High-Rise Development Intensifies in Winnipeg’s Entertainment District

The Wawanesa tower, pictured above, will be complete by 2023.
The Wawanesa tower, pictured above, will be complete by 2023.
14 August 2019 Winnipeg, Canada

Five new high-rise buildings are currently under development in Winnipeg’s downtown area, True North Square.

The city’s Sports, Hospitality, and Entertainment District (SHED) is centered around the Bell MTS Place arena, and will soon have another new high-rise. One of the city’s largest financial firms, Wawanesa, will be building a 19-story office building as its headquarters there.

“This would be the final tower. Upon completion, there will be five high-rises in True North Square anchored around a plaza,” said senior director of business development Katie Hall Hursh of True North Real Estate Ltd, the lead developer behind SHED.

The Wawanesa tower, which will be built along Graham Avenue, is expected to cost between CA$120–150 million (US$90–112 million) and be complete by 2023. Most of the tower will be home to Wawanesa Insurance, which has operations across Canada and the US.

A three-story brick building and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School dormitory will be demolished. True North is expected to announce their collaboration plans with the ballet company in the coming months for the construction of a new residence for its dancers.

The new tower will be state-of-the art, featuring collaborative spaces over 300,000 square feet (27,870 square meters). It will be home to many of Wawanesa’s 1,100 employees, who for the most part are currently scattered across the city at several offices. The site will total more than 1.5 million square feet (139,354 square meters) of office, residential, and commercial space once complete.

Already built is 242 Hargrave, a 365,000-square-foot (33,909-square-meter), 17-story office tower, which is 70 percent occupied. Having opened last summer, it is home to Scotiabank, business services firm MNP and TDS, and one of the province’s largest law firms.

Across True North Square Plaza is 225 Carlton Street. At 25 stories, its first tenant took occupation on July 1, 2019.

“True North began to see the need for more office, residential, and hotel capacity downtown five years ago, which spurred the construction of True North Square.”

Still under construction is the 21-story Sutton Place Hotel. Slated to open in early 2022 alongside Sutton Place Hotel is Sutton Place Residences, a 16-story apartment tower, also set to open in 2022.

The towers make up the bulk of development that has occurred since the Bell MTS Center’s completion in 2004, and are part of the city’s SHED initiative. In fact, over the last decade or more, the city has seen a massive growth spurt in the downtown area, exceeding CA$1 billion (US$751 million) of development.

More than CA$500 million (US$376 million) of that sum has been invested in True North Square, Hursh says.

“In recent memory, there hasn’t been this magnitude of private development, and I would say there has never been this level of private development, in Winnipeg,” she says. “It’s a pretty exciting time for the city.”

For now, however, True North Real Estate has no further development plans outside of its smaller project, developing the new dormitory for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

True North began to see the need for more office, residential, and hotel capacity downtown five years ago, which spurred the construction of True North Square.

“And, the Wawanesa building is certainly going to be keeping our attention for the next few years,” Hursh says. However, that doesn’t mean other opportunities will not arise in the near future, she stated: “After all, we didn’t know a couple of years ago about the (Wawanesa Tower) project, so it’s not to say that something else won’t come up.”

Certainly, downtown has plenty of room for more development, with a number of surface parking lots remaining, Hursh adds.

“The good thing is it seems like the general view now is that surface parking lots are not the best use of space,” she says. “But, there still has to be demand; we can’t just flood the market for the sake of filling those.”

All the towers are expected to be complete by 2023.

For more on this story, go to Real Estate News EXchange.

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