Organization calling plan to close Portage and Main underground concourse ‘short-sighted’

While many have expressed their support for reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians, not everyone is on board.

Tom Thiessen, executive director of the Building Owners & Managers Association of Manitoba (BOMA), said he is concerned with the proposed plan.

“Council’s pending decision on decommissioning the concourse is short-sighted, and it’s based on incomplete information.

BOMA wants council to consider the effects on the course-connected buildings and businesses.

“(They) contribute approximately $12 million in annual property taxes to City coffers, and provide workspaces for more than 6,000 downtown workers, plus amenities for thousands more visitors and hotel guests,” BOMA said in a letter.

The association said the mayor’s office has been implying the city will save $73 million – but believes that’s misleading.

“That is simply not true,” Thiessen said in an interview with CTV News. “The cost consultant’s report said it would be $29 million to excavate and replace the membrane. The rest of the $73 million figure is applied to intersection rebuild, etc. Much of which would take place regardless of whether the concourse was decommissioned or not.”

The association said that while it isn’t opposed to reopening the intersection to pedestrians, if done safely, it does ultimately want the concourse to remain.

“Quite frankly, the city should be interested in keeping the concourse open. A lot of the properties around here have their valuations based on access to the rest of the downtown. Property valuations have a direct impact on tax assessments. I don’t think the city is implying that they can actually stand to lose tax money at this point in municipal coffers, quite frankly, that would impact all Winnipeggers,” said Thiessen.

Mayor Scott Gillingham has previously stated that keeping the underground open is not sustainable.

“We could use that funding to improve other city services and infrastructure to make downtown more appealing to people and businesses. A more practical approach would be to close the underground concourse and allow pedestrian crossings at street level, like every other intersection,” said Gillingham last week.

The executive policy committee recently voted to approve Gillingham’s motion to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians.  

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