Manitoba

Billboard looming over Portage Avenue can remain as rooftop art gallery

Winnipeg will allow a dilapidated billboard to continue hovering over Portage Avenue after the owner of the heritage building below it convinced councillors to allow it become a rooftop art gallery.

Casa Loma Building can keep derelict billboard, provided WAG affixes art by Sept. 1

A dilapidated billboard looms over the southeast corner of Portage Avenue and Sherbrook Street. (Daniel Igne-Jajalla/CBC)

Winnipeg will allow a dilapidated billboard to continue hovering over Portage Avenue after the owner of the heritage building below it convinced councillors to let it become a rooftop art gallery.

City council's appeals committee voted Friday to allow a decades-old, derelict billboard to remain above the Casa Loma building at the southeast corner of Portage Avenue and Sherbrook Street.

Building owner Sussex Realty asked for the sign to remain and allow the Winnipeg Art Gallery to use it as a display space. 

City land-use officials rejected the idea, prompting former city councillor John Prystanski to appeal on behalf of Sussex. He described the potential for the east-facing sign as huge,

"Forty thousand people a day travel on Portage Avenue east, into the downtown, maybe more. We're going to see Picassos. We're going to see Manitoba artists. We're going to see that Inuit exhibit art exhibit go up — replicas of them, in picture form," said Prystanski, who's now a lawyer.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery and Heritage Winnipeg supported the plan to allow the sign to remain.

Council's appeal committee — Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge), Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) — voted in favour of the appeal, albeit with two conditions.

The art on the sign must be erected by Sept. 1 and the billboard's continued continued presence has only been assured for another eight years.​

Winnipeg's planning, property and development department has struggled with the prospect of removing smaller billboards from rooftops along image routes.

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