Manitoba

True North Square footprint growing as 5th tower to house new Wawanesa HQ

A soon to be built 19-storey tower at True North Square will house the new North American headquarters of one of Manitoba's largest employers.

Wawanesa Insurance plans to move into new digs in first half of 2023, Canadian firm announces to staff

Wawanesa Insurance will be the sole office tenant of a new 19-storey building at True North Square. (Submitted by True North Square)

A soon to be built 19-storey tower at True North Square will house the new North American headquarters of one of Manitoba's largest employers.

This will be the fifth tower built around True North Square, which will contain 300,000 square feet of space, including retail shops, residential and office space and a hotel in downtown Winnipeg. The first tenant to move into the first tower on Hargrave in summer 2018 was law firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman.

The building will cost between $125 million and $150 million, and is being constructed without any public money, said Jim Ludlow, president and CEO of True North Real Estate Development.

"This is a fully private-sector led partnership by True North and its partnership and Wawanesa," he said at a news conference Thursday.

Wawanesa Insurance announced Thursday it plans to consolidate 1,100 employees from six other offices across downtown Winnipeg under one roof at 228 Carlton St., next to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's home at the southwest corner of Carlton Street and Graham Avenue.

"As a diversified North American insurance company and Canada's largest mutual insurer, we're proud to write the next chapter of our commitment to Manitoba, where our company was founded, by investing in Winnipeg's evolving downtown core," Evan Johnston, senior vice-president and chief legal and strategy officer at Wawanesa Insurance, said in a Thursday news release.

A True North video showing a 3D rendering of Wawanesa's new building:

At the news conference, Johnston said the company will continue to occupy its existing offices for the next few years. 

"We have no definitive plans on what we will end up doing with those buildings, but we're considering a number of options," he said.

The company says its workforce has nearly doubled over the past five years. In an internal email to staff obtained by CBC News, Wawanesa says it expects the new building "to create a more connected work community for our people."

Construction on the tower is expected to start at the beginning of 2020 and wrap up in the first six months of 2023, the email says.

The first tower in True North Square, right, opened in June 2018 and welcomed its first tenant, law firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman, the next month. Wawanesa is expected to make its move in 2023. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

As part of the construction, existing buildings at 372 Graham Ave. and 236 Carlton St., which includes the Royal Winnipeg Ballet dormitories, will be knocked down.

The ballet school and True North are collaborating on building a new dormitory at nearby location, RWB artistic director and CEO André Lewis said at the news conference.

"It's an opportunity to do something to continue the quality that we have and build something new that is state-of-the-art, and define it with the latest in quality that can be had. It's a positive move for the RWB," said Lewis. 

The idea of the new dormitory was originally proposed by True North, Lewis said at the news conference. "The RWB is not impacted financially by this."

Plans for the new dormitory will be finalized in the next few months.

True North Square public plaza, which is south of Graham Avenue between towers at Hargrave and Carlton streets, opened in September 2018. 

Architectural renderings of the new tower show a modern-looking glass building with tall-ceilinged lobby spaces, balconies and patios.

Construction on the third and fourth towers, the Sutton Place Hotel and Residences at the corner of Carlton and St. Mary Avenue, is projected to finish in 2021.

True North finished building its public plaza east of Carlton Street last fall. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Wawanesa's move will focus on sustainability and work toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, the email states.

Wawanesa is the largest mutual insurer in the country. It's been around since the end of the 19th century and got its start in Wawanesa, Man., about 185 kilometres west of Winnipeg, where its official head office remains, the company email said.

Two towers at True North Square reached their full height in 2018 after crews added the 25th floor to the tower at 225 Carlton St. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

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