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Manitoba funds conservation efforts for historic HBC building

Manitoba funds conservation efforts for historic HBC building
HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY — The Province of Manitoba is investing in preserving a historic Hudson's Bay Company building in Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG — Manitoba officials are looking to preserve part of one of the country’s historic companies.

The Manitoba government announced it has established a $25 million fund to support projects that will restore, preserve or maintain the heritage elements of the historic downtown Winnipeg Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) building.

“Our government is proud to have made record investments toward the conservation and long-term sustainability of Manitoba’s recognized heritage sites so that future generations can learn from and celebrate our province’s rich and diverse history,” said Cathy Cox, sport, culture and heritage minister, in a statement. “Manitobans have many memories attached to the HBC building, but it was more than just a retail location, it is part of our province’s heritage and the social fabric of downtown Winnipeg. We are pleased to offer this significant commitment and we look forward to the inspiration of private enterprise to unlock the potential that awaits for the redevelopment of this landmark building and vibrant neighbourhood.”

HBC started in 1670 and is the oldest commercial enterprise in North America. Its first store was constructed in 1881. It was located at the corner of Main Street and York Avenue and was vacated when the current building was completed.

Manitoba officials say the Bay building serves as a landmark along the ceremonial route leading from Portage Avenue to the Legislative Building and is in the company other important architectural landmarks like the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Provincial Archive Building, Vaughan Street Jail, Land Titles Building and the Legislative Building.

The store opened 1926. HBC opted to build in the neo-classical/classical revival style, which went on to be adopted as the Hudson’s Bay Company’s corporate building style. The building was granted protected heritage status by the City of Winnipeg in 2019. Its footprint takes up 500,000 square feet, nearly an entire city block. Officials stated this presents significant economic and social opportunities but also many redevelopment challenges.

“We are very grateful to the province for its investment in maintaining the heritage elements of the Winnipeg building,” said Ian Putnam, president and CEO of HBC Properties and Investments. “Winnipeg has played a pivotal role in the history of HBC, and it remains an important market for Hudson’s Bay. As we continue to be a shopping destination for Winnipeggers at Polo Park and St. Vital, we are excited to work with the province, city and other partners to find opportunities for this landmark building.”

Manitoba’s $25 million The Bay Building Fund is being held in trust by The Winnipeg Foundation. Eligible projects can be completed over a 10-year period until March 31, 2031, and include:

  • conservation efforts to restore identified heritage elements of the building (e.g. building facade, interior curved elevator bank);
  • capital repairs, such as structural repair and building stabilization; and
  • the creation and installation of exhibits in the large display windows on the main floor or another location within the building depicting the history of The Bay Building or HBC.

If the entire $25 million is not utilized by 2031, any remaining amount will be transferred to the province’s heritage resources endowment fund and to support other designated provincial and municipal heritage buildings.

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