Permit approved to tear down Winnipeg Hotel in Grand Forks

Grand Forks city council has approved a development permit to dismantle the current Winnipeg Hotel and replace it with a liquor store.

“It’s part of the commercial core and under our new sustainability plan it is required to have a development permit before anything happens on the property, and that’s what they have asked for,” explained the City of Grand Forks chief administrative officer Lynne Burch.

The application suggests a 2,532 square foot (253 square metre) retail commercial building, for liquor distribution, to replace the existing building. The site plan also includes access from Central Avenue and a location for off-site loading.

A current zoning bylaw in Grand Forks requires one parking space for every 484 square feet (44.96 square metres), which translates to four parking spaces. The application reveals six possible spaces, and one handicapped space.

Arild Engen, the realtor, said the plan is to tear the entire building down.

“The reason for it is it has structural problems in the foundation,” he explained. “To repair it would far exceed the costs of building a new one. Secondly, the area is no longer considered a heritage site because they took the sign off the front so it’s just a big box with no appeal.”

Bill Irvine, from Brown Bridge Ventures Ltd., added that it would be difficult to rebuild the previous building given cost and time. “

Our goal is to build a retail store and not utilize the licence for the pub or the restaurant at this point,” Irvine said during a council meeting Monday. “We don’t think there’s a necessity for that at this point. Some people in the city have talked about their emotional attachment to the hotel and we completely understand that, but it’s just not economically feasible for us to rebuild the hotel.”

Engen noted that everything is dependent on the city at this point, including access to the building.

“If we can’t get access to Central Avenue, there may be an issue,” he said. “We won’t have any access because 4th Street belongs to the mall and it isn’t really a street.”

He pointed out that the lane that goes east/west behind the hotel would possible be used by the city to put in public washrooms that would block the lane.

Mayor Brian Taylor noted earlier that the building has a lot of history.

“I look at that hotel and it’s been renovated and changed and to argue the historic nature of the boards and planks is hard at this point,” Taylor said. “It has a great history, not to be denied, but in terms of the economics of bringing it back to its former beauty, I think it’s a daunting task for any developer.”

During the meeting, Taylor pointed out that council still retains control over the building site materials, colour, landscaping design and the articulation of the east wall.

“Those are items that are still withstanding from us and allow us to work with the developer,” he said.

Irvine hopes to start taking down the building as quickly as they can. He noted that much of the items within the building would be recycled.

In related news, the site of the Grand Forks Hotel is being cleared up, with a hole being filled in with dirt.

“They’re just coming in to compact the hole, that’s it,” explained owner Bob Smith. “I wish I knew more but we’re still pending on the insurance company.”

Both the Winnipeg Hotel and Grand Forks Hotel were set on fire in March 2012.

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