Potential repair tab for Winnipeg’s Centre Village housing complex exceeds property value: report

The potential repair tab at a vacant and derelict housing complex in downtown Winnipeg exceeds the value of the property, according to a 2019 report into structural issues and other deficiencies at Centre Village.

The same technical memorandum also notes the design of the housing complex at 575 Balmoral St. makes it all but impossible to erect a fence around the site — as former tenants repeatedly requested — without restricting the movement of residents and preventing firefighter and police access.

The 2019 report sheds more light on Manitoba Housing’s preference for demolishing and redeveloping Centre Village instead of repairing the troubled 13-year-old complex.

In a request for expressions of interest from non-profit organizations interested in redeveloping Centre Village issued last week, Manitoba Housing said it is “open to all proposed options for the re-development of the site.”

However, Manitoba Housing said it “will prioritize new construction projects that increase unit density” due to “the property’s size, location, zoning, and existing site issues.”

Manitoba Housing noted the floor plan of the complex “lacked functionality,” the overall design was laden with blind spots that created safety and security issues, and entrances to upper units were designed in a way that made it “difficult or impossible” to move large furniture in and out.

The 2019 deficiencies study, posted this week, further elucidates these problems.

Overall, that report estimated it would cost $1.3 million to $1.8 million to bring Centre Village back into “satisfactory condition” by propping up sagging rooms in cantilevered portions of the complex, replacing corroded metal stairs, rectifying the heaving of the building, fixing stucco, repairing windows, replacing sidewalks, and installing security mirrors, lights and cameras.

The property has an assessed value of $1.5 million, according to the City of Winnipeg.

Construction, design deficiencies

The 2019 memorandum notes the problems with the site include both construction and design deficiencies. It also questions several design decisions.

Cantilevered portions on upper floors — such as the rooms jutting out of the building’s second and third floors — are “very undesirable in wood-framed structures,” the memorandum states.

The use of weathering steel or some other form of quickly corroding steel on exterior stairs and handrails was also inappropriate, the report states.

“With corroded handrails, people are less likely to grip them, not wanting to dirty or contaminate their hands, and therefore increase their risk of fall and related injury,” the memorandum says.

Continued corrosion would mean the possibility of metal particles and flakes coming loose and embedding in the hands of people grabbing the railings, it says.

Beige modular buildings with orange frames around windows.
Manitoba Housing’s request for expressions of interest noted the overall design of the complex was laden with blind spots that created safety and security issues. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The report was also supposed to include an estimate for placing a fence around the site, but that idea was abandoned as impractical because of the way the complex was designed.

“Adding fencing to the site cannot be easily accomplished without significantly restricting the movement of residents and fire and police access,” the report states.

The Winnipeg firm 5468796 Architecture, which designed Centre Village and won several awards for that design, declined comment on the technical memorandum. 

Manitoba Housing is only inviting proposals to redevelop Centre Village from non-profit organizations, Indigenous organizations and other levels of government. All have until May 19 to submit proposals.

The request for expressions of interest stipulates the redeveloped site must have at least 25 social housing units, which is equal to the number of existing units in Centre Village, plus additional social, affordable or market-rent units, if possible.

Some units must be designated as accessible, but proposals for assisted-living units, nursing homes, other long-term care facilities, shelters and crisis centres will not be considered, the document states.

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