Hotel project puts heritage buildings at risk

The future of two historic buildings in Winnipeg is up in the air as plans progress to build a commercial space, including a hotel, across from the MTS Centre downtown.
The Mitchell-Copp building (with pillars) and the former A&B Sound building (far right) currently stand in the place where a hotel-commercial complex is planned for downtown. (Google Street View)

The future of two historic buildings in Winnipeg is up in the air as plans progress to build a commercial space, including a hotel, across from the MTS Centre downtown.

CentreVenture, the city's downtown development agency, wants to build on a space that is currently occupied by the MTS Exhibit Hall (former A&B Sound building) and the Mitchell-Copp building.

A sketch of the original Clarendon Hotel, as it appeared after being built in 1883.

The development is part of a series of commercial, cultural, sports and entertainment zones being proposed by CentreVenture to revitalize the downtown, all of it anchored by the MTS Centre, which is home to a new NHL team.

"I think the new development — I understand everybody's excited about it — but once you demolish these buildings you can't get them back," said Cindy Tugwell, executive director at Heritage Winnipeg.

She urged against rushing into anything.

"We have to stay focused about what we're doing and why we're doing it," she said.

CentureVenture president Ross McGowan said an application has been submitted to the city's historic buildings committee to remove the A&B Sound building from the heritage list and permit its demolition.

The Clarendon as it appeared after 1920. ((

The long vacant building was leased last summer by True North Sports and Entertainment — the owners of the MTS Centre.

They took possession for one year, did some renovations and turned it into the exibit  hall to bring in touring display shows like the controversial BODIES exhibit and one featuring artifacts from the Titanic.

That lease ends in a couple of months.

The A&B building started out in 1883 as the grand Clarendon Hotel but was demolished and rebuilt on a much smaller scale in the 1920s. In the 1990s, it became the Portage Village Inn before being turned into A&B then abandoned.

The Mitchell-Copp building, constructed in 1906, is currently vacant after a fire gutted it a few years ago. CentreVentures hopes to incorporate the pillared facade into the new complex.

City Council has final say on the demolition or any heritage building.

Longboat Development Corporation, which is working with CentreVenture on the project, has told CBC News that details of the hotel complex will likely be unveiled in the next month.