“A suite deal in the air?”
A historic Main Street tower could soon enter Winnipeg’s hotel industry — possibly giving the city’s grand old inn on Broadway a little upscale competition.
Two prominent developers are considering a hospitality firm’s proposal for a hotel and spa that would transform the vacant Union Bank Tower adjacent to City Hall, the Sun has learned.
A group of city councillors will go behind closed doors on Monday to hear about the hotel potential for the century-old 10-storey tower — western Canada’s oldest remaining skyscraper from the turn of the last century.
A confidential municipal report obtained by the Sun says Guy Hobman of Winnipeg’s Greentree Group and Joe Bova of Man-Shield Construction Inc. are “entertaining a proposal for a hotel-spa development that would utilize the entire site” where William Avenue meets Main Street.
Because the tower — formerly owned by the Royal Bank of Canada — has been vacant for the past dozen years, politicians learning of the idea are eager to hear more.
“This speaks of opportunity,” said Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, whose Point Douglas ward is home to the tower and its adjoining annex which juts into Old Market Square.
“And it’s a prime spot, right next to City Hall and on Main Street.”
Pagtakhan refused to discuss specifics of the concept because of privacy surrounding the document, which does not reveal which hotelier has pitched a redevelopment.
‘NUMBER OF SCENARIOS’
The report contains a letter to Mayor Sam Katz from Bova and Hobman, who state that in the next couple of months “we will be looking at a business plan that would hopefully prove the case for such an enterprise.”
Ted Nocita of Man-Shield refused to give details on the hotel potential for the tower, which has been owned by Greentree for the past five years.
“We’re developing something for it, definitely,” Nocita said. “We’re looking at a number of scenarios.”
As the Sun reported weeks ago, one of those scenarios involves construction of condominiums on the tower’s top four or five floors with offices below for a cost estimated by Greentree at more than $16 million. That residential and commercial development is another option, the letter says.
The possible use for the Union Bank building could have implications for the Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg’s flagship historic inn which recently opened a splashy spa.
Fort Garry owner Ida Albo did not return a call for comment.
Jim Baker, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, pointed out that high-end inns with spas “are very much in vogue and complement each other.” And he said the Greentree concept would fit well with the Exchange District and nearby live theatres.
The Union Bank Tower proposal isn’t surprising, said Delta Winnipeg general manager Helen Halliday.
“There’s enough going on in that area that potential investors would look at that for a location,” Halliday said, refusing to speculate on the interested firm.
“It’s definitely someone with money if they’re looking at a historic property,” she added. “The renewal of the Exchange District must be a point of interest. That may be why they feel a hotel would work well at that location.”
College eyes move into heritage building
Union Bank Tower eligible for $1M in federal funds
Wed Sep 12 2007
By Bartley Kives
RED River College is considering expanding into the long-vacant Union Bank Tower, an Exchange District heritage building eligible for up to $1 million in federal preservation funds.
Desiring space to house training programs for desperately needed skilled workers, the community college is exploring the feasibility of converting the 103-year-old skyscraper into an extension of its downtown campus.
“It’s a very interesting building. It’s been preserved very well,” said Margaret Braid, vice-president of business development for Red River College.
One of western Canada’s first skyscrapers, the 10-storey Union Bank Tower has stood empty at the corner of William Avenue and Main Street since 1992, when the Royal Bank of Canada moved its offices to Portage and Main.
Construction companies Pace-Greentree Builders and Man-Shield Construction bought the building in 2001 for $232,000 and immediately spent $122,000 repairing its dilapidated roof.
Then in 2006, Pace-Greentree president Guy Hobman secured $1 million of federal funding to begin more extensive renovations.
Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION
Union Bank Tower to become multi-purpose Red River College facility
By: Bartley Kives