BMO closing down its historic downtown Winnipeg location

Western Investor
September 3, 2019

Bank of Montreal
The Bank of Montreal is leaving its 100-year location in Winnipeg’s core. | Bank of Montreal

The longest-standing tenant at Portage and Main is pulling up stakes after more than a century and moving across the street.

The Bank of Montreal has announced it will move out of its iconic building at Winnipeg’s most famous intersection next spring and merge its operations with that of its Portage Avenue and Hargrave Street location on the main floor of 201 Portage, the city’s tallest building.

“It’s been our pleasure to serve our customers from these locations,” BMO regional vice-president Kristen Kennedy wrote in a letter to clients. “We remain committed to Winnipeg – a community we have called home for more than a century.”

The building, which is a designated historic site, was built in 1913 at a cost of $1.3 million. It was once part of a stretch of more than 20 financial institutions – dubbed “Bankers’ Row” – between Portage and Main and city hall.

Some downtown fans are worried that the bank’s distinctive features, including its foyer, large entrances, counters and a three-storey vault – which weighs 450 tonnes – will make it difficult for BMO to find another suitable tenant.

Kennedy said the Toronto-based bank has heard their concerns.

“BMO understands that the building has become an icon in our vibrant community and would like to assure the community that decisions about the building’s future will be handled with the utmost care,” she wrote.

Compounding the challenge is that the southeast corner is essentially landlocked from foot traffic because of the barricades at Portage and Main. 

Winnipeggers voted to keep the barricades in a plebiscite last year but, the corner’s land owners have since revealed they’ll have to be taken down to do roof repairs due to water damage on the mall below.

Geoff has been a contributor to Western Investor for 15 years. He is also a senior business reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering real estate and financial services. Geoff plays competitive tennis at a national level in the senior ranks and is an amateur boxer and hockey player. His favourite Star Wars character is Yoda.
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