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Hudson's Bay building gifted to Manitoba First Nations

Governments are backing a $130 million makeover plan for the vacant store in downtown Winnipeg
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Vacant Hudson’s Bay building in Winnipeg has been donated to First Nations group, which has a multimillion-dollar revival plan. | National Trust for Canada

The near-century old Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Winnipeg, deemed worthless in a 2019 appraisal, has been gifted to the southern Manitoba First Nations by the Hudson’s Bay Corporation.

If Hudson’s Bay Corp. had retained ownership of the empty store, it would have been responsible for maintaining its heritage features, even without revenue. The store was closed permanently in 2020.

A $130-million redevelopment plan for the building, outlined April 22, includes the creation of an atrium with a view of the sky, nearly 300 units of affordable housing, as well as space for businesses, including two restaurants, and a new seat for the Southern Chiefs' Organization, which represents 34 First Nations communities in Manitoba

Government funding support will total an estimated $100 million of the cost, including $25 million from the province of Manitoba. It is not clear where additional funding would come from.

The 2019 appraisal by Cushman & Wakefield noted that the 655,000-square-foot building, which was constructed in 1926, lets in very little natural light. The study deemed its real estate value at zero, due to its heritage designation and costs to bring it up to modern standards.

Sandy Shindleman, president of Shindico Realty Ltd., founded in Winnipeg in 1975, told Western Investor last year that some form of government funding would be needed because private investors were wary.

Shindleman led a committee a decade ago that studied plans for the Hudson's Bay building for two years.

“We looked at every proposal,” Shindleman said, and he reached the same conclusion then that he holds now: the building is worthless and would require a minimum of $50 million to $100 million to revive it.