Sales pitch for SkyCity syndicated mortgages are no concern for city, councillors say

The manner in which the proposed SkyCity Centre condo tower is being sold to Toronto investors has no bearing on the the City of Winnipeg's support for the project, elected officials say.

City still mulling financial support for building touted as Winnipeg's tallest tower

SkyCity Centre is supposed to rise on this parking lot at Graham Avenue and Smith Street. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

The manner in which the proposed SkyCity Centre condo tower is being sold to Toronto investors has no bearing on the City of Winnipeg's support for the project, elected officials say.

As recently as last week, marketing materials promoting the proposed 45-storey SkyCity project to investors in syndicated mortgages stated government grants have been secured that will allow construction to begin this year.

The status of those grants — $6.5 million from the city and $8 million from the province — is actually up in the air.

In March, Fortress Real Developments, the Richmond Hill, Ont. firm behind SkyCity, informed city council it will not complete the project in time to be eligible for the grants that were approved conditionally under a now-expired city-provincial housing stimulus project.

To help the project proceed, the city offered Fortress an economic incentive grant that would pay out $6.5 million over 10 years, instead of in one lump sum the year the tower is completed. Fortress asked the city to hold off on this plan, which would make it more difficult for the firm to obtain construction financing, spokeswoman Natasha Alibhai said.

The discrepancy between what investors in SkyCity syndicated mortgages are being told about the status of the government funding and what Fortress told city council is not an issue for the city to address, said council property chair John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) and area councillor Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).

"There are certain things the private sector is going to choose to do that are out of our control," said Gerbasi, who said the city very much wants the $200-million, 388-unit SkyCity tower proceed.

"It would have a big impact on having more residents downtown, so of course it's really important to the downtown," she said. "We all agree on that."

Orlikow said the city remains interested in some form of funding for SkyCity. How the grant is paid out is the subject of negotiations, he said.

"We like the development. We really wish it can happen. It would be transformative to the area, so we do support it in that regard. But we do have to be protective of taxpayers' dollars," Orlikow said.

The status of the province's $8 million contribution to the project is less clear. A spokesman for the Pallister government pledged to look into whether or not a new grant is on the table.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food 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.