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

 
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