The development of the 2.4 acre Market Lands site just west of City Hall got a major jolt of momentum yesterday when Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) committed to a more than $27.4 million investment for a unique 10-storey housing development.
According to Angela Mathieson, CEO of CentreVenture, the funding announcement for the $40 million project – being developed by a partnership between CentreVenture and the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corp. – "will drive everything else to fall in place."
The 102-unit rental tower will include two floors dedicated to non-profit arts organizations.
Mathieson said she believes what really attracted the attention of CMHC was the net-zero energy consumption design – the first of its kind for a high rise building in Canada.
The innovative design – using elements and some of the designers from the Manitoba Hydro headquarters and Red River College’s Innovation Centre – will include a façade constructed almost entirely of solar panels and will be 100 per cent naturally ventilated eliminating the intense energy consumption required to move air throughout a multi-storey building.
It is already being referred to as the first on-site net-zero affordable residential high-rise in Canada.
"The building will operate on a net zero basis," Mathieson said. "That means the energy it consumes for its operations will be fully offset by the energy it produces on site."
The funding announcement on Friday was the culmination of a couple of years of discussion between Market Lands Inc. – the name of the company formed from the partnership between CentreVenture and the U of W’s development company – and CMHC.
The development will be on the southern third of the land that was formerly the site of the Public Safety building and a parkade. Roughly half of the 102 rental units will be affordable housing, priced on average at about 60 per cent of the median market rental rates.
So whereas one-bedroom apartments rent for about $1,300 a month in downtown Winnipeg, Market Lands’ suites will rent as low as $600 per month. The project is also designed to meet barrier free standards in all common areas and over 30 per cent of the suites will be accessible.
"The building will operate on a net zero basis. That means the energy it consumes for its operations will be fully offset by the energy it produces on site." – Angela Mathieson, CEO of CentreVenture
The housing development will take up the portion of the Market Lands that is limited by an historic encumbrance built into its title requiring it to be used by the public.
Market Lands Inc. also has event centre planned for that portion of the site.
Last fall CentreVenture issued a request for proposal for development concepts for the northern portion of the site.
But a decision was made not award to any of the submissions in that RFP and the northern portion remains available to development proposals.
"None of the projects that have come forward to date have really fit our requirements," she said. "This is a really critical and important site. We have our hearts set on doing something really, really important and special here."
The expectation is that with much of the funding now in place – and with additional funding expected to be finalized in the following weeks – the housing piece is now much more certain to proceed which may bring more development concepts to the fore.
Mathieson said there are also other housing developments about to be queued up in the northwest part of Chinatown immediately north of Market Lands.
In addition to those announcements, Mathieson said to expect a subsequent announcement in the coming weeks on the $14 million event centre.
Earlier this year the city council’s executive policy committee unanimously agreed to waive property taxes for 25 years for the project through a tax-increment financing grant and it also agreed to reduce the lease payments for the city-owned land to $1 per year.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.