Winnipeggers have big plans for old Public Safety Building

Cody Zaporzan, CONTRIBUTOR

The old Public Safety Building at 151 Princess Street has a plywood-covered walkway to protect people from falling limestone. THE PROJETOR/ Cody Zaporzan

For the past decade, a plywood-covered walkway has surrounded the old Public Safety Building to prevent its limestone siding from falling on people walking by. In 2016, city council voted for the 50-year-old structure and Civic Centre Parkade to be demolished and the land to be redeveloped.

On Jan. 17, the city and CentreVenture, a development agency, announced a public engagement project for people who work and live in the neighborhood. The city wants to find the most effective way to use the space.

Red River College student Tamires Hernandez, 25, said she’s glad the city will engage with people downtown. She has an idea for the space.

Hernandez said RRC’s Exchange District Campus could build a study hall on Market Lands, because she thinks the existing campus doesn’t have enough areas for studying.

“In January it gets crowded because lots of students are coming back and starting new courses,” she said.

Conor Lloyd, a communications officer at RRC, wrote in an email that the college meets with CentreVenture on a continual basis.

“With respect to the Public Safety Building consultations, there are currently no concrete plans or timelines in place and we’re not in a position to share anything at the moment,” Lloyd wrote.

According to Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), the success of the project depends on people’s willingness to engage.

In early January, Pagtakhan met with fourth-year environmental design students from the University of Manitoba. For a university project, the students created concepts of Market Lands’ redevelopments.

Many concepts included greenspace, Pagtakhan said. One student’s concept had a garden with Chinese plants, like the neighboring Dynasty Building.

Pagtakhan wants the redevelopment to improve the Exchange District.

“It’s a place where people could enjoy, come together and be a hub of activity,” said Pagtakhan. “I’d like to see a mixed-use office, retail, and living space”.

Heri Karl, 27, works in the Exchange District and said the old Public Safety Building could be demolished and replaced with something to benefit local businesses.

“This is a community with a lot of businesses,” said Karl. “I would have this as a Travel Manitoba centre.”

Retired RRC instructor Kevin Longfield said he doesn’t have strong feelings for the old Public Safety Building.

“In some ways it’s architecturally interesting,” said Longfield. “I can’t honestly say I’ve ever walked by it and said, ‘What a beautiful building.’”

Longfield said it doesn’t matter to him whether the old Public Safety Building is kept or demolished, as long as the property isn’t vacant. Longfield said the property could be used for greenspace or downtown housing.

Angela Mathieson, the president and CEO of CentreVenture, said they will interview community members, hold focus groups, and have a public open house and other events throughout 2017.

The old Public Safety Building has been vacant since June 2016, when the Winnipeg Police Service moved into its new headquarters at 266 Graham Ave.