Developer raised funding ask for Portage Place redevelopment days before deadline: Vandal

A Winnipeg MP says the Canadian government remains at the table for discussions with the company behind a proposed $400-million redevelopment of Portage Place mall despite missing the developer’s Monday deadline to confirm federal funding for the project.

St. Boniface-St. Vital MP Dan Vandal says the government needs more time to consider Starlight Investments’ request after the company more than doubled the amount of federal money they say they need and added a multi-million dollar loan to the ask a little more than a week before the deadline.

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Toronto-based Starlight Investments plans to add two residential towers with more than 500 rental suites, community spaces, a pedestrian walkway and a downtown grocery store to the beleaguered downtown Winnipeg mall.

The developer had originally asked for the city, province and feds for help in the form of $20 million each. Both the province and the city have previously agreed.

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But Vandal told 680 CJOB Tuesday Starlight recently increased their request from the feds to $50 million and also asked for a $240 million federal loan.

“That took everybody by surprise. It especially took me by surprise, at this late stage of their own deadline, to all of a sudden up the ante,” Vandal said.

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“Nevertheless, our government … is ready to meet with Starlight and talk about how we can work together to save this project.”

Starlight had set a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday for the feds to confirm their funding.

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Starlight chief operating officer, Glen Hirsh, made no mention of an increase in the company’s ask during an appearance on CJOB 680 Monday. He said the deal was in jeopardy of falling through without federal support.

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“The last thing we want to do is walk away,” he said Monday.

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“But if I’m not … engaging in meaningful discussion (with the federal government) then that really leaves me no choice, I can’t go back to our shareholders … and say we need to extend this transaction.

“We have to request our deposit back and we have to look for other highest, best use of our capital.”

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CJOB reached out to Starllight for further comment Tuesday but the company declined the request.

On Tuesday Vandal called the company’s Monday deadline “arbitrary” and said the federal government will continue to negotiate.

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“We want to meet Starlight, we want to continue to get the information we need to make a final decision,” he said.

“We hope the goalposts don’t keep moving.”

— With files from Richard Cloutier 

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