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Hudson’s Bay donates flagship Winnipeg building to Manitoba First Nations organization

Hudson’s Bay is handing over its iconic downtown Winnipeg landmark building to an Indigenous organization, it announced Friday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is handing over its iconic downtown Winnipeg flagship building to an Indigenous organization, a move billed as an act of reconciliation that will include 289 affordable housing units.

HBC will donate its Winnipeg building, closed since November 2020, to the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), an Indigenous group that represents 34 First Nations in southern Manitoba. The SCO says it will convert the building to include 289 affordable housing units, as well as a health facility, daycare and cultural space. The organization will receive $65 million from the federal government and $35 million from the Province of Manitoba to help fund the project.

“Reconciliation isn’t just a word. It’s meant to take action, and this is an example of that action today,” SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said during a at a press conference in Winnipeg on Friday, alongside HBC Executive Chairman Richard Baker, Premier. Justin Trudeau, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson and other dignitaries.

“Up to 500 people will find shelter and opportunity here. It is a place for our elders, with meal service, on-site medical care and the incorporation of Western and traditional healing to create a well -be optimal… This is a place to honor and support First Nations people, our rich history and invite all who wish to come and learn together.”

The six-story, 60,000 square meter Winnipeg location is one of the original six buildings on Hudson’s Bay which opened in 1926. The building has undergone several rounds of renovations over the past decades and received heritage designation from Winnipeg City Council in 2019. But that year, an appraisal of the Hudson’s Bay real estate portfolio found the building to be worth $0.

“Since we closed the doors, and even before, locals have been asking about this flagship HBC location, wondering what we had planned for it,” Baker said.

“Today’s announcement is significant and I’m confident it will shape Winnipeg for decades to come…The main difference now is that the work being done here in this building will be First Nations led.” It will be a legacy-defining project, created by the community and for the community.”

The working title of the project is Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, or “it is visible”. The historic facade of the heritage building will be preserved, while the interior renovation will favor low-carbon materials as well as the reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The extensive renovation is expected to create jobs during the construction phase and significant long-term employment once completed.

Alicja Siekierska is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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