Strong momentum in investment and growth continues for Winnipeg

by Marina R. James

Winnipeg’s infrastructure investments continue to experience strong momentum in 2018, with a number of them involving prominent real estate projects. Still leading the way, with much progress in its pace of construction, is True North Square, a $400-million mixed-use development that will energize our downtown. When completed it will consist of four towers and an outdoor public plaza. The plaza will be ready next spring to capitalize on another Winnipeg Jets’ playoff run if we are so fortunate. It is set up in such a way that it can expand on to Carlton Street to accommodate
several thousand people.

Included in this very exciting new development is a 5-star Sutton Place Hotel which will do so much to complement existing downtown hotels in helping attract major conventions to Winnipeg’s newly expanded RBC Convention Centre. As Klaus Lahr, former president and CEO of the RBC Convention Centre said, “This new hotel has been the missing page from our expansion story and we’re excited this chapter is about to be written.”

Speaking of hotels, three new hotels are in the works. There is the six-storey Best Western Premier on Regent Avenue near the Club Regent Casino moving along well in its construction and a planned six-storey Hyatt hotel going up on 700 Sterling Lyon pkwy.
Another Hyatt hotel will be located in downtown Winnipeg near Portage and Main. Adding more hotel rooms to our city helps Winnipeg increase its capacity to accommodate tourism and business travellers alike.

Another notable downtown project is Artis REIT’s commitment to spend about $200 million on a multistage development at its Portage and Main property, which includes a 40-storey apartment tower at 300 Main Street. Site preparation has commenced.

The two large-scale projects downtown are two among many others completed or currently being planned/ built. The abbreviated list is impressive:
the $200-million Outlet Collection Winnipeg, the $160-million Manitoba Museum capital campaign, the $90-million Red River College Innovation Centre, the $65-million Inuit Art Centre and the $23-million
Canada Games Sport for Life Centre.

Some more recent announcements this year include a major 40,000 square foot new entertainment complex by Cineplex at the Seasons of Tuxedo, the $75 million Diversity Gardens project in the southeast
corner of Assiniboine Park (foundation of planned tropical biome already complete), a $27 million Ground Services Equipment building at the Richardson International Airport and construction of CenterPort Canada Rail Park to fulfill the vision of a full tri-modal inland port for Winnipeg.

Despite immediate challenges ahead with issues of trade and tariffs, Winnipeg is forging ahead and its spirit is alive and well. 

No better example is this year when the Winnipeg Jets made a long run in the NHL playoffs and captured the attention of the nation and beyond by showing its passion for its team and city. Winnipeg showed the world it is a city that has a healthy heartbeat with
energy, exuberance and a sense of destiny that there is much more to come.

Winnipeggers are already turning their focus now to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Winnipeg Goldeyes. And next year they have another sports option. They can cheer on their Valour FC, a new professional
soccer team which will play in the new Canadian
Premier League.

Last summer’s very successful 2017 Canada Summer Games event supported $77.9 million in economic activity left a $2.6 million surplus. It becomes a financial legacy which will go towards key areas Sports Manitoba has identified. 

Sporting events like these serve as compelling
reminders of the power of sports and entertainment in propelling Winnipeg forward. They give our city a chance to punch above its weight and showcase our unique value proposition to businesses and people pondering a Winnipeg investment or move. Clearly, our city provides fertile ground for employing sports and entertainment as a springboard to more far-reaching citywide effects, including those affecting real
estate professionals.

Evidence suggests companies and individuals alike recognize the economic impact professional and amateur sports can have on a city, and Winnipeg is no
exception. Prestigious athletic events add fuel to the economic engine that keeps many associated industries humming along. Similarly, Winnipeg’s entertainment scene is contributing to the city’s perpetual push
toward bigger and better things.

Entertainment aficionados understand that not
every musician worthy of admiration will sell out at
either Bell MTS Place or Investors Group Field, and that’s okay because our city offers an array of other venues. From the Burton Cummings Theatre and the West End Cultural Centre to the Centennial Concert Hall and the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Winnipeggers embrace creative people and give them lots of places to ply their craft. Critically, in supporting these talents, increasingly vibrant districts are sprouting up throughout the city.

Let’s not forget about venues just outside Winnipeg like Birds Hill Provincial Park where the internationally acclaimed Winnipeg Folk Festival is held every year. This 4-day long event (July 5-8) commences next Thursday and runs through to the weekend with headliner Sheryl Crow. culminating all of the many music concerts and workshops on Sunday evening.

Tourism Winnipeg estimates this four-day weekend festival in July generates more than $29.4 million in economic activity and creates 281 jobs for the province of Manitoba. The impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Manitoba is estimated at $14.7 million.

Ultimately, Winnipeg’s economy benefits when sports, entertainment and related options are keenly envisioned and smartly executed. Sports facilities and entertainment districts are powerful inducements for locals and potential newcomers alike.

And like other large and small North American cities besides ours that aren’t by default catapulted to the top of the desirability index, many of our city’s public- and private-sector leaders are making a carefully considered wager that shoring up our sports and entertainment offerings will pay consequential dividends in the years ahead.

Marina R. James is the CEO of WinnipegREALTORS®.