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Free Press: Shopping for a new day at downtown Bay

June 19, 2017 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports

It’s very big. The imposing but nearly vacant Hudson’s Bay building on the southeast corner of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard, one of Winnipeg’s most important intersections, is many things. Big is certainly one of them.
At just over 650,000 square feet, it is a behemoth whose size is concealed by its modest six-storey construct.

That makes the building as big as any structure downtown, rivalled in total square footage only by the largest suburban shopping centres.

It is comparable to Manitoba Hydro’s headquarters, but 20 per cent bigger than the tallest office towers at Portage and Main, and nearly 50 per cent bigger than Portage Place mall.

The floor plates are approximately 85,000 square feet each, large enough to fit both the Centennial Concert Hall and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, with space to spare.

Built in 1925, just five years after the opening of Manitoba’s splendid Legislative Building, the Bay was completed at what was then the astronomical cost of $5 million — almost $72 million in 2017 dollars.

It may not seem like much today, particularly when it costs hundreds of millions of dollars just to build an underpass. But consider that in 1925, Winnipeg’s population was just 135,000…


Two architects made presentations on the Bay building: U of M architecture student Aaron Pollock and Dudley Thompson, founding principal of Prairie Architects. Both independently conjured new designs to bring more natural light — and new life — to the historic structure.

“The lack of light is a significant detriment to the building,” said Pollock, who devoted his master’s thesis to the question. “If you want to do something else with this building, you have to find a way to bring more light into the equation.”

Thompson noted that it is quite unlikely a building like the Bay would be constructed today without some accommodation for atria to bring natural light to the interior.

In fact, it is unlikely any multi-storey building would be constructed today with such a broad footprint. When developers want to create a building of significant square footage, they typically build up rather than out to ensure there are no problems with light, he added.

Read the full story here.


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