw.

Through the winter, the ground floor windows became covered by a wall of ice inches thick. Warmer temperatures a few weeks ago melted the ice, revealing black mud on the interior walls, and a large puddle of water on the floor of the once great banking hall. The roof-top entrance is apparently ajar, and the exterior is becoming littered in graffiti tags.

Union Bank tower, c.1980. Photo from the U of M's Winnipeg Building index

The building is presently co-owned by Guy Hobman at Greentree Homes (remember them?) and Joe Bova from practically-a-crown-corporation ManShield Construction. (As chair of the North Main task force, Bova led the second-most recent demolition spree on Main Street: the wrecking of the block between Higgins and Henry in 1999. Does his disdain for buildings extend down the street to banker's row?)

A prominent building on Main Street, that is famously Western Canada's first skyscraper (though I made a case for the long-forgotten Merchant's Bank (1900) at Main and Lombard being the first), that overlooks Market Square and City Hall should not be in the position of becoming the next Epic Theatre or Ogilvie Flour Mills. With every season of neglect, of letting water, pigeons and vandals in, and the costs of Red River Colleges plans for the building go up. (But I suppose the greater the costs, the greater the construction contract that ManShield can bid on.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That picture of downtown (in your linked to article) from 1928 looks great, if only downtown were still like that. Imagine electric trolleys, no parking lots, and I don't think I've ever seen that many people walking down that stretch of main. Let's hope it's not too late for the UBT.

btw, your pic in the FP makes you look angry!

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, don't worry, Rob. If we wait another month, then CentreVenture can make one more announcement! Don't spoil it for them...

Can you please update us on CentreVenture's exciting progress on its sale(s) of the Avenue Building in your next post?

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the master plan, Mr. Rise and Sprawl? to save all these building you and others so love? And who will pay for these plans? Just wondering.

6:31 PM  
Blogger said...

In the end , the building will come down and there will be another parking lot.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous @ 6:31 PM"

The same people who pay for the roads and sewer to your snout house in River Park South.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Riverman said...

I'd hate to see that building come down, it would ruin the view out the window at the King's Head!

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tear it down already.

8:40 PM  

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