The Canadian Bank of Commerce first opened their offices in Winnipeg in 1889. Designed by architects Darling and Pearson, the 1889 building was torn down and moved to another CIBC bank location in Regina in 1906. The current building occupying 389 Main Street (a similar but larger version of the former structure that was transferred) was designed by the same architects along with the help of Winnipeg's own Charles H. Wheeler. It officially opened in October 1912 and served as the site of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce until 1969. The building was vacated that year and remained so for approximately 30 years.
The Bank of Commerce is a significant piece of Winnipeg banking history, and in 1970, the Winnipeg City Council fought to prevent the destruction of this important landmark. For its protection, the building was subsequently given a Grade I Heritage Building status in 1979 by the City of Winnipeg. In 1999, a group of volunteers came together as the Winnipeg Millennium Council and initiated a project to restore, preserve, and revitalize the building. In 2000, the Marwest Group of Companies donated the building to the 389 Main Street Heritage Corporation, a non-profit corporation and charity. Forming a partnership with the 389 Main Street Heritage Corporation in 2002, Storm Catering would use the main floor banking hall to host special events and welcome the public back into the building.
While the main floor and basement are in use, the five upper floors remain vacant, and the Board of the 389 Main Street Heritage Corporation hopes to restore the entire building. Steps have been taken to develop a model and plan for utilizing the entire building. Having partnered with Artspace Inc. to generate a potential model, the Corporation envisions a fully restored building featuring art galleries and museums on the upper floors, while the main floor will serve as an information and resource centre. Any updates regarding the Millennium Centre will be posted on this page.
The Millennium Centre was awarded the 'Best Architecture' for our 2013 Doors Open Winnipeg Event. Click here to see all of 2013's Doors Open Winnipeg award recipients.
Greg Agnew from Heritage Winnipeg presented a visual presentation of Winnipeg’s “Bankers’ Row” at noon on December 5, in the Carol Shields Auditorium at the Millennium Library.
By the turn of the century, between City Hall and Portage and Main there existed over 20 banks and financial institutions. Greg dressed in period costume and entertained his audience with tall tales of this vibrant historic area.
Thank you Greg for a great presentation and to the Millennium Library!
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.
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.
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)
o 3 masonry walls (North, South and West) of the north facing structure
o metal decorative cornice of the main façade
o paired and arched second and third stody windows with continuous stone sllls and brick accenting
o other main façade details including pilasters with decorative metal caps and decorative brick panels
o railway track lintels on the ground floor windows and the original windows on the third floor of the west façade
o 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
o Reinforced concrete facade
o Rusticated stone-clad base and dark brick upper floor cladding with stone accenting
o Stone belt course above the forth floor windows and the stone capping
o 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
o 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
o Deeply recessed square-headed loading bays on the south façade
o 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.
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, 2007The 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 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
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.
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.
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...."