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Starlight pulls plug on troubled Winnipeg mall

$400 million proposal to revitalize Portage Place mall appears dead
Rendering from February 2020 Western Investor shows planned makeover of Winnipeg’s troubled Portage Place mall. | Starlight Investments

When Toronto-based Starlight Investments bought the under performing Portage Place mall in downtown Winnipeg early in 2020, it presented a dramatic $400 million proposal to revitalize the site with the help of government funding.

That plan now appears dead in the water.

Michael Jack, the City of Winnipeg chief administrative officer, said September 29 that lawyers for Starlight have stated that they are unable to proceed with the purchase of the mall, and would not be asking for another extension on the deal, which had already been delayed repeatedly.

Starlight's lawyers informed the The Forks North Portage Partnership, in which the city is a shareholder, they were withdrawing from the proposed deal on September 9, Western Investor has learned.

In a press conference Mayor Brian Bowman said the City has not received a formal indication from Starlight. He said the city’s support of the project continues to the end of October, adding Winnipeg wants the investment.

The City is not a direct party to the Starlight transaction, but one of three project shareholders, he noted.

Starlight had received a three-month extension from Winnipeg council in July to arrange financing on the deal, which included a $20 million city incentive. Starlight was also seeking a reported $250 million from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. for planned affordable housing units tied to the project.

“Doing something with Portage Place Mall would be great,” Coun. Brian Mayes told the Winnipeg Sun in July. “The amount of money they’re asking for from government in order to do this, I think, is excessive. And the process has been troubling. I’m very troubled by the way I think we’ve been pushed around in all these discussions.”

Portage Place has been seen as a white elephant for many years, with retail vacancies and consistent complaints of drug dealing and associated disorder.

Starlight’s original vision for the site included two residential towers, including student and family housing options, affordable housing, an elevated skywalk, renewed commercial space, a child-care centre and a grocery store.

Starlight has declined to comment.