Northgate Shopping Centre owners hope to build apartment complex on parking lot

The owners of the Northgate Shopping Centre in Garden City hope a proposed apartment development helps meet the housing needs of people in the area and newcomers to the city.

The plan calls for 204 rental units in three buildings on the south parking lot of the mall.

While politicians and urban planning experts have pushed for parking space to be repurposed as living space, particularly around commercial developments like shopping malls, some people in the neighbourhood worry whether their mature community can handle the extra people.

“I’ve been an owner of the mall for many years and that back parking lot has been underutilized and … there must be a better use for this.… And I think we need to improve the neighbourhood,” said Andy Gwaltney, a co-owner of the mall.

The buildings range in height from nine storeys to six storeys, and 32.6 metres (107 feet) to 21.6 metres (71 feet). A car wash currently on the south parking lot would be demolished, while the mall, surrounding stores and parking would remain. 

Main floor spaces would include space for a communal sharing library, with books and tools for residents to use, as well as a daycare centre. The units would be all pet-friendly.

A 3D image shows a street leading up to two large apartment buildings.
The apartments would be built along Carruthers Avenue, near the intersection of Wiginton Street. (McGowan Russell Group Inc.)

Alongside the proposed buildings runs Carruthers Avenue — a 4.5-metre-wide roadway that serves as a back lane for houses on the adjacent Lansdowne Avenue and Lansdowne School.

‘There’s no room’

Adam Vereb lives on Lansdowne Avenue. He hadn’t heard about the proposed development, but worries about the impact it could have on traffic in the already congested-area.

“It’s already crammed back there, like there’s no room,” he said.

Up the street, Maria Alojado doesn’t oppose the idea, as long as the people living in the apartments make good neighbours.

“If the owner will make sure that everyone here will be safe for their tenants … we cannot do anything about that. It’s (the owner’s) decision,” she said.

The Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan Community Committee has set a hearing on the proposal at city hall on Monday, the second time the committee has held a hearing on the Northgate development.

At its meeting in November, the committee voted to lay the matter over to its January meeting to give it more time to review the plans. Several community members spoke in opposition to the plans.

Several residents pointed out the narrowness of Carruthers, and proposed either widening it or making it a one-way street.

“It’s nice to have the extra housing, but if the infrastructure isn’t capable of handling that extra, the cost to the city will become astronomical,” Greg Marsh said at the meeting.

“It is crucial that we keep in mind the importance of creating complete and equitable communities, said Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma, whose ward includes the Northgate Shopping Centre.

“Encouraging development that provides a range of housing options, addresses affordability, and promotes sustainable lifestyles is vital to achieving this goal. This proposal has the potential to make significant contributions in these areas.”

Politicians, including Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, and urban planners have called for more housing around commercial developments.

But the chair of the University of Winnipeg’s urban planning department wonders whether this development will meet the demand for affordable housing.

“It’s not terrible. It’s not a terrible idea but it just depends [on the details],” said Shauna MacKinnon.

“We need to think more broadly about, what kind of housing are we building?”

The earliest people could be moving into the Northgate apartments, if the development is approved by the city, is the end of 2024, Gwaltney said.

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