Guardians of Winnipeg historic site ask city for more time to keep the parking meter running
Friends of Upper Fort Garry want to maintain surface lot at downtown park until interpretive centre rises
The Friends of Upper Fort Garry are asking Winnipeg for more time to operate a surface-parking lot at the edge of the provincial park that marks the city's birthplace.
In 2015, the city gave the non-profit organization that runs Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park permission to operate a gravelparking lot for two years at the northeast corner of Assiniboine Avenue and Fort Street.
The lot generates about $100,000 a year in revenue for the Friends, who are responsible for maintaining the provincial heritage park at a cost of about $150,000 a year.
That deal expired in May, prompting the Friends to ask the city for permission to continue charging motorists to park on the lot.
But in June, Winnipeg planning, property and development director John Kiernan rejected that request on the grounds the surface lot doesn't meet city standards because it isn't paved, has no drainage and lacks proper landscaping, fencing and accessible parking.
The Friends are now appealing the decision, arguing they need the revenue to maintain the park until they build an interpretive centre and commercial complex on the surface lot.
"If we don't get the permit, nothing changes at the property. It still sits there. But this is a chance to give a charity some revenue that contributes to the operation of the park."
The Friends are planning to build a grass-roof covered interpretive centre that will house artifacts, a Métis heritage centre, a theatre, restaurant and 25,000 square feet of leasable meeting space. Construction on the $15-million project could begin this winter if the project is conducted in phases, Gray said.
There will be 65 parking stalls below the building, which will continue generating revenue for the park, he added.
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, whose ward includes Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park, declined to comment because she sits on council's property committee, which will hear the Friends' appeal on Sept. 19.
Planning director Kiernan was not available for comment, city spokesperson Kailey Barron said.
A decade ago, the Friends of Upper Fort Garry successfully lobbied against a plan to allow Crystal Developers to build an apartment tower on the site of the surface lot. Crystal wound up building a tower on the south side of Assiniboine Avenue instead.
"I think it's amazing. Absolutely stunning," said Denise Grant, a tourist from Shropshire, U.K., as she visited the park on Wednesday. "I love that old bit that you've got there — the entrance gate — because it's actually the only original bit, isn't it?