UWinnipeg looks to buy downtown Bay building

The University of Winnipeg is in talks to buy the iconic downtown Hudson's Bay Company building.
The Bay at the corner of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard (Google Street View)

The University of Winnipeg is in talks to buy the iconic downtown Hudson's Bay Company building.

Jeremy Read, senior advisor for university president Lloyd Axworthy, said the they've been talking for the past year and a half to take over the space.

The university has an urgent need for more real estate as it continues to expand its presence in the west downtown area, but rather than rent it wants to own its spaces.

"If we are paying rent, we want to be paying it to ourselves, right?," Read said.

The Bay has spare room on its upper floors since it condensed its footprint in the six-storey building to just three floors about two years ago.

The company has been seeking new tenants for the upper three floors.

Insatiable appetite

Meanwhile, the university hasn't yet satisfied its seemingly insatiable appetite for space.

In recent years, it has opened the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film, McFeetors Hall student's residence, Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex, and is completing the transformation of the former Greyhound Bus terminal into the AnX, which has the university bookstore and will soon host a Starbucks and a Garbonzo's Pizza Pub.

It also has plans for a three-level $31.5-million athletics complex— with sports fieldhouse, classroom space and parkade.

And it recently became a neighbour to the Bay, opening the Buhler Centre across Memorial Boulevard from the department store. The faculty of business and economics, as well as the division of continuing education, operate from there. 

The university has also spoken about the possibility of building a housing complex adjacent to the Buhler Centre, consisting of 80-100 suites of two to three bedrooms each.

Read says if the university was to purchase the Bay building, it would like the company to stay put. The 75,000-square-foot building is far more than the university needs.

"An anchor retail tenant is necessary to make a redevelopment in that building possible from the university's side," he said.

"And as far as I know the Bay doesn't have any plans on going anywhere."

Read won't say how much the Bay wants for the building.