Red River College spies Public Safety Building as potential site for student housing

Red River College is interested in expanding its downtown campus on to the site of the Public Safety Building, Winnipeg's old police headquarters.

Winnipeg's old police station is in the right place for campus expansion, college president says

Red River College president Paul Vogt says the Public Safety Building is a good location for potential student housing. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

Red River College likes the idea of expanding its downtown campus on to the site of the Public Safety Building, Winnipeg's old police headquarters.

Red River College president and CEO Paul Vogt said Friday the Public Safety Building — which sits between Red River's Princess Street and Union Bank Tower complexes — is a candidate for more student housing and affordable housing at some point in the future.

"Obviously we're interested because it's right in the heart of what's becoming our downtown campus," Vogt said Friday following an event to mark the fifth year of the college's culinary school.

"There's a great demand for housing in this area, a demand for housing in this area for students but actually just generally speaking, particularly affordable housing."
The Public Safety Building has been mostly vacant since June 2016. The police still use a small portion of the building for undisclosed purposes. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)

Vogt said Red River College can not contemplate a Public Safety Building development until it proceeds with a $95-million innovation centre planned for the western edge of the Exchange District.

Still, Vogt said he has already indicated the college's interest in the site to Winnipeg downtown ​development agency CentreVenture, which is holding public consultations about the future of the Public Safety Building, which was vacated by the Winnipeg Police Service in 2016, and the adjacent Civic Centre Parkade, which was shuttered due to structural-safety concerns in 2012.

The city plans to demolish both structures and redevelop the entire block bounded by William Avenue to the south, King Street to the east, James Avenue to the north and Princess Avenue to the west.

The southernmost portion of the land, however, must be reserved for some form of public use, thanks to a caveat placed on the property in 1875, when it was donated to the city by the family of Winnipeg's first postmaster.

​"Red River may be uniquely positioned to redevelop those lands," said Mayor Brian Bowman, referring to the college's status as a public institution.

An artist's rendering of Red River College's innovation centre, planned for north of its Princess Street campus. (Red River College)

Vogt said there are challenges ahead for the college when it comes to securing funds for another capital expansion, especially given the tight nature of finances at all three levels of government.

Nonetheless, Vogt said the 100 beds at the college's Union Bank Tower residence are full and the Exchange District is becoming a "a very dynamic community" that combines innovation, education and the arts.

"Whatever happens with the land, we want all those purposes to be kept in play," Vogt said.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Before joining CBC Manitoba, Bartley Kives spent most of his career in journalism at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.