‘I have a bit of a spring in my step’: Next steps about what to do with downtown Bay building could come in spring

An air of mystery swirls around the Hudson’s Bay Company building at 450 Portage Avenue, easily one of Winnipeg’s most iconic structures.

Shuttered for over a year—after nearly a century in operation—Winnipeggers are left wondering: What will the future hold for the grand structure?

“What’s going to go there? What’s it going to be?” said Winnipegger Krista Blackburn, as she stood by the roughly 650,000 square-foot structure.

“Are they going to fix it? Are they going to invest in it?” she said.

“It’s a part of Winnipeg.”

Originally opened on November 18, 1926, The Bay building closed its doors 94 years later, in November of 2020.

A month later, the City of Winnipeg created an advisory committee to craft a redevelopment plan for the long-time Downtown Winnipeg fixture.

Details on what that future may hold for The Bay building could come this spring.

“I am, like many Winnipeggers, looking towards the spring and the news it represents,” said Coun. Sherri Rollins, a member of the City of Winnipeg’s Bay Downtown Advisory Committee.

Rollins couldn’t get into specifics, but said she is excited about ideas currently being discussed.

“I have a bit of a spring in my step, a twinkle in my eye and my glass is always half full when it comes to Winnipeg’s downtown,” Rollins said.

Premier Heather Stefanson, on Thursday, was similarly coy with details on a redevelopment plan for The Bay building.

When asked if there will be news coming on the project in the near future, the Premier simply replied, “Yes. That’s all I have to say for today.”

Given its status as a protected heritage site, a title granted in 2019, City of Winnipeg Heritage Officer Murray Peterson says The Bay’s history and architectural features make it a structure worth preserving.

The size of the six-story building, however, poses a problem, said Peterson.

“It would be difficult to do things you would normally do with big buildings, like warehouses where you can put in apartment suites or commercial (spaces) or offices,” he said, “because it’s such a massive footprint.”

A new plan for The Bay building should incorporate fresh air and natural light, Peterson said, adding that could involve taking out parts of the roof.

Any final decisions or concrete plans, however, are a ways off.

“I think we’re at the very beginning stages of what it would look like to change this building,” Peterson said.

“I haven’t seen anything concrete.”

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