Real estate deal falling through for two historic buildings

Two historic buildings in St. Boniface that were set to be bought by Manitoba Possible but then were not is allowing the community to have their input on how the two buildings should be used in the future. Edward Djan has more.

A nonprofit’s financial struggle preventing them purchasing this city property is now turning into an opportunity for one Winnipeg community to have their say in the future of this historic site.

The Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development voted Wednesday to allow the city to rescind the proposed sale of 219 Provencher Boulevard and 212 Dumoulin Street to Manitoba Possible — formerly the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities.

219 Provencher Blvd. (Photo Credit: Edward Djan, CityNews)

Manitoba Possible notified the city back in March that it could not move forward with the purchase as the non-profit is still coping from the financial impact of COVID-19.

“It’s over to our real estate folks now, but definitely it’s been a topic of conversation for many years and I’d like to see something move here,” said Sherri Rollins.

In a statement to CityNews, Manitoba Possible CEO Dana Erickson says, “Since the project was submitted to the City in 2021, construction costs have risen dramatically and interest rates have also seen significant increases. Unfortunately, the original project is no longer feasible as originally presented.”

212 Dumoulin Street (Photo Credit: Edward Djan, CityNews)

Manitoba Possible’s financial situation is a reality nonprofits across the continent face.

“Giving was down this past year and it’s down even further when you factor in inflation, which means that those donations that were coming in didn’t go as far. And so it’s not just a drop in revenue, but it’s an increase in cost and a decrease in the buying power of those revenues that came in,” said Rick Cohen, chief communications officer with the National Council of Nonprofits.

The properties are part of the larger “Old St. Boniface City Hall Campus,” and are considered historical sites.

219 Provencher Boulevard used to be the former St. Boniface City Hall, while 212 Dumoulin Street used to be the former St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 1.

Area councillor Matt Allard says Manitoba Possible not buying the properties allows residents of St. Boniface to ensure the next owner of the two historical buildings will cater to the community’s needs.

Area councillor Matt Allard. (Photo Credit: Edward Djan, CityNews)

“The buildings being in the condition that they’re in, there’s a lot of money to put into them to fix them and also to maintain them over time,” said Allard.

“There isn’t even an RFP or request for proposals, there’s first a consultation. And so we’ll have information to start with even before we go to the private sector or other organizations regarding what we’d like to see for the site.”

The city’s request-for-proposal process will consider different models, with the city considering selling or leasing the properties at market rate, selling or leasing them at below-market rate to a non-profit, or a combination of leasing the properties at-and-below market rate.

Allard says ultimately he hopes the two historic buildings still gain interest from stakeholders rather than sitting idle.

“I really would like to see a solution to the vacant fire hall. I think it would be very sad to see that that firehall be demolished through neglect and people who know real estate know that an empty building is not good for the health of the building.”

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