Hotel owner feels 'handcuffed' after building deemed heritage

Doug Romanik says Vendome Hotel’s new heritage status will hit building’s property value

Vendome Hotel

The Vendome Hotel on Fort Street is more than 100 years old. Last week it was designated a historic resource and is now protected from demolition. (Google Maps)


The owner of Vendome Hotel near Portage and Main says a city committee's decision to list his property as a heritage resource will make it harder for him to sell the building to developers. 

Doug Romanik has owned the hotel on Fort Street near Portage Avenue for more than two decades.

The new designation will "narrow the field of players that are willing to buy the hotel or redevelop the hotel," he said. "Their hands are now tied."

Vendome Hotel

An image of the Vendome Hotel in the 1970s. (City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report)

Romanik received a letter from Winnipeg's standing policy committee on property and development, heritage and downtown development in February stating that his building would be assessed for its heritage value.

"They showed up, did their walk through," said Romanik. "There was just a look at it, no forensic type of investigation."

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the committee met to decide whether to recommend the Vendome Hotel become a heritage property.

Romanik declined to speak at the meeting and he chose not to provide a written statement to the committee, so its decision to list the hotel as a heritage property went forward, uncontested. The hotel automatically became a heritage resource in the city's eyes.

Romanik said he fails to see the historic significance of the building, other than its age, and said he wonders whether defining characteristics of the building are actually original.

"You take their word for it, you know," he said.

Romanik said the new regulations have "handcuffed" him and future buyers from developing the hotel which is now protected from demolition. Owners of the Vendome — current and future — must now apply for heritage permits before making alterations to defining characteristics of the building.

'Absolutely' a heritage building

Cindy Tugwell, executive director of Heritage Winnipeg, said there is no doubt the Vendome Hotel has historical significance in the city.

"The Vendome Hotel absolutely is a heritage building," she said.

"From an architectural and social history perspective …. The actual historical value is there."

The hotel was built in 1898 and is one of the last hotels in Winnipeg, still operating, that was built in that century. When it was built, the hotel was marketed as one of Winnipeg's most homelike and quiet hotels, according to Heritage Winnipeg.

But the old building is showing significant signs of wear and tear. Heritage Winnipeg said it was "a little alarmed" when it learned the building's cornice — a metal decorative molding — was removed with little fanfare in recent years.

Vendome Hotel

An ad for the Vendome Hotel from 1898. (City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report)

"When the committee came ... they asked where it was, because it's original to the building. [The owner] threw it in the garbage," said Tugwell.

The Heritage Winnipeg director questions whether business owners who don't "respect" the history of their heritage buildings are the right fit to own them in the first place.

"We would not have the collection of turn of the century buildings in the Exchange and significant landmark buildings in the downtown if people had that attitude that, 'I can do with my building what I want.'"

Tugwell added if Romanik had wanted to fight the historic designation he should have spoken up in front of the standing policy committee on property and development, heritage and downtown development last Tuesday. If he had, the recommendation would have moved on to the executive policy committee for further consideration.

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