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Grain Exchange Annex and new parkade can co-exist

WINNIPEG – July 21, 2009 – The plan to build an architecturally-suitable parkade in the East Exchange District is a welcome development, but that doesn’t mean that the Grain Exchange Annex should be demolished, says Regan Wolfrom, a concerned Winnipeg resident.

“The proposed parkade will sit beside the Annex, so there’s no compelling reason to demolish a building in good condition,” Wolfrom says.  “The Exchange District is a billion-dollar asset, and every demolished building strips some of that value away.”

According to architectural renderings, the Annex will be replaced by several surface parking spaces, and an enlarged loading zone is also a possibility.  The parkade will be constructed on the adjacent property, and would not intrude on the existing footprint of the Annex.

“Tearing down a heritage building to expand a loading zone is the old way of doing things,” Wolfrom says.  “The end result will be less potential density and less tax revenue.  How does that make our downtown better?”

The owner of the Grain Exchange Building and the planned parkade is Artis REIT, a Winnipeg-based company that owns several other prominent buildings in the city, including Johnston Terminal and the Hamilton Building on Main Street.  Wolfrom says that he appreciates the work that Artis REIT is doing to preserve Winnipeg’s heritage.

“Artis REIT is a part of the solution in Winnipeg, and I know that they can come up with a viable plan that preserves the Grain Exchange Annex as part of their parkade project.”

Regan Wolfrom will be speaking at City Council on Wednesday, July 22nd in opposition to a recommendation from the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development that delists the Annex portion of the Grain Exchange Building, removing its heritage protection completely and allowing a demolition permit to be granted.

For more information:
E-mail: info@reganwolfrom.ca
http://www.reganwolfrom.ca/

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I am not sure what to think about the deal reached between Bedford Investments and the City of Winnipeg to build a parkade behind the North and East façades of the King Building at King and Bannatyne.

Ryan Block - c.1895

Ryan Block - c.1895

Ryan Block - 2004

Ryan Block - 2004

(both images from Heritage Winnipeg)

The new structure will apparently span across the surface lot to the south of the King Building.  I have not seen any architectural renderings of this structure (I’d love to see some if anyone knows where to look), so I’m uneasy about the end product.

I believe wholeheartedly that we will need redevelopment along with preservation in order to have the Exchange District reach its full potential, and I think that some parking will always be needed in these areas.  My concern is that we will see an ugly example of façadism, where we just have two brick fronts attached to a concrete parking monstrosity.

Here are some nice examples of parkades designed to fit into their historic neighbourhoods:

New Street Parking Garage - Staunton, Virginia

New Street Parking Garage - Staunton, Virginia, This is new construction meant to match the style of the surrounding historic properties.

(more info)

Justice Center Parking Garage - Chester County, Pennsylvania

Justice Center Parking Garage - Chester County, Pennsylvania. Another new construction.

(more info)

Parking Garage - Fredericksburg, Virginia

Parking Garage - Fredericksburg, Virginia

(from http://flickr.com/photos/army_arch/2482996361/)

Hoboken Automatic Parking Garage

Hoboken Automatic Parking Garage

(more info)

I believe it would be possible for the King Building to be rebuilt with an innovative design (whether with masonry or glass) that makes the historic components the focus of the structure.  I hope that masonry from the rest of the building could be reused as a component in the new construction, so that we don’t just have two mismatched pieces of building sitting beside one another.  If we are unable to hide parking underground (or reduce demand for parking) in our downtown, then at least we can have parking garages that respect their surroundings.

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