Friday, February 9, 2024

Sherbrook Inn and Vendor Closed

The announcement that Sherbook Inn had closed their vendor and lounge in the last weeks has been met by stony silence from the owners. The pawnshop and other businesses located in the building have as much information as the public does. The Tallest Poppy closed sometime ago.

The hotel sits in an area that has seen some spark of business but for decades, it has been the proximity to violence and perhaps even the source of problems in the area. It remains a question of whether parts of the neighbourhood are the problem or the hotel is the problem. Perhaps they feed off each other.

In the 1990s the area was suffering over a good part of the west end. Arson was a major problem as was rooming house murders. The hotel itself was scene of a murder back then and the reputation was a rough one. Since then we have seen part of Sherbrook and Maryland have new housing built, assisted living by the hospital and some new restaurants and shops.

The last few years have seen a return of arsons and nearby there were four people killed in a shooting. In another recent murder, the victim's truck was found in the hotel parking lot. The possible killer died after a police interaction. Drugs and alcohol have always played havoc in Manitoba. The harder drugs are hurting the entire continent. 

The province has been very slow on supporting rehab programs and supportive housing. Mental health supports have been just as challenging. The one thing that people in the West End all seem to agree on is that the Sherbrook Hotel has been scary and despite the efforts of some in the community to put wrestling in and Tallest Poppy, it has gotten worse, not better. 

The Free Press article ripping Sherbrook was one of utter contempt and disgust. The big question is: Will this compel the owners to sell? And if they sold, would it be another hotel operator to own it? At this point, the building may not be worth anything whereas the land might be. There is potential to turn this site into something that might enhance retail on Sherbook as well as provide housing. There have already been a few hosing projects along Sherbrook as well as Maryland that show developers are interesting in investing.

One thing for certain is that each block of an area has to be part of the solution to a vital neighbourhood. If the hotel is a no go zone then whatever success you have near the hotel or across from it is blunted by the feeling of danger.  A hotel by itself doesn't have to be a bad thing. The Osborne Village had at times been a vital part of the business and culture of the area. It remains to be seen whether its demolition and what is coming will contribute to a real street life presence on Osborne. Perhaps with some of the developments down the street, we might see Osborne be reborn again. But the rent for commercial and residential people has to be more sensible.

The backlash against high costs has hit even McDonald's which has taken hits for $3 hash browns in the U.S. The company has declared they will be looking at the affordability issue. This was major news worldwide as the CEO said the complaints have the company looking at this issue. This can be said of so many industries where they have kept increasing prices.

It is always somewhat amazing sometimes that commercial space goes unrented for so long. One of those reasons often is that some owners refuse to sell or bring down the price or subdivide. It will be interesting to see if the owners of the hotel will sell it as a hotel or for the land. Or maybe the wait goes on forever as we sometimes see. 

As with the 1990s, Wolsely is on the edge on either a slide downward or a turn for the better. In the past, a revival of property values, people investing in property and security, a downturn in crime helped west of Maryland become a favoured community to own a house and some businesses thrived. The hotel closure and something new happening on the land might help change things extending down Sherbrook and spread to surrounding streets.

At the moment no one knows what's happening. It can be a slow burn of empty properties just siting and doing nothing. Even on major roads like Portage Avenue it is surprising how many places remain idle year after year. Former hotels have been converted at the Clarion and now the Balmoral for medical visits from the north. By all appearances they seem to be a practical solution for a need that is growing with an aging population. In Minneapolis, some older hotels have been converted for local income housing for those who have been homeless.

The mayor and the premier have both said they want faster solutions to the housing crisis in our region. An old hotel on Sherbrook might be what is needed.

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