The Bay in downtown Winnipeg is shrinking its retail selling space again by closing down the fourth floor, leaving only the first and second floors open.

"Hudson's Bay is adjusting its store layout in its downtown Winnipeg location in order to improve navigation and enhance the overall shopping experience for customers. To do so, we are consolidating our retail floor space from three floors to two. There is no change to the assortment of product offered," The Bay said in a statement.

The Bay 4th floor

The fourth floor of The Bay downtown in Winnipeg is being cleared out over the next few weeks. (Facebook)

A development agency in Winnipeg is hoping to work with The Bay downtown to figure out what to do with the building.

Angela Mathieson of CentreVenture told CBC she hopes The Bay can find a way to maintain the building's historic value.

"But it is going to take a mix of different uses to really reinvigorate it and have it play that role," she said.  

"It's massive. It's a huge, huge building."

Shirley Ankrah, owner of Priscilla's Elegant Shop on Graham Avenue, said business is slow and she hopes something new will fill The Bay to bring people downtown.

"I just think if they bring more businesses to bring more people downtown so business down here will survive," she said.

'Shouldn't be swept away'

The building holds sentimental value to Winnipeggers who want to see the fourth floor turned into a museum, condos or art space.

"First of all, it's beautiful. Second of all, if we destroy historical buildings, we are also destroying history," said Ahmet Suihon, a University of Winnipeg history professor.

"It's like an anchor, and it shouldn't be just swept away or lost," said Barbara Boult, who said she grew up shopping at The Bay.

"You went from Eaton's to The Bay, and The Bay was always the final destination, gorgeous store, but in the past years it's gone down a little bit," she said, in reference to the closing floors. She'd like to see the empty space used by the University of Winnipeg.

Heritage Winnipeg said that while the 90-year-old building is a heritage building, it's not protected as a heritage site unless Hudson's Bay Company initiates the process.

"If there's no need for demolition a lot of people feel maybe designation is not necessary, because if you want to make alterations to a building it gives you more flexibility," said Cindy Tugwell, executive director of Heritage Winnipeg.

She said that designation isn't necessary if Winnipeggers and municipal and provincial levels of government rally to get it occupied.

"It made Winnipeg what Winnipeg is today. It was the trading of commerce and provincial government. I mean, it really is the birthplace of Manitoba," said Tugwell.

The fourth floor — which sold housewares and appliances — is one of a number of floors and sections to close at The Bay downtown in recent years. Most notably, the Paddlewheel Restaurant, which was on the sixth floor, closed in 2013.

For years, those familiar with the store have been questioning the certainty of its future.

The store is expected to operate on the main floor and the second floor going forward.