Friends of Upper Fort Garry to keep surface parking lot
'These are upstanding citizens,' councillor says as non-profit group gets 2-year reprieve
The Friends of Upper Fort Garry have two more years to operate a surface parking lot that generates cash for the volunteer group that maintains the provincial heritage park at Winnipeg's birthplace.
City council's property committee voted Tuesday in favour of an appeal that would allow a parking lot to remain at the northeast corner of Fort Street and Assiniboine Avenue even though it doesn't meet city design, drainage and accessibility standards at the moment.
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During the Sam Katz administration at city hall, the triangular lot in question was slated to be the site of a new apartment tower. The former mayor helped broker a deal to persuade Crystal Developers to build farther west on Assiniboine Avenue and allow the Friends and the Province of Manitoba to create Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park next door, facing Main Street.
In 2015, council's property committee gave the Friends permission to operate a surface-parking lot at the triangle of land on Fort Street for two years. The lot generates about $100,000 a year in revenue for the Friends, who are responsible for maintaining the provincial heritage park next door at a cost of about $180,000 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. In June, Winnipeg planning, property and development director John Kiernan rejected that request on the grounds the surface lot doesn't meet city standards
Interpretive centre planned
The Friends are planning to build a $17-million, grass-roof covered interpretive centre on the lot. It is intended to house artifacts, a Métis heritage centre, a theatre, restaurant and 25,000 square feet of leasable meeting space. There will be 65 parking stalls below the building, which will continue generating revenue for the park, said Jerry Gray, who chairs the Friends of Upper Fort Garry board.
Gray said he hopes to raise $6 million from private sources and $11 million from governments and foundations to construct the centre, which he hopes will be completed by 2021.
Property committee agreed to allow the parking lot to remain until 2019 to allow the Friends raise this money — under the condition they improve the esthetics of the parking lot to the satisfaction of city officials.