A Winnipeg downtown development agency says it has bought the St. Regis Hotel on Smith Street, as part of a larger plan to revitalize the area.

CentreVenture, an arm's-length agency of the City of Winnipeg, announced on Thursday that it has concluded a deal to purchase the hotel and the parking lots that accompany it.

Buying the hotel is part of CentreVenture's broader plan to make downtown Winnipeg a "vibrant and healthy neighbourhood" and a "family-friendly" place, Mayor Sam Katz said in a release.

CentreVenture will take over ownership of the hotel, which currently accommodates short-term visitors and medical patients staying in Winnipeg, in January.

Mixed reaction

Many of the guests who have stayed at the St. Regis are First Nations members who come to Winnipeg for medical appointments.

Danny Ross, who stays at the hotel twice a month, said it would be a loss to many if it shuts down.

"It's really bad for the First Nations communities. We rely on this hotel for medicals and everything," Ross said.

But Carl Garrioch, who has stayed at the hotel once a month for the past 25 years, said he has seen fights, public displays of intoxication, gambling and panhandling both inside and outside.

"It's not safe for the older people or the young ones there," Garrioch said.

Various options on the table

CentreVenture president and CEO Ross McGowan says the St. Regis will remain open for the next year while officials decide what to do with it.

"We may keep it as a hotel, it may be student housing, it may be another form of affordable housing, we may tear it down with a new development. I think everything's on the table," McGowan told CBC News on Thursday evening.

"But let's use this time that we have to good thoughtful use and come up with the right solution for the property. It's an important one."

But while the hotel will continue to lodge guests, McGowan said the beverage room and video lottery terminal lounge will be closed as soon as CentreVenture takes over.

That means the hotel will become a dry facility, in which alcohol is prohibited.

"This should be an area of our city where everyone feels comfortable, no matter who they are and what time of day they're downtown," McGowan said.

Ross said while he's sad to hear the St. Regis might close, he added that there are many other hotels in downtown Winnipeg where people can stay.