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October 10, 2022

Advocacy In Action! The Odd Fellows Home

On September 15th, 2022, the Manitoba Municipal Board released a report and recommendations regarding the rezoning of 4025 Roblin Boulevard, the lot on which the Odd Fellows Home sits, from Residential Multi-Family (Small) to Residential Multi-Family (Large). The rezoning, which would have paved the way for the development of a new 199 unit multi-family building on the southeast corner of the property, was strongly opposed by the neighbourhood and heritage community. The Board concluded that “development should not be driven by economic pressures or desperation” and that the City of Winnipeg should reject the rezoning of 4025 Roblin Boulevard. Heritage Winnipeg and the Charleswood community are thrilled that this insensitive development is not being allow to move forward. Should the developer still be interested, they can submit a new proposal for developing the property in a year.

The International Order of Odd Fellows, whom face declining membership and consequently need to sell the 1923 Odd Fellows Home for financial reasons, have been working with Roblin Premiere Developments, the interested buyer, to have the property rezoned. The application for rezoning and variance was discussed by the Assiniboia Community Committee (made up of Councillors Gillingham, Klein and Lukes) on January 28th, 2022, with the rezoning being unanimously approved while the variances were voted down 2 to 1 after a ten hour public hearing. The Charleswood community was very upset by this decision as the vast majority staunchly opposed the new development, which would not only bring a tremendous amount of traffic to their quiet streets, it would result in the loss of historic greenspace, obstruct the view of a community landmark (the Odd Fellows Home) and completely disregard the character of the niehgbourhood. Heritage Winnipeg was opposed to the new development fearing the construction of such a large new building so close to the Odd Fellows Home would compromise its structural integrity – a serious problem that has occurred during other projects. As a result of this opposition to the new development, the issue was taken to the Manitoba Municipal Board (MMB).

This was the first Referral Hearing held by the MMB since planning amendments to The City of Winnipeg Charter and The Planning Act were proclaimed in October 2021. The hearing took place over three days in summer 2022 – June 28, July 4 and July 18, with 20 parties making presentations, including Heritage Winnipeg’s Executive Director, Cindy Tugwell, who spoke in opposition to the new development. No residents spoke in support of the development.

The MMB’s report found “the size and scale of the Proposed Development and Proposed Re-zoning to be incompatible with the character, context and built form of the surrounding dwellings and established neighbourhood,” siding with the community on many of the issues they brought forth a the hearing. For Heritage Winnipeg, the report’s comments on the Odds Fellows Home were particularly vindicating after never being allowed more involvement in heritage issues than the general public:

The Board notes that it lacked any information regarding the impacts a large development would have on the structural integrity of the 100 year old Odd Fellows building. Though the historical designation process is a separate process from the City’s development and related re-zoning procedures, the City should consider consultations with Heritage Winnipeg early in the development process. This may have helped alleviate public concern and uncertainty surrounding the future and integrity of this historic building.

Heritage Winnipeg was pleased to have worked with the Assiniboine Crossing condo residents of 4025 Roblin Boulevard, located between the Assiniboine River and the Odd Fellows Home, on this advocacy project. As they would have been the most negatively impacted by the proposed new development, they were particularity investing in stopping it. Upon hearing the recommendations in the MMB report, their thoughts echoed the sentiment of Heritage Winnipeg:

It took the combined efforts of residents, Cindy Tugwell, and the three Municipal Board members who conducted the Appeal of this development and recognized the unique character of this site, to stop this massive development from proceeding. Hopefully next time, the City of Winnipeg will consult with Heritage Winnipeg much earlier in the development approval process.

Development around historic buildings is inevitable – creating densification and keeping neighbourhoods vibrant. But this should never come at a cost to the existing community. Much like the Charleswood community and the MMB report, Heritage Winnipeg believes that the Odd Fellows Home property can be successfully developed if only the time is taken to meaningfully consult with the surrounding residents and heritage community, and design buildings that are respectful of their context.

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