Disability services group backs out of deal to buy old St. Boniface City Hall, citing rising costs IG News

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A Manitoba disability services organization is backing out of plans to take over the historic St. Boniface City Hall space in Winnipeg, citing rising costs associated with the pandemic as reasons.

Manitoba Possible’s board of directors announced Thursday that it will exit negotiations with the City of Winnipeg to buy the Provenance Boulevard location, which the non-profit wanted to turn into a Potentials Village that will include its new head office, residences and a meeting place Will happen. Which goes beyond the current standards for building accessibility requirements.

However, “construction costs have increased, and of course interest rates are now much higher than pre-pandemic,” said Dana Erickson, CEO of Manitoba Possible. “Not just construction costs, but all aspects of society have been hit by inflation.”

The Provencher Building was opened in 1906 and served as city hall until St. Boniface amalgamated with Winnipeg and 11 nearby municipalities in 1972.

Since then, the City of Winnipeg has covered the cost of maintenance for City Hall and the 1907 Fire Hall that sits directly behind it on Dumoulin Street.

In late 2019 the city put both buildings up for sale for $2.4 million. With tenants paying rent of $1 per year.

Manitoba Possible, formerly known as the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, entered into purchase talks with the city in early 2021 and the city approved a deal to sell the properties for $10,000.

Erickson said that initial cost estimates for the redevelopment were in the range of $40 million.

A fire hall with tower structures is seen with a City Hall building in the background.
The St. Boniface Fire Hall, built in 1907, is located directly behind the old St. Boniface City Hall on Dumoulin Street. Two properties valued at $2.4 million were approved for sale with Mantioba Possible for $10,000. (Radio-Canada)

A spokesperson said the City of Winnipeg is disappointed that the approved procurement bid is not moving forward as planned.

“We recognize the importance of these properties to the community,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement said there were “very encouraging discussions” with “Manitoba Possible for Growth”, which created a strong model of access and integration with the St. Boniface neighbourhood.

The spokeswoman said the issue would go back to city council in the coming months to discuss next steps.

The 2021 deal faced pushback from some members of the local francophone community and the Société de la Francophonie Manitoba, who wanted the building to remain in public hands.

The Franco-Manitoban society previously cited concerns over losing access to a national historic site and previous center of government in the community.

Manitoba Possible released a joint statement Thursday with the Société de la Francophonie Manitoba, adding that they are continuing talks with other potential partners to develop the space in a way that best serves the interests of both groups. be aligned with

A three-story city building is shown with a tower structure protruding from above.
The city said it is disappointed by Manitoba Possible’s decision not to proceed with the redevelopment of St. Boniface City Hall. (Corey Funk/CBC)

Angela Cassie, chair of the board of the Franco-Manitoban organization, said the group has a positive relationship with Manitoba Possible and respects its decision.

“For us now, it is up to us to ensure that the city moves forward with a project that understands and respects the needs of the francophone community and the importance of this site to St. Boniface,” Cassie said.

The organization and Manitoba Possible agree that no matter what happens, the redevelopment of the site should prioritize accessibility, diversity, affordability and incorporate environmentally and socially conscious construction principles.

They also say that the space should retain its art gallery, sculpture garden and other heritage elements.