Winnipeg Airport Terminal - threatened with demolition!

City Hall Update: Monte Cassino Court, Sam Steele School, and the River Heights Lawn Bowling Club

An update on advocacy issues from the Sept 12 session of the Standing Policy Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Mangement at City Hall. Councillors Swandel, Browaty, Gerbasi, and Havixbeck were present. Monte Cassino Court is safe for now. Habitat for Humanity plans to demolish Sir Sam Steele School to build affordable homes. And we have a new addition to the Heritage Conservation List: River Heights Lawn Bowling Club!

Documents of the Sept 12 session can be found

Monte Cassino Court, 639 Portage Ave.

We reported in our last post that the developer of 639 Portage Ave., which is currently on the Inventory of Historical Buildings, had applied to demolish and redevelop the site. This would require that Monte Cassino Court not be placed on the Buildings Conservation List. Mark Theisen, the owner of the building, informed the committee on Sept 12 that the developer had backed out and the proposal would no longer be pursued. With the proposal off the table, the Councillors decided to leave Monte Cassino on the Historical Buildings Inventory unchanged. 639 Portage Avenue is once again up for sale or lease, waiting for someone enterprising to take on its redevelopment.

Sir Sam Steele School, 15 Chester St.

See the story in the Winnipeg Free Press here.
See the report of the Historical Buildings Committee here.

Habitat for Humanity applied to demolish this old school, listed on the Buildings Conservation List, to build affordable housing. The committee approved the plan to de-list the building to make way for demolition because it is in very poor condition. The roof leaks and there is no plumbing, and equally importantly, the building lacks community support for redevelopment. This is an unfortunate result of the neglect of the building for many years. Heritage Winnipeg has made a proposal to the City to encourage owners of heritage buildings to maintain them in order to prevent demolition by neglect.

It is our understanding that Habitat for Humanity will re-use bricks from the school and include a commemoration of Sir Sam Steele.

River Heights Lawn Bowling Club, 1360 Grosvenor Ave.
image from Google Street View

Download the administrative report (including a short history of the building) here.

This historic Lawn Bowling Club will be placed on the Heritage Conservation List as a Grade III Heritage Building "based only on the age, special historical and architectural significance of the property." Owner Rick Strauss was quite happy about the recognition of the Club, which has been continuously operating for over 100 years.

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.

Barber House Revived!

Winnipeg Free Press:
Metro Winnipeg:
Winnipeg Real Estate News:

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!

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)

Sport Manitoba

In 1882, James Robertson and Co. commissioned a warehouse on the north side of Pacific Ave. between Main and Martha streets. In 1884 Robertson and his company’s local manager commissioned English immigrant and prominent Architect Charles H. Wheeler to design another building further east on Alexander. Wheeler hired Thomas Kelly as the contractor. Robertson leased the building to George Duncan Wood and Company.

George Duncan Wood relocated prior to 1900 and John Dyck Ltd. moved in.

The SmartBag company of Montreal bought John Dyck out in 1906, purchased the property from James Robertson and proceeded to hire Daniel Smith to design the second section of the building. In 1913 the SmartBag Co. merged with Woods Manufacturing Co. and became Smart-Woods Ltd. Due to the mergence of the two respected businesses, more room was needed and the third section was commissioned through John Woodman and Raymond Carey Architects. Many other tenants have resided in the SmartBag Co. building (as it is most commonly known) throughout the years. Prosperity Knitwear was the owner prior to its purchase by Sport Manitoba.

Section A was originally built as a two-storey structure using the mill construction method (solid brick walls, square timber beams and post interior support system and wooden plank floors). A third floor was added prior to 1900. The same method of construction was used on Section B in 1906. The largest and final section was built using reinforced concrete, the latest in technology at the time. This 5-storey building’s facades face three prominent thoroughfares (Lily St., Alexander Ave. and Pacific Ave.) and as a result the building is seen as defining those intersections and being an important contribution to the historic streetscapes.

Due to its three-decade construction period, the complex has ties to three important periods in Winnipeg’s growth including the real estate boom of the early 1880’s, the turn of the century growth phase and the period prior to the First World War when the city was at its growth pinnacle.

The oldest portion of the complex was one of the 22 oldest buildings in the Downtown and one of the eight oldest warehouses. It was seen as a rare, handsome and one of the most intact early examples of the Romanesque Revival Style.[i] The characteristics of the Romanesque Revival Style are:

  • solid brick with a raised stone basement

  • rusticated stone accenting around windows and doors and at roof level

  • use of the arch above the windows and doors

The larger building was built in 1913 and is a simpler, more modern rendition of the Romanesque Revival style with a limestone base, arched windows and brick exterior walls with stone accenting around windows and doors.

The Historical Buildings Committee recommended that the building be listed as a Grade II on December 11 2008. Along with Heritage Winnipeg, the HBC wanted a designation of grade II for “a more vigorous form of protection that is difficult to repeal” but decided to “support the less restrictive heritage designation to allow Sport Manitoba to amend its plans for the athletic centre, which could fill a recreational void in the inner city” [ii]

On January 6th 2009, The SmartBag Company Building was placed on the HBC Conservation list as a grade III building. Including the character-defining elements:

Section A and B (built 1884 and 1906)
3 masonry walls (North, South and West) of the north facing structure
metal decorative cornice of the main façade
paired and arched second and third stody windows with continuous stone sllls and brick accenting
other main façade details including pilasters with decorative metal caps and decorative brick panels
railway track lintels on the ground floor windows and the original windows on the third floor of the west façade

Structural elements (wood beams and posts) and wood 2nd and 3rd floors

             Section C (built 1913) (all elements pertain to north, south and east elevation

Reinforced concrete facade
Rusticated stone-clad base and dark brick upper floor cladding with stone accenting
Stone belt course above the forth floor windows and the stone capping
Original industrial sash windwons on all levels including raised, square-headed basement opening, large ground floor elements and arched fourth floor windows with stone keystones
Main entrances (two on north and one on south) featuring bull’s eye windows above doors recessed in rusticated and smooth-cut ashlar, prominent surround and keystones
Deeply recessed square-headed loading bays on the south façade
Columns with mushroom capitals at all levels.[iii]


In June 2009, the HBC approved the first phase of the rehabilitation to section C and approved the partial demolition of section A and B to make room for the field house on the condition that the northern façade be retained and integrated into the new development.[iv]

On October 15th 2009, “an independent Engineer’s report deemed [the entire structure including the north façade] structurally unsound”. “After significant deliberation and consideration of various options the HBC amended the existing Certificate of Suitability to appove-in-principle the complete demolition of [the 3 story building] upon submission of the development proposal”[v] and on condition that the site would not be used as surface parking while vacant.

On February 2nd 2010, issued a statement that “they hope[d] to move forward with plans to build a $15-million field house on [the site of] a three-storey component of the Smart Bag building”[vi].

Due to the designation as grade III rather than the recommended grade II, a partial demolition was allowed. The Fire Department considered all three sections as one building therefore the demolition was seen only as a partial and under grade III designation was not required to go to Property and Development. Sport Manitoba was given approval to demolish sections A and B no longer needing to retain the more ornamentally complex north façade as was part of the previous compromise.

Feb 18th 2010 HBC supported the demolition based on proof of significant structural compromise to the structure, thorough review alternatives, and support demonstrated for the proposed interim/future use of the site by the applicant”. The proposed second phase of the renovations is building a multimillion-dollar field house that includes educational, therapeutic and recreational components in the location of the original two sections of the building.

June 2010 sections A and B were demolished. Construction of the field house is in the beginning stages.

[i] Heritage Planners Report December 2008

[ii] (2009, January 7. Kives, B. Sport Manitoba to revisit inner-city field house plan. Winnipeg Free Press).

[iii] Council Minutes Jan 28th 2009, City Clerks Department

[iv] City of Winnipeg Briefing note. February 19, 2010. (1)

[v]City of Winnipeg Briefing note. February 19, 2010. (1)

[vi] 2010, February 2. Kives, B. Sport Manitoba revisits field house. Winnipeg Free Press


December 2008. 145 Pacific Avenue SmartBag Company (George Duncan Wood and Co. Building). City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee Report.

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.

Become a Member
Virtual Library
The Exchange District
Streetcar 356
Online Store
Doors Open

Twitter Feed

Updates from Heritage Winnipeg:

Join twitter conversation