'I was elated': Government receives positive feedback over investment in The Bay building

The building that was home to the flagship Hudson's Bay Company store in Downtown Winnipeg will be receiving some help from the provincial government.

As part of the 2021 budget from the Pallister government, a $25 million trust fund has been created to help in the redevelopment of the building.

The Bay shut its doors for good in November 2020.

The province said the money would be used to help preserve the historic elements of the building and it will be used pending development.

Cindy Tugwell, the executive director of Heritage Winnipeg, said this news was a surprise, but a good one.

"Initially I thought it was amazing. I was elated. I think this a huge step forward for the Bay building and built heritage in this city," said Tugwell.

She said she likes the plan of the trust as it guarantees the money will be available when it is needed and she said this shows "a great commitment" by the provincial government.

"The money the government will get back years later will be tenfold with the investment right now.

"It's a huge commitment right now, but we'll be happy years from now."

Kate Fenske, CEO of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, echoed a similar sentiment as Tugwell saying the announcement is great news.

"What it really does is it helps potential developers know what assistance might be on the table to make this project happen," said Fenske.

She said the building means so much to so many people and added it has such a large footprint in the downtown.

Fenske said there is no easy solution for the building, but she hopes when it is redeveloped, it provides a mixed-use for Winnipeggers.

"That's what we know works in a vibrant, urban centre, when there is a mix of residential and commercial, and education and social. When all of that can come together, that would be really beneficial, I think, for our downtown and the province."

Tugwell said it is extremely important such a building be preserved, noting people across Canada are watching what is done.

"We deserve this. It's a beautiful architectural building. It's part of our original history," said Tugwell.

The Bay was originally scheduled to close its doors in February 2021, but because of the pandemic, shut down in November. The exterior sign was later removed and the doors and windows are boarded up.

The store originally opened in 1926 and the city has created an advisory committee that will advise city council on what to do with the space next.