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Design competition announced for Winnipeg Market Lands site

Peter Caulfield
Design competition announced for Winnipeg Market Lands site

CentreVenture Development Corporation, a development arm of the City of Winnipeg, announced recently an international call to design professionals for ideas on how to develop the southern parcel of the Market Lands site in the city’s downtown.

Market Lands is located in the historic Exchange District, a picturesque area of turn-of-the-20th-century commercial buildings just north of the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street.

The southern parcel of the Market Lands site is intended to be the centre piece of a new development project in the Exchange District.

It will have public outdoors spaces surrounded by mixed-use developments, including affordable housing, an urban park and a modern public market building.

“We are striving for design excellence at the Market Lands,” said CentreVenture president and CEO Angela Mathieson in an announcement. “The competition will ensure we have a creative and innovative design concept that fits the stature and importance of this site in our downtown.”

The design competition will be based on the Market Lands Urban Design Framework, which was released earlier in 2018.

The competition will put some detail flesh on the bones of the framework, giving more definition to the architecture and character of the project’s buildings and spaces.

The design competition will follow a two-stage process.

The first stage is a request for qualifications (RFQ), which invites experienced design teams to pre-qualify.

Following the RFQ, up to five shortlisted teams will be invited to participate in a request for proposals.

Then the qualifying teams will take part in an eight-week design competition that will end in a public presentation of their proposals in December 2018.


We are beginning on the southern portion because it is the focal point of the development, with lots of public amenities

— Angela Mathieson

CentreVenture Development Corporation


The Market Lands is a 2.4-acre block bordered by King and Princess Streets, and William and James Avenue, where the Public Safety Building and Civic Centre Parkade now stand.

The Public Safety Building (police station) closed in 2016 after the Winnipeg Police Service moved into new headquarters in the former post office on downtown Graham Avenue.

City council approved its demolition, at a cost expected to be at least $10.7 million, after a report said it was too expensive to redevelop. The Civic Centre Parkade to the north closed in 2012 due to structural concerns.

The Market Lands project will be developed in two parts, says Mathieson.

“The southern portion will be developed first,” she said. “It has a public use caveat attached to it saying that the site must be for public purposes only. It will be used for affordable housing, a public market building and public space.”

The northern portion of the Market Lands, which has no restrictions on its use, will be developed by the private sector.

“It is slated to have mixed residential and retail and, possibly, office space,” said Mathieson.

“There are many infill opportunities in the Exchange District and Market Lands has been attracting interest from developers across Canada.”

Construction on the southern portion is expected to begin in 2020. Private sector development on the northern portion is expected to begin in 2021.

Full completion of Market Lands is expected by 2023.

“We are beginning on the southern portion because it is the focal point of the development, with lots of public amenities,” said Mathieson.

“We believe it’s important to provide to potential developers on the northern section a strong indication that the southern portion is ‘a go’ and show them the many benefits it will bring.”

The redevelopment will connect the Market Lands to nearby Old Market Square, a popular outdoor interactive art fixture which acts as a concert venue and sculptural object.

Old Market Square and its open-air performance stage, known as The Cube, play host to Winnipeg’s many summer festivals.

Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, says the Market Lands project can extend the popularity of the Exchange District as a hub of activity in central Winnipeg.

“At the same time, some people who live in the area have said they are opposed to the demolition of the old Public Safety Building and the redevelopment of the site,” said Distasio.

Susan Algie, director of the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, says the Public Safety Building is important architecturally and historically.

“But it has never had a formal evaluation by the City of Winnipeg Historic Building Committee to assess its value,” Algie said.

“Through the Market Lands public consultation, many people expressed the opinion that the existing building could be upgraded and reused in the proposed new development, which would be the sustainable approach. Unfortunately, that isn’t included as an option in the (Market Lands) proposal.”

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