Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Monday, March 26, 2012
The Next Tall Building in Winnipeg
Skye Halifax is 150 meters tall in the planning process
Who will have the taller buildings in five years: Winnipeg or Halifax? Well, if the newly bold Halifax continues with development plans, it will be Halifax.
And so might follow Saskatoon and Regina after that.
And Winnipeg? Well, who knows?
Now, no city should measure its success or virility based on skyscrapers. The completion of the Burj Khalifa is evidence that building a tall tower for the sake of building it could be quite costly. The tower has plenty of empty space and rents are 40% down.
Still, taller buildings supporting mixed uses can be highly effective in creating a vital community without the sprawl that taxes our infrastructure budgets and time management in terms of transportation.
So let's look at big Halifax project: It is called Skye Halifax and will have two towers called the Twisted Sisters standing at 48 floors each! The plan calls for a mix of condos and offices. The tallest building in the Maritimes now is the former Dalhousie residence building called Fenwick Towers at 33 floors. In actual height it is shade under 55 Nassau.
The height of Skye is 150 metres and the cost will be $350 million. There are still hurdles to pass as height restrictions have been in place in Halifax for some time so that buildings will not overshadow the Citadel. However, the grandiose design and the money involve have people re-thinking things. Perhaps it is because the old experience of Halifax and a tall tower is Fenwick. Unloved and unheralded in design, it likely made people cautious.
We'll see shortly if this Halifax project gets off the ground.
So what do we have in Winnipeg?
One of the buildings to go up with some height in the last year was the 13 floor Pembina Hall residence building in the fall of 2011. The cost for even this modest development was $42 million and the technical snags were many including students being caught in a failed elevator
Prior to that was the Manitoba Hydro building at 22 floors in the downtown in 2005.
The tallest buildings presently under construction are the Human Rights Museum and the Winnipeg Stadium.
Most other highrises are still in the planning stages or have been chased away altogether. The Canad Inns hotel at the Health Sciences Centre is under way now. The tower across from the MTS Centre is also under construction.
However, now we have to ask what next and where? And is it possible to build something greater 20 floors?
The conclusion would have to be yes if opposition doesn't scuttle the idea.
The quickest solution to getting some density and taller buildings might be to sell Portage Place parking to the developer who comes up with something for the two pads on the east and west ends of the mall. CentreVenture squatting on the mall parking does nothing to develop the site. Seems they could net some cash and kickstart either hotels or condos atop Portage Place.
It seems a missed opportunity with Winnipeg Square where the sale of the parkade could have kickstarted a hotel or condos on Trizec 2's pad.
The new construction of the Convention Centre might also be ideal for a few towers if multiple parties are brought together to see how to feed off the synergy of the main building.
Aside from a few obvious places downtown where an office/condo tower might work, there are some potential places in and around the vacated golf course for some residential development although the cries against traffic will be be loud.
A plan B for the Fort Rouge yards should be in place because it hard to see if they residences there will be built or not. There are some potential sites along Henderson, Portage and Pembina.
What will drive any tower in Winnipeg though will be residences. Condos will be needed for seniors, young professionals and for families who can't afford housing. Rental places are in desperate need.
It is unlikely we are to see an office tower of any height go up without the money that comes in from condos.
So will Winnipeg get on top of that?
Well, time will tell but it seems just as likely we might complain about any tower even if it was going up on a gravel parking lot in the downtown of the city.