Former downtown Winnipeg Bay store to be transferred to Indigenous leadership, provide affordable housing

One of the landmark stores formerly run by the Hudson’s Bay Co. is about to undergo a major transformation.

Sources tell the Canadian Press and CBC News the six-storey, 655,000-square-foot building in downtown Winnipeg is to be transferred to Indigenous leadership and will be used partly for affordable housing.

The official announcement is expected Friday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on hand.

A Manitoba government source, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, says Manitoba will contribute $10 million to the initiative, with the federal government and Winnipeg city hall also pitching in.

The city’s contribution may come in the form of tax incentives. Sources at city hall say a proposal is expected to come before council in June.

The Winnipeg store was closed in November 2020, and the municipal and provincial governments have been working to help find a new use for the site.

A major hurdle for any new development is the fact that the building dates back almost a century, has been granted heritage status and needs major renovations.

The store opened in 1926 as the Hudson’s Bay Co. was evolving beyond its fur-trading roots to become a retail giant. It was one of the company’s “original six” flagship stores and its annual Christmas displays in windows along Portage Avenue drew crowds for decades.

The Manitoba government announced a $25-million trust fund to help preserve and enhance the building last year. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

But it suffered as consumer habits shifted, and entire sections of the store were closed off over the years as the store scaled back.

Last year, the Manitoba government announced a $25-million trust fund to help preserve and enhance the building. The government said the money could be used for a variety of purposes including preserving the facade, structural repairs, and historical displays.

HBC said last year it was in active discussions with a number of organizations on the site’s potential future.

CentreVenture, Winnipeg’s downtown development agency, did not respond to requests for comment.


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