Kapyong Barracks demolition will begin in 2017, federal government says

After consultation with the public, the federal government says it plans to go ahead with the demolition of Winnipeg's Kapyong Barracks.

DND confirms government will proceed with plans to demolish buildings

The Department of National Defence declared the 64-hectare site on Kenaston Boulevard as surplus 11 years ago and it has been tied up in legal disputes for most of the period since then. (CBC)

After consultation with the public, the federal government says it plans to go ahead with the demolition of Winnipeg's Kapyong Barracks.

A spokesman for the Department of National Defence confirmed on Friday the government will proceed with plans to demolish buildings on site that have deteriorated.

"A firm start date for demolition has not yet been established, but the demolition is anticipated to start in 2017, and will continue over several years, in several phases," the spokesman wrote in an email.

He said residents have been informed of the green light via notification letters, and more details will be released down the line.

The federal government signaled last November it wanted to demolish buildings on the site and began a public consultation process.

The 64-hectare parcel of land on Kenaston Boulevard has been a source of tension between the City of Winnipeg, First Nations and the federal government for more than a decade.

The abandoned military base has been sitting empty since 2004, when the Canadian Forces declared the site surplus. Before that, it was home to members of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, who were relocated to CFB Shilo near Brandon, Man.

Since then, the land has been at the centre of a decade-long legal battle that began when a group of Treaty 1 First Nations challenged the federal Treasury Board's decision to sell the site to a Crown corporation.

Buildings deteriorating

The group of First Nations, which includes Long Plains, Peguis, Roseau River and Swan Lake, said they had a right to the land under outstanding Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claims and that the federal government hadn't adequately consulted them about the transfer.

In 2009, a Federal Court judge ruled in favour of the First Nations.

The federal government appealed several times before then-prime minister Stephen Harper announced in 2015 his administration would no longer pursue an appeal.

Treaty One First Nation chiefs continued with negotiations in court over the years but they have had differences in opinion over how best to proceed with the land-claim deal.

As stakeholders decide what to do with the land, the buildings on it have been deteriorating.

Last November, a DND spokeswoman estimated the federal government had spent about $1.5 million per year in security, taxes and upkeep, totalling between $15 and $20 million since 2004.

Lyse Langevin, director general of infrastructure and environment for the department, told CBC at the time that the buildings have issues with mould and asbestos.

It's uncertain what the land is officially worth, but commercial real estate agent Joe Banfield estimated in 2015 the value could be between $65 and $90 million, depending on zoning and land use.

Future unclear

Area councillor Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge) called the confirmation of the demolition "a step in the right direction."

The land is tied up in the city's long-term goal of widening Kenaston Boulevard. To proceed with the plan, the city needs to purchase some of the land at the site, but that process can't begin until a new owner is named.

"From our perspective, the city is kind of … a third party to discussions that are currently going on between the stakeholders," Morantz said.

"We're really waiting like everybody else is to learn what the outcome is."

Morantz said the city also has an interest potential redevelopment of the site.

"It would be very much in the city's interest to have the lands developed as mixed-use infill," he said.

"That would generate revenue for the city and make efficient use — the highest and best use, I guess — of those lands."

With files from Bryce Hoye