City rejects plan for housing on Parker lands

The City of Winnipeg has rejected a plan to build homes and residential towers on the Parker lands, claiming the proposal by developer Andrew Marquess contravenes city guidelines for housing near rapid-transit stations.

Proposal for homes and towers contravenes land-use rules, planners say; Developer Marquess launches appeal

Vote on fate of the controversial development now goes to city's executive policy committee. (Gem Equities)

The City of Winnipeg has rejected a plan to build homes and residential towers on the Parker lands, claiming the proposal by developer Andrew Marquess contravenes city guidelines for housing near rapid-transit stations.

Marquess's company, Gem Equities, wants to build 1,740 housing units on a triangle of Fort Garry land, bordered by the next leg of the Southwest Transitway to the south, the CNR Rivers main line to the north and the Winnipeg Humane Society property to the west.

Developer Andrew Marquess intends to build 1,740 housing units on Parker-neighbourhood land he obtained from the City of Winnipeg in a 2009 land swap. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

The development, dubbed "Fulton Grove," is intended to be what the city calls a transit-oriented development. The Fulton Grove development plan calls for residential towers of six to eight storeys to rise on the east side of the development, close to the forthcoming Parker rapid-transit station.

Single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and townhouses would be built further to the west. ​

After clearing land for the development last year — over objections from protesters concerned about the loss of aspen forest — Gem Equities submitted a formal plan to rezone the land for residential use and subdivide it into lots.

City planners, however, refused to allow the proposal to proceed to a public hearing, claiming the plan doesn't comply with city zoning rules governing developments near rapid-transit stations.

In a letter to Marquess, city planner Martin Grady says there is no council-approved area plan in the Parker neighbourhood to guide a transit-oriented development. He also suggests some of  new housing is too far from the Parker rapid-transit station.

​"Only a limited portion of the site in which you are proposing to rezone to the [the transit-oriented] district is adjacent to a rapid transit station," Grady wrote in a letter to Marquess, dated March 2.

Fulton Grove development on Parker lands could cost city millions in fines and legal costs. (Gem Equities)

Marquess said he doesn't understand the rationale behind the city's decision and has launched an appeal, which comes before council's property committee Monday morning.

"I don't know what to say. I don't understand why the city doesn't want the application to move forward," the developer said Sunday in a telephone interview.

Marquess said city planners have asked his team, which includes former City of Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, to revise their proposal three times.

"This has been a long and arduous process. We've been at it, in essence, for four and a half years," Marquess said.

Marquess originally acquired the Parker lands from the City of Winnipeg in 2009 in a transaction that eventually became known as the "Parker land swap." 

The Alberta-born developer, who grew up on a ranch and worked in wealth management and agricultural genetics before he moved into real estate, traded a smaller portion of serviced land he owned near the Fort Rouge transit garage for the unserviced Parker Lands.

The land exchange, made public only days before a city council vote, was assailed in 2014 by an external audit of City of Winnipeg real-estate transactions, whose authors concluded the land swap was a "rush job" conducted without proper appraisals of either of the properties.

Protesters set up camp on the Parker lands in 2017. (Laura Glowacki/CBC)

The Parker land swap also outraged several longtime Parker-area residents, sparking a campaign against the development, originally on an environmental basis. 

The scope of the protests expanded in 2017 to include Indigenous concerns development was proceeding without consideration of the traditional uses of the land.


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.