Manitoba

No word on fate of historic Portage and Main building as BMO braces customers for move

About 40 customers who came to a public meeting to hear more about the Bank of Montreal's upcoming move from its Portage and Main location left without getting to the bottom of what will become of the historic building.

No update on what will become of century-old building when bank moves out next spring

About 40 people showed up for the BMO Bank of Montreal community meeting to ask questions about the bank’s upcoming move from its historic Portage and Main location. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

About 40 customers who attended a public meeting to hear more about the Bank of Montreal's upcoming move from its Portage and Main location left without getting to the bottom of what will become of the historic building.

Many of the people at the meeting on Tuesday night stepped up to the mic to voice concerns about the move, and to ask a central question: who's going to buy the building?

They left the ballroom of the Fort Garry Hotel without an answer. BMO regional vice-president Kristen Kennedy told the customers the bank is still in the early stages of preparing for the sale, and couldn't say whether any possible bidders are on the horizon for the century-old building.

Kennedy declined to comment further after the meeting, and told CBC "tonight was about our customers."

For people like Melynda Love, whose grandfather worked at the Main Street branch for decades, the move feels personal.

"It was really important to him to know what was going on with the building, and it really has saddened him to see that it was leaving," said Love, who works at 201 Portage Avenue, the building where the branch will move next spring.

Melynda Love, who works in the same building the bank will soon move its Portage and Main branch into, said she felt her questions were left unanswered at the meeting, and said she hopes the bank takes the concerns raised at the meeting seriously. (CBC)

She said she felt her questions were left unanswered at the meeting, and said she hopes the bank takes the concerns raised at the meeting seriously.

"Maybe there were some things that BMO hadn't thought of," she said. "Hopefully they can take something away from [the meeting]."

Ihor Jakowec said he came to the meeting hoping to drive home the point that the bank may lose something special by moving out of its original building.

"As a customer, if you see this classic old building, you know they've been there a long time," said Jakowec, who's been a BMO customer for decades. 

"It's not just a little year on some business card saying, 'incorporated in so-and-so.' When they see a building, it's more visceral, it's more direct — and you get the impression that there's something substantial there."

The bank did not announce its plans for the iconic building at the Tuesday night meeting. (CBC)

Jakowec said he loves the staff at the bank, and plans to stay on as a customer after the move. Still, he wishes the bank would reconsider its decision.

"I think it might be a little bit [of] a mistake, because that building has history [in] this town," he said. "We'll see what happens."

BMO representatives said the bank will move across the street to a renovated officer tower at 201 Portage Ave. sometime next spring, but did not give a specific date.

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