Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Sunday, July 1, 2012
360 Main Street - Artis Building
Trizec - Commodity Exchange - Artis Tower
Many Winnipeggers still call 360 Main Street the Trizec Building. Named after a long defunct development company and having a rather checkered past in terms of its origins, the building has always been a unloved addition to Portage and Main.
The controversy over 360 Main Street is one that stands as example of what not to do for development. Built in 1979 and standing at 32 floors, the tower was completed just in time for some of the most brutal lay-offs in Winnipeg history and a humbling recession. For many years the tower was one where many floors stood unlit since they were unoccupied.
Over time, the building was filled with bank and lawyer offices and commodity brokers and exchange workers. Despite being officially named the Commodity Exchange Tower, people insisted on calling the place the Trizec Building. In all its years, there was no name atop the tower to signify a single entity that called the place home.
To add insult to injury, the Concourse which was part of the development to connect the four corners of Portage and Main, blocked people from walking across the most famous corner in the country. It was part of a plan to force pedestrians below ground to speed traffic through the corner but also to help monetize the mall at the back of the development.
The Winnipeg SquareMall hasnever had the size or draw to attract anything more than those who work nearby. Even to this day the mall specializes in services catering to those who work there every day.
The Winnipeg Square Parkade was city owned until recently. It was the carrot that helped attract Trizec at the beginning and became the jewel that the city tarnished by draining it of capital and selling at a fire sale price. Now, combined with 360 Main Street, it is a very likely super profitable component of the overall development.
Outwardly, the one change that people in the downtown may have noticed is that for the first time, 360 Main Street bares the name of Artis on it. This is a reflection of the ownership change that happened last year. Winnipeg-based Artis bought the building and more recently took ownership of the MTS Building across the street from an Israeli-based group. This is the first time the building has been locally owned since it was built.
Artis is the real estate investment trust that began publicly trading only seven years ago. It has become one of the largest companies in the city in short order. However, it would be wrong to think that the people there involved have not been in the business for decades. The Marwest Group has been active for years in construction and development in Canada and the U.S. and has amassed a billion dollar portfolio. Its CEO Armen Martens has become a big player in downtown development in recent years.
Even in the last days, Artis has been named as a developer along aside the Chipman family company Longboat for the MPIC lands near the MTS Centre. It is becoming a familiar partnership for the the two companies. They are already involved in Centrepoint, the development across from the MTS Centre on Portage Avenue.
The repatriation of much of Portage and Main in the last year could be a good thing in that, it could lead to a development of empty pads atop 360 Main Street. The dream of an office won't proceed without commitment for space prior to construction. However, a hotel and condos in that block remains a distinct possibility.
Artis has the knowledge of the Winnipeg market to make that possible. It could be very significant that that 360 Main Street has the the Artis logo on it.