Council approves $6.5M grant to help build Winnipeg's tallest tower

SkyCity condo buyers to get their money back, as developer says tower is 'not currently viable' as planned

The Toronto-area firm hoping to build Winnipeg's tallest building has secured a $6.5-million city grant that replaces tax rebates no longer on the table because the developer missed a construction deadline.

City council voted Wednesday to offer Fortress Real Developments of Richmond Hill, Ont., an economic-incentive grant worth up to $650,000 a year for 10 years after the developer completes a downtown residential tower called SkyCity Centre.

Fortress purchased the former site of the Winnipeg Tribune — a surface parking lot on Graham Avenue — with the intention of building a $200-million, 44-storey tower. The project initially qualified for $14.5 million worth of city-provincial tax rebates that would be paid out as soon as the tower was finished. 

The catch was the building had to be complete by 2019. Fortress informed the city last year it could no longer meet that deadline.

As a result, city property officials proposed to offer the firm a grant also worth $6.5 million, but paid out over 10 years in instead of in a lump sum.

Fortress initially balked at the new grant, city property director John Kiernan said, but came on board after it secured a new development partner in Edenshaw Developments. The developer has yet to start construction.

While the council vote was not recorded, St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said afterward he did not support the grant. 

SkyCity also was eligible for $8 million worth of provincial property-tax rebates that evaporated after Fortress declared it could not meet the 2019 construction deadline.

The province has made no indication it is prepared to offer a replacement grant of its own.