Want to see the newest plan for an addition to our Exchange District National Heritage Site? Actually you probably don't. It is a 9 story office building at 129 McDermot with 3 floors of parking (176 cars) and 6 floors of office.
At 9 floors and 13' 9" from floor to floor, that works out to 124' tall. Are they thinking Alston will be successful with their proposed 124' building at 127 Bannatyne, and that will be the new height standard? Or are they just thinking that the City no longer abides by its own 100' limit bylaw for what the city calls the Waterfront Drive section of the Downtown Living Sector, a height limit that many other developers have abided by over the past 20+ years.
And what of the design? It would be a lovely office structure in Winnipeg's downtown. However, Winnipeg's zoning by-law states that design in the National Heritage Site should "reinforce the valued current built forms in the Exchange District. What do you think, is this respecting the past while building for the future?
Does this new design respect the character of its neighbour? Does it fit in?
There is no issue with another office building in the area, but where is the recognition that this is smack in the middle of a heritage district. It will be between the beautiful Parks Canada building (the Customs Examining Warehouse, 1908) and the condos on Waterfront, and partially opposite the Grain Exchange Building.
The Exchange District national Historic Site of Canada Commemorative Integrity Statement of January 10, 2001 is the document that created the heritage site. It was signed by the City of Winnipeg, the Province of Manitoba and the federal Parks Canada.
The document lists a number of objectives for new development in the Exchange District:
... vacant lots are used in a manner that respects continuous edge, scale, and density which form the collective character of the Exchange District;
new developments and activities in the Exchange District respect its historic and architectural values;
the design, setting, scale, massing, height, materials, and workmanship of new developments respect and are sensitive to the cultural resources and historic values of the Exchange District;
Maybe the City needs to create design criteria for the Exchange District that developers can see in advance and plan for. Much like developers do in new neighbourhoods, or like the City did when they developed Waterfront Drive. The Exchange District is in fact a national treasure, and we need to treat it as such.