Construction is expected to begin next year on the last structure at True North Square in downtown Winnipeg – a 19-floor innovative office building that will have expansive views of the city skyline.
The purpose-built building at the southwest corner of Carleton Street and Graham Avenue will have 300,000-square-feet of offices and collaborative spaces and be the new headquarters of Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, the largest Canadian property and casualty mutual insurer.
The company is partnering with True North Real Estate Development (TNRED) on the building, which has been designed by Architecture49 and is being built by PCL Construction. The developers are studying the final design and approach to construction with plans to start the build in 2019.
The signature building, scheduled for completion in 2023, will be the last phase of a transformative development for True North Square. When completed, the area will feature more than 1.5-million square feet of office, hotel, residential, retail, parking and public plaza space in five towers.
“As we continue growing as a diversified North American insurer, we’re proud to write the next chapter of our commitment to Winnipeg by investing in the city’s evolving downtown,” explained Evan Johnston, senior vice president and chief legal and strategy officer at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance.
Over the past five years, the company’s Winnipeg-based workforce has virtually doubled in size while at the same time the company has embarked on a transformation process that requires modernized facilities, strengthening how the company competes in a changing and globalized industry.
“We currently have almost 1,100 employees in Winnipeg located across six different office locations,” noted Johnston. “Our new North American headquarters will bring us all together under one roof and help to create a connected workplace community for our people, offering improved collaboration opportunities, modern office and meeting spaces, and state-of-the-art amenities.”
Johnston said the company, formed 123 years ago in the Village of Wawanesa, Man., understands the importance of being a positive force in communities where people live and work and looks forward to the next chapter in its story and is eager to join the business community at True North Square.
Wawanesa will be the sole office tenant in the building which will be next to the Sutton Place Hotel & Residences, adjacent to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), and directly across from the plaza at True North Square.
According to the company, the office building will feature workplace innovations framed around the importance of employee wellness, people connectivity, collaboration and engagement of staff.
The building will feature soaring lobby spaces infused with natural light as well as townhall spaces with direct views into True North Square. It will be strategically connected to Winnipeg’s downtown skywalk system, and in close proximity to the Bell MTS Place, the RBC Convention Centre, along with the city’s Graham Avenue transit mall and bicycle corridor.
A rendering of the building shows an all-glass exterior, a spacious entranceway with pillars, and terraces with greenery.
Jim Ludlow, president of TNRED, said the building is the latest example of an ongoing, 16-year architectural makeover at True North Square that has resulted in almost $1 billion in downtown developments.
Wawanesa places a priority on sustainability and employee well-being, he said, and when the building designs are finalized they will feature innovations focused on the importance of those elements.
Ludlow said, as with any major downtown construction project, the physical constraints of the tight site will cause some unique challenges for the builders.
“Unlike with the balance of True North Square, we will not have the benefit of an empty adjacent site which could be used as a staging area. Construction timelines will be managed with the help of our construction manager, PCL Construction, to ensure that scheduling is planned efficiently and to provide for just-in-time deliveries.”
Part of the new build is on the current location of an RWB student dormitory so the school will be building a new dorm in close proximity to its current school location. Plans will be confirmed in the coming months.
RWB artistic director and CEO André Lewis said in a statement that the ballet is thrilled to be collaborating with True North to conduct a review of its options to build a new student dormitory for the school.
“We believe that a new state-of-the-art student housing solution will ensure that the RWB school continues to rank among the best ballet schools in the world. The RWB has been proud to call Winnipeg home for 80 years and, as a long-time contributor to the vibrancy of downtown, we are elated to be an active participant in this next phase of exploration, development, and revitalization.”
True North Square has been developed in three phases, creating a new dynamic epicentre for Winnipeg’s downtown.
The first phase included 242 Hargrave, a 17-storey office tower that opened in July 2018 and is home to lead tenants Thompson Dorfman Sweatman and Scotiabank, and will soon welcome MNP and Ceridian in the fall, and 225 Carlton, a 25-storey residential tower featuring 194 rental suites opening in July.
Phase two of the development is under construction and will include the Sutton Place Hotel & Residences located on Carlton Street with anticipated completion in late 2021 or early 2022.