CentreVenture gives Fortress another year to start work on parkade at St. Regis Hotel site

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CentreVenture gives Fortress another year to start work on parkade at St. Regis Hotel site

Winnipeg's downtown development agency has given an Ontario firm another year to start construction on a parkade that's supposed to replace the St. Regis Hotel.

Fortress Real Developments of Richmond Hill, Ont., now has until the end of April 2018 to demolish the down-at-heels hotel and start building a 625-stall parkade and commercial or retail units on the site of the hotel and a small surface parking lot to the south.

Fortress bought both properties from the city's CentreVenture Development Corp. in 2015 for $4 million, on the condition work would start on the parkade by April 30, 2017.

CentreVenture CEO Angela Mathieson said while Fortress initially intended to build the parkade along with retail units, the firm then tried to lure a complex project that included office space to the site.

"When they were unsuccessful, they said 'We have to go back to the parkade project,'" Mathieson said. "In order to complete all the due diligence and to complete that project, they asked us for a one-year extension, which we reviewed.

"In the context of other things happening in the downtown, we thought that was a fine thing to ask."

As of 2015, CentreVenture had a total of $7.7 million invested in the St. Regis project, including the purchase of the hotel, legal and real estate fees and taxes. The province provided a $2.8-million grant for the purchase.

Fortress spokeswoman Natasha Alibhai said the request for the extension was made at the behest of its new partner, Edenshaw Developments of Mississauga, Ont.

Alibhai said Fortress spent two years trying to land the office project and is now going back to square one.

"Fortress moved focus to one of the original plans, which would be a mix of parking and ground-floor retail on the site. The team has begun working on this development plan and we anticipate the one-year extension will allow the time needed to get this project underway," she said via email.

Fortress also owns the surface parking lot farther down the block at Graham Avenue and Smith Street, where it plans to build a 388-unit, $200-million condo tower called SkyCity Centre.

Work on this project has yet to start. The initial excavation permit for the project expired last year.

The city has yet to issue new permits for excavation or construction, city spokeswoman Alissa Clark said last week via email.

Mathieson said the city and Fortress remain in talks about a $6.5-million economic incentive grant for SkyCity. Council's executive policy committee voted in January to give property officials and Fortress until May to amend the plan, which calls for the money to be doled out over 10 years once the tower is completed.

It replaces an expired downtown-housing development grant that would have provided the money in a lump sum the year the tower is finished.