Winnipeg developers in the zone

Downtown construction leads $1.2 billion in new development – and city incentives are fueling the pace

Western Investor
August 30, 2016

winnipeg Grande
Stefano Grande of the Downtown Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone: construction pace has doubled. — Ruth Bonneville

The people in the building permits department in Winnipeg have been working overtime.

Some $1.26 billion worth of projects are on the books for the city’s central business district, encompassing office, retail, commercial and residential, according to a new report from the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone (BIZ).

The pending activity has fuelled optimism that Stefano Grande, executive director and one of the authors of the study, could get used to.

“There is more development in the pipeline for the next five years than there has been in the last 10 years. We’re seeing a doubling of the development in our downtown,” he said.

For a city where the core was crumbling and desolate in too many places at the turn of the century, this is big news.

There are a number of reasons for the surge in activity but at the top of the list is tax-increment financing through downtown development agency, CentreVenture, the city and the province. That, in turn, has stimulated a housing revival and the continuing emergence of the SHED (sports, hospitality and entertainment district).

“The tax-increment financing helps developers take more of a long-term perspective on investing in the downtown, knowing that the government is there and part of the partnership. Even in cities like New York, there is usually a big subsidy to bridge the (financing) gap with any new construction,” he said.

The biggest project on the go is the $400-million, one-million-square-foot-plus True North Square, a four-tower development due to welcome its first tenants in 2018. Another transformative project is Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries’ plan to consolidate its operations into a new head office in the Medical Arts Building. The Crown Corporation intends to spend $66.8 million upgrading the building and parkade.

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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