Concern builds over Winnipeg's $180M convention centre expansion

Winnipeg city councillors met behind closed doors on Friday afternoon to discuss concerns about the $180-million expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
The convention centre is in the middle of a $180-million expansion. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Winnipeg city councillors met behind closed doors on Friday afternoon to discuss concerns about the $180-million expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Part of that project included the demolition of the Carleton Inn, across the street, to make way for a new hotel. Property taxes generated from the new hotel were supposed to offset the cost of the convention centre's expansion.

CentreVenture, the city's downtown development arm, had paid just under $6.6 million for the property, on behalf of the city, and paid for the demolition on top of that. Now the site sits empty.

Stuart Olson, the project's lead contractor, had pledged to find someone to finance and run the hotel, but it was not able to deliver on that portion of the deal, Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters outside the meeting.

"There is an acknowledgement by the parties involved that that hasn't happened and presumably won't happen under Stuart Olson," Bowman said.

According to its contract with the city, Stuart Olson will have to pay a penalty of $3.75 million for not getting a hotel at the site. The penalty will be paid to the city, which will forward the money to CentreVenture.

Bowman said the lack of information flowing back to civic politicians about projects like this is not acceptable. He said he is inviting CentreVenture to the next meeting of the executive policy committee to get more information in this case.

The city is also in the middle of a controversy surrounding its new downtown police headquarters, which has gone $75 million over budget.

The RCMP have also launched a criminal investigation involving the headquarters project — a conversion of the former Canada Post building on Graham Avenue — after an audit provided enough evidence for a full probe.

St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes says possibly having to fix deals made by the former city administration is frustrating.

"We have to be these agents of change and really look at doing things a new way because it's quite honestly frightful," she said before the meeting.

Below is a City of Winnipeg report about the Winnipeg Convention Centre expansion project that the executive policy committee will discuss on Jan. 21.


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