Heritage Makeover Emerges in Downtown

 
 

Heritage makeover starts to emerge in downtown
Union Bank Tower’s annex to be unveiled
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Murray McNeill
April 25, 2011

PRAIRIE ARCHITECTS An artist’s rendering of the revamped Union Bank Tower.
The wraps will soon be coming off a key element in the $27-million makeover of one of the city’s premier heritage buildings — Main Street’s 106-year-old Union Bank Tower.

The plywood hoarding around the building’s redesigned two-storey south annex should be coming down in the next two to three weeks, the lead architect for the project said Thursday.
Dudley Thompson, principal architect for Prairie Architects Inc., said sections of the exterior brick wall have been removed and will be replaced with huge glass inserts to allow natural light to flood the area.

Although the annex redevelopment work is still far from complete, Thompson said the former retail banking space is being converted into a casual restaurant/student common area.
“It (the annex) is a delightful space. It’s going to be pretty spectacular.”

Thompson said it will be another year-and-a-half — the fall of 2012 — before the entire heritage-restoration and construction project is finished.

When it’s done, the 10-storey office tower, the south annex and a new annex being built on the west side, will be the new home for Red River College’s hospitality and culinary programs, 105 student residences, and three restaurants — two with outdoor patios.

The annexes will add 40,000 square feet to the original 50,000-square-foot tower, which was the tallest skyscraper in Canada when it was built in 1903-04.
Thompson gave his project update on the final day of a two-day Better Buildings Conference in Winnipeg. He said this is by far the most complex heritage-restoration project he has worked on.

He said because it is one of only two Grade 1 heritage buildings in the city, there were severe restrictions on the types of structural changes they could make to the building.
As well, it was city’s first steel structure — most other heritage buildings are masonry construction — it’s a highrise, and it’s being redeveloped to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standards.

“It (achieving LEED Gold certification) is an extremely onerous thing to do,” he said, particularly when the building has no insulation whatsoever.

About 300 people attended the 10th annual Better Buildings Conference & Exhibition, which was organized by the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Manitoba Chapter of the Green Building Council, Building Energy Management Manitoba, and the Manitoba Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca