Manitoba

City puts historic St. Boniface city hall up for sale

A pair of historically significant buildings that have stood in St. Boniface for more than 100 years are being offered for sale by the City of Winnipeg.

City looking to offload old city hall building, fire hall

The City of Winnipeg wants a developer to take over the old St. Boniface city hall, as well as the former St. Boniface Fire Hall, according to a recent request for proposals. (Cory Funk/CBC )

The City of Winnipeg is looking to sell St. Boniface's old city hall building and the fire hall behind it.

The city issued a request this week for plans to convert or potentially expand the existing buildings. Redevelopment could prove challenging, however, due to heritage designations.

The iconic city hall building boasts an elegant brick exterior topped by a majestic clock tower that looks over Provencher Boulevard.

Now, it leases space to local non-profit organizations such as Tourisme Riel, World Trade Centre Winnipeg and La Maison des Artistes Visuels Francophones. The tenants pay rent of $1 per year, according to the request for proposals. 

The former St. Boniface Fire Hall on Dumoulin Street used to be a museum and still holds several artifacts. (Cory Funk/CBC )

The fire hall was once a museum, and still holds a number of artifacts from when it was open. Both buildings were constructed between 1905 and 1907. 

Challenging to renovate 

The buildings sit on the city's historical resources list, meaning they are subject to certain heritage protections. 

The entire exterior of both buildings are protected. In the old city hall , the main floor, second floor, stairway and clock tower all must be preserved under the city's heritage protection bylaw. 

This would pose a significant challenge to any developer who wants to take them over, said Philippe Mailhot, a former director of the St. Boniface Museum. 

"In other words, somebody can't essentially buy this building, gut it, and turn it into condos or something like that. They have to retain a lot of that original interior configuration, exterior architecture and so on and so forth," he said, adding that he'd like to see the building remain open to the public. 

"The building is still an integral part of the St. Boniface community, of the Francophone community here. So I think it would be frankly tragic to see it lost to the public, to public use."

Normand Gousseau, chief executive officer of Enterprises Riel, agrees. He said he thinks the old city hall would be particularly difficult to reinvent because of its design. 

"It wasn't designed as a rental space, it was designed as a city hall, it was purpose built," he said. 

Normand Gousseau, chief executive officer of Entreprises Riel, says he thinks it will be difficult to repurpose the old St. Boniface city hall since it was designed as a municipal office building and is subject to heritage protections. (Radio-Canada )

"Can something be done? there are more creative people than that will come up with some ideas I'm sure. It will be interesting to see for sure." 

The city hopes to find a successful buyer for the buildings by November 2021.

With files from Cory Funk and Chloé Dioré de Périgny

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