The owner of Winnipeg's St. Charles Hotel says he won't give up his fight to hold on to the historic building, even after a city committee denied his appeal for more time.

The downtown development and heritage committee decided on Tuesday to deny Ken Zaifman's appeal to keep the 100-year-old building, located in the Exchange District.

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Ken Zaifman says he will fight to retain ownership of the hotel. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

That means the City of Winnipeg can take over the property title to the building in 60 days, unless Zaifman complies with outstanding demands to bring the structure up to code during that period.

Zaifman, an immigration lawyer, has long said he wants to turn the four-storey building into a boutique hotel, but it remains vacant to this day.

City officials have declared the structure unsafe because there is no proper sprinkler system installed.

Zaifman has been told to have one installed, but he argued that the building is empty and sprinkler systems like the one the city is requesting are expensive to install.

As well, he said he doesn't want to have to rip out the sprinkler system when it comes time to redevelop the building.

Zaifman vowed to fight to maintain his ownership of the hotel, telling reporters he will get his design plans in place before the 60 days are up.

"I haven't given up.  It's not my nature to give up," he said Tuesday.

"It's getting the design right. I've been travelling all over the world, looking at hotels and seeing what I think will work. So that's what I've been doing."

If he is showing progress on the property redevelopment after 60 days, Zaifman can appeal for another 60-day deadline extension.

'Nothing's happening'

But Cindy Tugwell of Heritage Winnipeg says she has seen the St. Charles Hotel's future remain in limbo for so many years, and enough is enough.

"I've been there for every meeting. He keeps telling them, 'I'm going to redevelop, it's going to happen, it's going to happen,'" she told CBC News on Monday.

'We were playing ball with him and we're at a point now where we're saying, listen you've got to do something.' —Coun. Mike Pagtakhan

"You know what? I've been listening since 2008; nothing's happening. How much time are we going to give these building owners?"

Tugwell said she has been approached by other developers who have expressed interest in redeveloping the building, which was built in 1913.

Zaifman has long pitched a plan to demolish a business block next door to the hotel and turn the space into a parking lot and outdoor patio.

That space was cleared when the buildings were destroyed by fire in April 2012.

Downtown development committee chairman Coun. Mike Pagtakhan said he hopes Tuesday's decision means Zaifman will move forward.

"It's a call to action. I think our committee was saying, 'You know what? You've been here before, we were expecting some plans for redevelopment,'" Pagtakhan said.

"At the end of the day, we were playing ball with him and we're at a point now where we're saying, 'Listen, you've got to do something.'"


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