Asbestos in old police HQ adds to demolition costs

The need to remove asbestos from Winnipeg's old police headquarters has negated much of the savings from a demolition contract that came in under budget.

City must spend $1.5M more to demolish Public Safety Building, but the money was already set aside

Demolition is underway at the Civic Centre Parkade, in the foreground, and the adjoining Public Safety Building. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The need to remove asbestos from Winnipeg's old police headquarters has negated much of the savings from a demolition contract that came in under budget.

Rakowski Cartage & Wrecking is in the process of taking apart the Public Safety Building on Princess, a six-storey structure on Princess Street, which served as the home of the Winnipeg Police Service prior to the city's decision to move into larger headquarters on Graham Avenue.

The city expected to spend $9.7 million  to demolish the PSB before Rakowski won the contract with a bid of $6.8 million plus GST.

Workers have since found asbestos throughout the building, as well as within the shuttered underground tunnel to city hall, according to a report to city council's property committee.

It will cost another $1.5 million to demolish the building. No more cash is required from the city to do the work, as the additional costs fall within the contingencies built into the old $9.7-million budget.

The PSB was built in 1965 as part of an ensemble of downtown brutalist structures that also included city hall, the Centennial Concert Hall and the Manitoba Museum.

Faced with a $21-million tab for repairing the crumbling Tyndall-stone cladding on the building, city council voted in 2009 to purchase the former Canada Post tower and warehouse on Graham Avenue and convert the new property into a police headquarters.

That purchase-and-renovation job wound up costing $214 million.  That figure does not including the ongoing cost of repairs to the new police HQ, the cost of operating the mostly empty Canada Post office tower on Graham Avenue or the cost of demolishing the PSB and adjoining Civic Centre Parkade.

A five-year RCMP investigation into the construction project ended in 2019 without any charges.

City council voted to demolish the PSB partly because of the cost and partly because the city had no ability to move any office staff into the Princess Street building. The city has signed long-term office leases in a number of privately owned buildings.

The city could not sell the PSB because of an 1875 caveat on the land that compels the site be reserved for some form of public use.

Downtown development agency CentreVenture plans to redevelop the site into enclosed public market that will pay homage to its original use. Office, retail and residential units are planned for the land below the old parkade, which was not subject to the caveat.



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