The Ryan Block

Update August 2013: The Ryan Block was awarded a 'Preservation Award of Excellence" for commercial conservation in 2012. To see a list of all 2012 award recipients, click here

August, 16, 2010

         

The Ryan Block located across the street from Old Market Square was built for one of Winnipeg’s original shoe merchants, city alderman and mayor, Thomas Ryan in 1895. An addition was built in 1903 but ultimately Ryan relocated to a larger building in 1907.

Bedford Investments acquired the property in 1987 and by 1988 they owned all of the properties lining King Street between Bannatyne and McDermot Avenues excluding a one-story building located at 98 King. This property was acquired and demolished by Bedford Investments despite it being on the Historical Buildings Committee’s “inventory”.

The Historical Buildings Committee (HBC) recommended that the Ryan Block at 104 King be put on the Building Conservation List in order for redevelopment discussions to occur at Council level. It was designated historic Grade II on March 11, 1991. Five months later, a massive fire roared through the 3rd and 4th floors causing $250,000 damage. Arson was suspected.

In 1991 The Winnipeg Core Area Initiative agreed to provide the current owners $750,000 in grant money for redevelopment, however no proposal was ever submitted and the monies were redistributed.

The owner (Reiss of Bedford Investments) applied to have the building de-listed in 1992.

On May 16, 2002 The HBC reviewed an engineering report, paid for by the City and CentreVenture, which confirmed the building required some stabilization work but otherwise was structurally sound.

On September 7, 2004 The Standing Policy Committee of the Planning, Property and Development Department (PPD) reviewed another application by Reiss to de-list. The HBC recommended that the building not be de-listed as no change in its architectural or historical significance occurred. The HBC went on to state that this property is one of the key sites within the National Historic Site. City council agreed with the HBC.

“On April 26, 2005 the Reiss was served with an Order under the Vacant and Derelict Buildings By-law No. 35/2004.”

The City of Winnipeg received a copy of the Final Report prepared for Bedford Investments entitiled: “King and Bannatyne Redevelopment Feasability Study” on August 29, 2006. This report formed the basis of a potential public private partnership between the Public Service and CentreVenture in early 2007.

Reiss provided an engineering report on May 28, 2007 done by Wolfrom Engineering Ltd. Stating that the building should be demolished by winter to prevent potential danger to the public.

On June 1st 2007, a second Order was issued to repair all interior and exterior structural components to bring the building into a safe and stable condition, or to demolish the building. On June 4th 2007, Reiss made an application to de-list with intent to demolish.

On June 6th 2007, an engineer’s report from Crosier Kilgour and Partners Ltd. commissioned by the PP&D reported that “collapse is highly possible” and it is unlikely restorable. The report recommended that the building be demolished but stated that the façade was salvageable. On June 20th 2007 City Council agreed with these recommendations. “[Council] adopted the following:

  • That the King Building, 104 King Street, not be removed from the HBC’s list as the heritage values have not changed.
  • That the listing of the King Building be changed to Grade III designation to accommodate the intention of, at a minimum, preserving the two significant facades facing King Street and Bannatyne Avenue as part of a redevelopment of the site.
  • That proper Officers of the city be authorized to do all things necessary to implement the intent of foregoing.”

“[In 2007 Reiss] agreed to a proposed redevelopment of the site [that would see the following objectives implemented]:

  • Preserving the two principle facades
  • Develop a significant ground floor retail space with frontage along King Street and Bannatyne Avenue.
  • Provide as much parking as practical. Given the limited area of the site, approximately 186 parking stalls are envisioned.
  • Limit the height of the proposed building to that of the existing King building to retain its historical integrity.”

Bedford Investments commissioned an architectural design of a mixed-use development that remains sympathetic to the contrast between the historic masonry buildings at the north and south of the property and a semitransparent metal and glass building between. A feasibility study for the development estimated the cost at around $7 million.

“The City’s financial participation of this proposed redevelopment will assist in enhancing the value of the Exchange District as a National Historic Site by retaining and preserving the historic building facades. The at-grade commercial development will contribute to the revitalization of a special character area and the new public parking structure will replace the open undeveloped parking lot thereby maximizing densification while providing an attractive and desirable pedestrian edge. The additional public parking will also support downtown housing in the immediate area and may lever additional private investment” (10).

Source: Winnipeg City Council Minutes December 19th, 2007

The Ryan Block building was destroyed and converted into a parkade that opened in 2010. For more information, please consult the following articles:

For The Winnipeg Free Press Article written by Bartley Kives on October 21st Click Here
For The Winnipeg Free Press Article written by Bartley Kives on October 22nd Click Here
For The Winnipeg Free Press Article written by Staff Writer on October 22nd Click Here



Hydro Substation

Hydro has found a new location for its substation. They have abandoned and moved on from last years plan that would have seen a block of significant heritage building on McDermot Ave. gutted. Hydro has now decided to build on an old William Ave. surface parking lot that they rented to the Health Sciences Centre prior to the completion of the Tecumseh Parkade.

For the Winnipeg Free Press article click here



Heritage Canada's Top 10 Endangered Places List

The Heritage Canada Foundation posted their 2010 Top Ten Endangered Places List.  They have recognized the immense pressure of development that faces the Exchange District National Historic Site and its periphery.  Heritage Winnipeg along with Heritage Canada are very concerned for decisions that have been made regarding the historic and architectural content of the District. Heritage Winnipeg continues to advocate for a more transparent process to allow stakeholders an opportunity to be involved in the decision making process, and in addition to change committee structures that have not benefited the national historic site.


For Heritage Canada Foundation's Endangered Places List of 2010 click here.



Parks Canada contributes $425,000 to Union Bank conversion

Through the Parks Canada National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program, the Government of Canada has invested an additional $425,000 towards Red River College’s continued restoration of the Former Union Bank Building. Mr. Rod Bruinooge, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South stated that the conservation work done on the building will contribute to the historic sense of place of the Exchange District.

The historic skyscraper banking hall located at Main Street and William Avenue is being converted into Red River’s culinary school, a restaurant and more than 100 student residences.

The money will be used to help restore many of the historic doors and windows of the bottom three floors as well as assist in the renovation costs of the front foyer and banking hall. Conservation work will also be done on the historic Annex.

The building is slated to reopen in 2011 for the first time since the last bank moved out in 1992.

The cost-sharing program is also contributing $32,000 to the Gault Building to preserve the roof fence. The President of Artspace Inc., Cecilia Araneda, stated that the restoration will allow its character to grace the Winnipeg Skyline for generations.

Sources: (2010, July 29). Government of Canada invests in heritage infrastructure in the Exchange District National Historic Site.

For more information on the restoration and conversion of the Union Bank Tower click on one of the three Winnipeg Free Press articles below.

Staff Writer (2010, July 29). red river college gets $425,000. Winnipeg Free Press.

Belamy, B. (2010, June 14). downtown's status symbol. Winnipeg Free Press.

Kives, B. (2009, October 16). heritage reborn. Winnipeg Free Press.



Exchange District Guided Walking Tours

May-September Weather Permitting
Tuesday– Sunday 11 am and 2 pm
Approximately 1.5 hours in duration

Just north of Canada’s renowned corner of Portage and Main lies the spirit of the city– the Exchange District!

Spectacular and beautiful, it is over 30 blocks of turn-of-the-century terra cotta and cut stone architecture unparalleled in North America! Explore incredible facades, spectacular interior spaces and unique detailing. This richness illustrates Winnipeg’s transformation between 1878 and 1913 from a modest pioneer settlement into the thriving metropolis that opened the West. The Exchange District now serves as a popular backdrop for today’s movie industry and is home to specialty retailers, restaurants, night-clubs, art galleries, wholesalers and Winnipeg’s theatre district. Discover one of North America’s most rare neighbourhoods!

Tours begin at the Exchange District Info Centre in Old Market Square (King Street and Bannatyne Avenue).

Adult (18-64 yrs) $5.00 Group tours also available
Senior (65+ yrs) $4.00 Adult group $45.00
Youth (10-17 yrs) $3.00 Senior group $35.00
Family $10.00 Youth/Children’s group $25.00
(Maximum of 12 participants per group)

To book your group tour, or for more information call 942-6716.



The Exchange District



The Exchange District encompasses some 20-city blocks in downtown Winnipeg, just north of Canada's most famous corner--Portage and Main. The Exchange District derives its name from the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, the centre of the grain industry in Canada, and the many other exchanges which developed in Winnipeg during the period from 1881-1918.

At the turn of the century, Winnipeg was one of the fastest growing cities in North America and was known as the Chicago of the North. Some of Chicago's architects came north to practice in Winnipeg and many local architects were strongly influenced by the Chicago style. What remains of their work today is The Exchange District -- one of the most historically intact turn-of-the-century commercial districts on the continent.

Winnipeg became the third largest city in the Dominion of Canada by 1911 with 24 rail lines converging on it and over 200 wholesale businesses. The Great War from 1914-1918 slowed its growth, however, and with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1913, there was a new route for shipping goods from Eastern Canada and Europe to the West Coast and from the Far East to the larger markets on the East Coast. Most of Winnipeg's development thereafter occurred on Portage Avenue and streets to the south. Winnipeg's slow growth meant that few of The Exchange District's Chicago-style buildings would be demolished.

The Exchange District today flourishes as Winnipeg's commercial and cultural nucleus. This thriving and unique neighbourhood is home to an array of speciality retailers, restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries, wholesalers, and Winnipeg's theatre district. Its cobblestone streets and friendly pedestrian environment also contribute to The Exchange District's popularity as a period backdrop for today's movie industry.

The Exchange District is comprised of approximately 640 businesses, 205 not-for-profit organizations, and 140 residences (and growing).

The Exchange District is home to a variety of festivals and special events including: the Winnipeg Fringe Festival; the Jazz Winnipeg Festival; Music For Lunch concert series; etc, many of which occur in Old Market Square.

The Exchange District is home to Winnipeg's theatre district with the Centennial Concert Hall which hosts the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature.

The Exchange District boasts 62 of downtown Winnipeg's 86 heritage structures. These 62 structures represent approximately 2/3 of heritage building square footage and about 6% of downtown Winnipeg's total floor space area.

The following are excerpts from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Agenda Paper titled: The Exchange District, Winnipeg, Manitoba, written by Dana Johnson, Historical Services Branch.

"The Exchange District illustrates in a particularly vivid fashion the opening of the Canadian West
at the turn-of-the-century, and especially the key role which Winnipeg played in the development of the early western economy. The Exchange District ...(contains) approximately 149 buildings, 117 of which predate 1914. One these 117 historic structures, 48 were erected before 1900 and therefore document the early development of the City of Winnipeg. A further 69 structures were constructed between 1900 and 1914, the years of Winnipeg's spectacular ascension to the status of metropolitan centre for western Canada. ... Three of (the buildings) - the Union Trust, the Confederation Life and the Bank of Hamilton buildings - have been declared of national architectural and historical significance, while the phenomenon of the construction of 12 skyscrapers in Winnipeg during the boomtime years...."



Exchange District Becomes National Historic Site

On September 27, 1997, the original core of the city of Winnipeg, the Exchange District, was declared a National Historic Site by the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Right Honourable Sheila Copps.

The Historic Sites and Monuments board recommended that Winnipeg's Exchange District be designated an historic district of national significance because it illustrates the city's key role as a centre of grain and wholesale trade, finance and manufacturing in two historically important periods in western development- between 1880 and 1900 when Winnipeg became the gateway to Canada's West, and between 1900 and 1913, when the city's growth made it the region's metropolis.

A twenty-city block area composed approximately 150 heritage buildings, the Exchange District has joined the ranks of a handful of other urban areas which have also received this distinction. There are almost 80 municipally designated buildings in the Exchange District with a further 52 on the inventory, any of which may fit the criteria for municipal designation.

This remarkable group of commercial buildings vividly illustrates Winnipeg's transformation between 1878 and 1913 from a modest pioneer settlement to western Canada's largest metropolitan centre. The district's banks, warehouses, and early skyscrapers recall the city's dominance in the fields of finance, manufacturing, wholesale distribution and the international grain trade. Designed by a number of well-known architects, these buildings reflect an approach to architecture that was innovative, functional and stylish. The First World War and the Great Depression contributed to the end of Winnipeg's spectacular boom era, leaving the district virtually intact. Through the efforts of dedicated citizens since the 1970s, the Exchange District has been preserved as a distinctive legacy from a formative period in Canada's economic development.

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