Upcoming issues at City Hall: Milner House

William E. Milner House, 51 Balmoral St.


This historic home is in danger of demolition. The 2 1/2 storey Dutch Colonial revival house was built by George W. Ford in 1909 for W.E. Milner and his family. William Edwin Milner was a well-known figure in the city's grain sector. After his death in 1942 his wife owned the house until 1952. Then she sold to her son, who lived there until his death in 1990 at the age of 97. The house was then sold to Great-West Life who have demolished all other houses on the block to extend employee parking. It is a Grade III Heritage Building in Councillor Gerbasi's ward. Unfortunately, several attempts to move the home have failed. The cost to move it could be up to $300,000, which is an increase of 25% since 2004. Great-West Life has sent a letter of intent to the City to delist the house. It may go to the Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management Committee in the coming months.


Historical Buildings Report

Monte Cassino Court, 639 Portage Ave.


Built 1907-10, 639 Portage Ave. was home to a succession of merchants until the last tenant, National Typewriter. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on the main floor and lovely stone and stained glass accents. It has stood vacant since 1997. In July a proposal to demolish it for a residential unit cleared one hurdle when the city centre planning committee approved it. It is currently listed on the city's Inventory of Historical Buildings.

All applications to remove buildings from the Inventory of Buildings which the Historical Buildings Committee recommends as having special architectural and historical significance must be heard by the relevant Community Committee for a recommendation, the appropriate Standing Policy Committee depending on the location of the property, the Executive Policy Committee and Council.


Historical Buildings Overview
City Centre Community Committee report - July 5

Building History

(paraphrased from the City Centre Community Committee report of July 5)

The former Monte Cassino Court building was built between 1907 and 1910 with retail space on the ground floor and eight residential suites (four per floor) on the second and third floors. Much of the exterior has remained unchanged; the interior includes updated areas (ground floor and part of the second floor) and unaltered space (part of the second and all of the third floors). Because of an extended period of vacancy, some of the exterior and interior elements have deteriorated.

This mixed-use structure was originally built in 1907 as a one-storey commercial block with three shops, but due to the ever expanding Winnipeg economy, its owner saw an opportunity to expand its commercial potential and in 1910 renovated the ground floor retail space and added two floors of residential suites, naming the new structure Monte Cassino Court.

This building is an excellent example of the Two-Part Commercial style with classical detailing, named to reflect the structure's use for both commerce and multi-tenant residency and the fact that the exterior design is divided vertically into two distinct sections according to this differential use. The ground floor, although heavily altered, features several entrances and large display windows for the retail space, separated by a large sign (replacing the original cornice) that leads to the upper floors with their brick and stone accenting, regularly placed windows with ornate stained glass transoms and a heavy overhanging metal cornice finished with a stone capped brick parapet.

The interior is mix of old and new. The original tin-ceiling staircase at the east end illuminated by a large skylight is intact. The suites included ornate millwork, transom windows and ornamental tin throughout. Most of the layouts and finishes are still present, although the building's long vacancy has led to the deterioration of some of the materials.

National Typewriter and Office Equipment bought the building in 1966. The business was sold in 1996 and the building has remained vacant since 1997.

There are both exterior and interior elements that would require approval if alterations were planned, including the original millwork and wood flooring, transom windows, central staircase (including skylight), and ornamental tin ceilings throughout.

Proposed Redevelopment

Raymond Wan of Raymond S.C. Wan Architecture, on behalf of the owner, Pamjon Investments Ltd., applied to reszone the land on which Monte Cassino Court stands from a Commercial District to a Residential Mixed Use District.

The applicant seeks approval to consolidate two existing lots into one and rezone from "C2" Commercial District to "RMU" Residential Mixed Use District to allow for the redevelopment of the site by constructing a new, nine storey, 32 unit residential multi-family development with main floor commercial. It will be a mixed use building with commercial uses on the first floor and residential uses on the upper floors. The proposed tower provides significant transparency and articulation, in order to break down the overall massing and to provide visual interest from the street.

The development will have 20 ground level exterior parking spaces at the rear of the building.

The proposed development meets several key goals of Plan Winnipeg and the projected trend away from single-family and towards apartment/condo multiple-family units.

The Planning and Land Use Division recommends approval for the following reasons:
- The proposed use is compatible with the area
- The proposal is consistent with Plan Winnipeg 2020 and Complete Communities Direction Strategy
- The height, massing, and design are contextually suitable with the area
- The existing building has been vacant since 1997 and would require significant costs to upgrade to meet current Code requirements

Summary of the City Centre Community Committee report - July 5, 2011

"At the request of the owner who is intending to demolish the property, the Historical Buildings Committee evaluated the structure on June 16, 2011 and determined it to be eligible as a Grade III structure. The Committee is recommending that because of the property's special historical and architectural significance that it be considered to be placed on the Building's Conservation List under the terms of the Historical buildings bylaw No. 1474/77 (as amended)."

"While the subject property has been deemed as having historical value by the Historical Buildings Committee, Decision-making Committees consider issues in a much broader context, including factos such as economical viability, neighbourhood well-being, etc. The building has been vacant since 1997 and would require significant costs to upgrade to meet current Code requirements."

However, the Winnipeg Public Service recommended:
- that Monte Cassino Court not be placed on the Buildings Conservation List under the terms of the Historical buildings By-law No. 1474/77 (as amended) as its long-term economic viability is "very uncertain";
- that when the owner has prepared a firm development proposal and has made a formal application for a building permit, a demolition permit may be issued;
- that the land be rezoned to a Residential Mixed Use District;
- that if the by-law is not enacted within 24 months after adoption of the report by Council, the matter shall not be proceeded with unless an extension has been applied for and approved by Council.

1964 Winnipeg Aiport Terminal to be demolished: unanswered questions

The Winnipeg Airports Authority and Transport Canada intend to demolish the old terminal, opened in 1964, after the new terminal comes into operation at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

Heritage Winnipeg and the Manitoba Historical Society are asking: Why do they want to demolish one of Canada's finest examples of 20th-century architecture?

Our organizations are working together to ensure that the heritage value of the Terminal to Winnipeg and Canada is given full and proper consideration, and that, as a federal building originally commissioned as part of an iconic group of architecturally significant buildings, any process for change is transparent and involves the public.

The WAA, Transport Canada and the Federal Government have left the public in the dark so far. Why did the Federal Government halt a heritage assessment of the building in 2008? Why did the WAA reject a redevelopment proposal involving Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd., Huntingdon Real Estate, and the Western Aviation Museum? Why has there been no further redevelopment effort? The WAA claims that the building is in poor shape. Can they document this? Why would they and Transport Canada neglect the terminal for so many years?

Why so many unanswered questions and unexplained actions? This is an important building to Winnipeg and to Canada's aviation history. Why keep the public in the dark?

Heritage Winnipeg has sent a communiqué to the media in order to bring this issue to the attention of the community.

Winnipeg Airport Communiqué

For more background information:

Winnipeg Airport Background

Barber House Revived!

Winnipeg Free Press: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/historic-house-that-wont-die-reopens-126652243.html
Metro Winnipeg: http://www.metronews.ca/winnipeg/local/article/934630--barber-house-rises
Winnipeg Real Estate News: http://winnipegrealestatenews.com/Editorials.aspx?id=1371

After decades vacant and several fires, Barber House is back again.

The Sistars, a Point Douglas community group, have succeeded in restoring the house to turn it into a combination Seniors' Centre and Daycare. The grand re-opening was Wednesday, August 3. Speakers from Sistars spoke about the challenges they had to overcome to complete this project, as well as the history of the house. Dignitaries from various levels of government also spoke, along with the architect, Wins Bridgman.

Barber House restored.

The new Daycare, attached to the rear of the house.

Guests lined up for the re-opening ceremonies.

The new roof above the remains of the old house.

The original logs from the Red River frame construction were retained, sporting burn-marks from the many fires.

MP Vic Toews, Councillors Eadie and Nordman.

The family Bible, gifted to the Sistars.

                                        Councillor Ross Eadie.

Councillor Grant Nordman.

MLA Christine Melnick.

Architect Wins Bridgman.

The ribbon-cutting!

Bursary Opportunity - Youth Serves Manitoba

Youth Serves Manitoba encourages post secondary students to engage in meaningful, part-time community service with incorporated non-profit or registered charitable organizations. Upon successful completion of at least 100 hours of service, approved students will receive a $500 bursary towards tuition or student loans.

YSM operates from September 6, 2011 - April 27, 2012 for university students and from September 6, 2011 - June 15, 2012 for college students.

Student applicants must be:
 - currently attending a post secondary institution full-time (taking 60% or more of a normal year's studies in the current and subsequent school year)
 - returning to school full-time in the next academic year
 - 16 years of age or over and legally entitled to work in Canada

If interested, please contact Heritage Winnipeg.
(204) 942.2663

If Walls Could Talk

A documentary on Heritage Winnipeg by Brooke Clayton. Presented by MTS On Demand.


Coming soon to MTS Winnipeg On Demand.

First-Ever Doors Open Winnipeg Awards!

Heritage Winnipeg hosted our first annual Doors Open Awards today at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe in the historic Exchange District. Representatives of Doors Open sponsors announced the five award-winning buildings. Councillor Paula Havixbeck spoke on behalf of the City of Winnipeg, and local artist Jordan van Sewell unveiled the spectacular ceramic awards which he had created.

Best Restoration
Wesley Hall (University of Winnipeg)
515 Portage Avenue

Best Tour
Customs Examining Warehouse
145 McDermot Avenue

Best Overall Experience
Historical Museum of St. James
3180 Portage Avenue

The Hidden Gem
St. James the Assiniboine Anglican Church & Cemetery
525 Tylehurst

Best Architecture
Manitoba Legislative Building
450 Broadway

Thanks to all our sponsors, participants, and volunteers!

Doors Open Launch

Doors Open Winnipeg has begun!

It was officially launched at 10:30am, Wednesday May 18th, at St. Luke’s Anglican Church. Present to kick off the event were Jenny Gerbasi from the City of Winnipeg and Rev. Paul Lampman, rector of St. Luke’s, along with Cindy Tugwell of Heritage Winnipeg, Jordan van Sewell, the artist who sculpted the new Doors Open Awards, and Pam Elias who created the posters.

Jenny Gerbasi praised Winnipeggers’ commitment to preserving the city’s heritage, and she welcomed Doors Open as a contribution to that effort. “Doors Open is truly a celebration of the wonderful heritage treasures we have in our city … [it] is one of many important community based activities that serve to keep our heritage alive and well!”

Members of St. Luke’s were excited for their first year in Doors Open. Eager to show off their beautiful church, they rang the bells, played the organ and toured those in attendance through the church and up into the belltower.

Come explore the beautiful architecture and fascinating history of our city on the weekend of May 28th and 29th!
Media Launch

Boyd Building

The three storey electric sign on the side of Downtown's Boyd building has been deemed illegal by city property officials as it contravenes zoning, heritage and third - party advertising rules. A stop work order was given a year ago when the sign was first being installed.

Building owner argues about sign being taken down.
Building owner loses bid to keep sign.
Boyd Building owner appeals sign ruling.

Shanghai Restaurant

The Shanghai Restaurant Building (originally the Robert Block and later the Coronation Block) was built in 1883 as a mixed-use development with commercial space at grade and offices and residential suites above. The stone and Brick structure occupies the full city block on King Street between Alexander Avenue and Pacific Avenue. From 1883-86 the mayor and city hall occupied the main floor while the “gingerbread” city hall building was being constructed. The Shanghai Restaurant took residence in the main level in the 1940’s.

The Historical Buildings Committee recommended that the building be placed on the Heritage Conservation List as a Grade III heritage structure based solely on its age, architectural and historical significance.

City council’s Executive Committee disregarded HBC’s recommendation due to the 128-year-old building’s “questionable long term economic viability” and voted unanimously to demolish. The demolition permit will be issued when Chinatown Development Corporation has prepared a firm redevelopment proposal –for the proposed senior’s assisted living complex- and has made a formal application for a building permit. CDC’s plan to demolish the building for a revenue generating parking lot has been denied.

Through 40 years of neglect the second floor has been destroyed from severe water damage due to lack of heat and roof failure.

The building has been deemed structurally unsound and economically unviable to repair by Ray Wan –architect working on the CDC’s development - despite no official documentation or engineering report and disputation by the HBC.

The CDC has been questioned on why they have chosen this specific location for their project as it is surrounded by vacant land. The loss of this restaurant is seen by many to be a blow to the neighborhood and downtown.

Here are some of the latest stories in the free press:

Saving Heritage, Block by Block
Diners Crowd in to say Goodbye to the Shanghai
Heart of Chinatown Tossed aside
A Bittersweet ending.

Grain Exchange Building Annex

The Grain Exchange Building at 167 Lombard Avenue was completed in 1907 and primarily leased to agriculture-related businesses. During the 1920’s Canada’s reputation as being a major producer and exporter of grain grew. Major additions to the building in 1913, 1914, 1916, 1922, and 1928 were needed to accommodate the tenants’ needs due to the growth of the trade. Throughout the first two decades of its existence, it remained one of the largest office towers in the British Empire.

The Grain Exchange Building Annex was constructed just east of the building to create additional office space for agriculture-related businesses in 1920. It is seen as an important transitional design, a modern translation of the historic architectural language of the neighboring Grain Exchange Building. It combines classically based ornamentation of the early 20th style architecture with minimalist and grid like arrangements of modernist architecture.

In 1992, the Grain Exchange Building was placed on the Buildings Conservation List as a grade II at the request of the owners. MarWest Group of companies (the owners) have put over $13 million into the restoration of the Building and it continues to operate at over 90% occupancy.

As of December 30th 2007 the Annex had been sitting vacant for three years, blocking access of loading and fire trucks to the Grain Exchange Building. There is no basement or insulation resulting in the annex to be heated and cooled by the building. The owners wanted to redevelop the parking lot of the adjacent site along with the Annex into a Parkade with street level retail Since it is connected to the Grain Exchange Building via an overpass, it is considered part of the building, which made it designated grade II on the Building Conservation List (BCL) as well.

A formal application letter from the owners of the buildings to the city clerk was sent December 30th 2007 for a change of designation of the entire Grain Exchange Building from a grade II to grade III listing. The application was later rescinded and an application was sent for the Annex to be placed on the inventory to be evaluated as a separate building so as to retain the Grade II designation of the more significant building. The owners inquired into the removal of the Annex from the BCL in order to develop the site.

On January 12th 2009 the owners notified the Planning, Property and Development Department that they had a parkade proposal for the annex site and wished to reapply for a demo permit.

Currently they have 122 stalls but the parkade would allow for a minimum of 275 stalls to exist and allow the building to remain viable.They believe that the proposed parkade will contribute to the ongoing vitality of the Exchange District National Historic Site. They are planning on finishing the development with a historic façade that will positively contribute to the streetscape. The owners have been encouraged by the Winnipeg Parking Authority and the Forks North Portage Partnership to build the parking structure to meet the demands of the downtown parking created by the growth of waterfront drive and the future Human Rights Museum. The structure would be able to access the skywalk system through the Grain Exchange Building is created on the site of the annex.

On January 16th 2009, The Historical Buildings Committee (HBC) recommended that the Grain Exchange Building Annex be placed on the BCL as a grade III with the following character defining elements:

  • South facing office building located at Lombard, adjoining its parent Grain Exchange Building to the west via a second floor bridge.
  • Simple elongated rectangular plan.
  • South elevation with smoothly dressed limestone base with buff brick walls.
  • Ample and grid-like arrangement of fenestration on the east façade.
  • West, east, and north elevations with simple clay brick and modest detailing.[i]

On May 19th 2009, the Lord Selkirk – West Kildonan Community Committee disagreed with the HBC’s recommendation of placing the Annex on the (BCL) as a grade III listing.

On July 13th 2009 the Standing Policy Committee (SPC) on Property and Development (P&D) concurred in the recommendation of the Lord Selkirk – West Kildonan Community Committee with the following amendments namely:

  • Grain exchange building annex at 153 Lombard Avenue not be placed on the BCL as a grade III.
  • That no demo permits be issued for 153 Lombard Avenue prior to the issuance of building permits.
  • That the construction of the proposed development shall be in conformance with the renderings submitted to the SPL on P&D.
  • That the proper officers of the city be authorized to do all things necessary to implement the intent of the foregoing.[ii]

Ray Wan of Ray Wan Architects Inc. submitted two computer-generated images of the proposed development.

On July 15th 2009, the Executive Policy Committee (EPC) agreed with the SPC of P&D and the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan CC to not add the Annex to the BCL.

On July 22nd 2009, City Council voted 9-6 in opposition of adding the Annex to the BCL, concurring with the EPC, the SPC on P&D and the Lord Selkirk – West Kildonan CC. Council adopted the SPC’s recommendations.

[i]Council Minutes on the Standing Policy Committee Report on Property and Development (July 13th)
Council Minutes on the Standing Policy Committee Report on Property and Development (July 13th)

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