Downtown Student Housing


Foundation changes its focus to downtown student housing
By: Murray McNeill
Winnipeg Free Press

The African Canadian Foundation (ACF) has embarked on a new strategy in its bid to build an $18-million cultural/recreation and housing complex in downtown Winnipeg.

The ACF and its partner — Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd. — have switched their focus to student housing after the University of Winnipeg expressed an interest in getting involved, Shelter president Arni Thorsteinson said Monday.

Thorsteinson said the partners had originally approached the U of W for advice because its Community Renewal Corp. (CRC) has been involved in other community-based housing projects. But the university said it might provide more than just advice if the focus was on student housing.
“What they’re saying is ‘We have a willingness and interest in getting involved,’ ” Thorsteinson said. “And that’s an added and favourable development.”

He said the original plan, unveiled last January, was to build market housing that would be open to everyone. But now it could be either all student housing or a mix of student and market housing.

A University of Winnipeg official said its role has yet to be determined.

“Certainly we are supportive of this group, or any other group, that is looking to provide affordable housing units for the downtown. Particularly if it’s for students,” said Jeremy Read, the university’s senior executive officer and adviser to the president.

Read said the university’s potential roles could be as an adviser or co-developer. It could also commit to leasing a block of suites in the four-storey, 100-unit complex, or CRC could help manage the building’s café and community kitchen, he said.

The African Cultural Centre would be built on the former Young Men’s Hebrew Association property at Hargrave Street and Cumberland Avenue, owned by Shelter.
ACF president Akim Kambamba said the foundation has raised $350,000. Its goal is to raise $2.33 million by the end of 2012 and to begin construction of Phase I — the cultural/recreation centre — in early 2013. Those dates are all a year later than originally announced.

Kambamba said the $2.33 million would cover the foundation’s one-third share of the cost of building the $7-million, 24,000-square-foot cultural/recreation centre. It’s hoping the three levels of government will contribute the other two-thirds.

The cost of the 32,000-square-foot housing/retail complex — it would have retail units on the ground floor and apartments above — is estimated at about $11 million.

The $350,000 raised so far includes a $200,000 pledge from the Winnipeg Foundation and $150,000 from members of the African-Canadian community. The foundation is about to embark on a new capital campaign to raise the rest of the $2.33 million from other corporations, foundations and individual donors.