CentreVenture looks to create open site across from RRC downtown campus

By Matthew Kondracki

The vacant Public Safety Building is surrounded by a wooden walkway sheltering pedestrians from falling debris. Plans to redevelop the site are ongoing. /MATTHEW KONDRACKI

Market Lands is one step closer to announcing the final five development proposals for the land that once was the Public Safety Building.

Between Red River College’s Roblin Centre and PGI Campus, the Market Lands site has sat empty for over two years.

After an assessment deemed the Public Safety Building too costly to restore and repair, the City of Winnipeg tasked CentreVenture Development Corporation with revitalizing the site, beginning with the unusual southern portion of the land.

What makes the southern portion of the site so unusual is a land deed dating back to the inception of the City of Winnipeg in the 19th century.

A land deed dating back over 200 years requires the city use the southern part of the land for public purposes only, a task that CentreVenture has to deal with. /MATTHEW KONDRACKI

The deed requires the city use the land for public purposes only and reverts it to the heirs of the original owners should it not do so.

After CentreVenture’s call for designers resulted in 23 submissions, the final five development proposals for the southern parcel were announced and are open for public feedback on their website.

Angela Mathieson, President & CEO of CentreVenture, envisions a more inviting space for students and other pedestrians moving through the Exchange District.

While the proposals are only in the conceptual phase, Mathieson said the focus right now is on how they relate to the neighbourhood, feasibility and functionality.

“No matter what design we choose, a major consideration is how the site opens itself up to the Exchange, Old Market Square and Red River College,” said Mathieson.

CentreVenture’s vision for the site includes a 100-unit affordable housing complex with a “cultural hub” occupying the main floor, an all-seasons public market and a public plaza.

Public feedback, especially from students, will be key for the project moving forward. Artspace Inc. is part of the working group for the project and is assisting with finding ways to fill the hub space.

Business Analyst student Brian Itscovich, 39, believes community-focused developments like this are desperately needed to improve life downtown.

“Affordable housing downtown is a serious challenge which affected me in my early 20s,” said Itscovich. “The more we can upgrade the existing spaces, the better.”

With construction set to begin in late 2020, Mathieson said feedback from students and other Winnipeggers will be key when refining the details after the concept is chosen on Dec. 14.

“If students have ideas for being a part of this, they need to get in touch with us. Our door is absolutely open,” said Mathieson. “If students have concepts or want to be involved in the market, just email us.”

Design proposals are online and feedback can be provided on centreventure.com.