City of Winnipeg hires consultant to help decide what to do with vacant space in building housing police HQ

The City of Winnipeg has hired a consultant to help it decide what to do with vacant space in the former Canada Post office tower, which it purchased as part of the controversial deal to construct a new headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service. 

A notice of a contract bid opportunity posted online states that “future occupants will include personnel from selected city departments.”

The city loses around $250,000 each year on its operating costs of the building, which are approximately $500,000 per year, according to city spokesperson Kalen Qually.

Of the building’s 11 floors, six are currently vacant. Two floors are leased to third parties, and three are occupied by city departments, including the police.

In 2019, a report to city council stated the building had six commercial tenants. Now, that number has fallen to four. 

Consequently, revenue from rent has fallen from $392,963.70 in 2019 to around $250,000, Qually wrote in an email statement.

The city awarded the contract for a feasibility study, worth $120,000, to Verne Reimer Architecture Incorporated.

The study will help inform a long-term strategy for the facility, Qually wrote. It will assess the building’s condition, review code compliance, develop a facility renewal plan, and determine costs for tenant improvements.

“As the tower has been mostly vacant for a prolonged period, it is necessary to determine the extent of remedial work required throughout the building prior to occupancy and any new tenant,” the description of the contract states.

The office tower and attached warehouse cost $29.25 million to buy, part of the $214-million conversion of Canada Post’s old Graham Avenue campus into the new police headquarters. 

A 2009 report recommending the purchase to council claimed the city could sell the tower for $18 million, but the city discovered it needed $20 million in renovations.

An interim update to the city’s strategic facilities master plan in April 2022 recommended the city complete a business case for consolidating municipal properties within the office tower.

Any recommendations about what to do with the property would need to be approved by council.