Building a Community: Transforming Portage Place into a Vibrant and Connected Downtown Winnipeg Campus

A49, in partnership with True North Real Estate Development and PCL Construction, is thrilled to deliver the Portage Place Revitalization project, marking a monumental transformation of the original Portage Place shopping centre in downtown Winnipeg. This groundbreaking endeavor liberates the center from its outdated 1980s retail structure and ushers in a revitalized, inclusive, and vibrant mixed-use campus that will reshape the downtown landscape. Building on the success of projects like True North Square and the Wawanesa Headquarters, this collaboration represents the latest milestone in A49's ongoing partnership with industry leaders.

Undergoing an extensive modification, the redeveloped Portage Place will begin a new chapter as a diverse campus broadly programmed into 4 zones to include a comprehensive Healthcare Centre, a mixture of affordable and family housing, anchored by neighborhood services and public and urban greenspaces. With the view to a sustainable and adaptive re-use of much of the existing structure, the building will undergo a significant metamorphosis from an internalized mall structure to a more open, accessible, and outward-facing development with a mandate to serve and connect its community and allow the downtown communities to thrive once again.

As architects, we approach every project with the goal of creating spaces that are both beautiful and functional, and the Portage Place Revitalization project is no exception. Our design strategy is focused on creating a campus that would foster a sense of community and connection, with a mix of programmatic elements that would appeal to a broad range of users. We were also committed to sustainability, incorporating adaptive reuse and green building strategies into the design to minimize the project's environmental impact. The end result is a space that we believe will not only meet the needs of the community today, but will also help to shape the future of downtown Winnipeg for generations to come. Scott Stirton, President, Architecture49

Redevelopment plans are centred on the principles of neighborhood connectivity, accessibility, and community-mindedness. The existing building becomes a campus of connected buildings and supportive programmatic functions.

The new buildings will largely be defined by the re-opening and revisioning of the currently enclosed Edmonton court into an open and accessible pedestrian street, a new pedestrian plaza, and active green outdoor space. This de-densification of the existing homogenous superblock will redistribute the building mass to two anchor towers, creating a variety of densities and spaces that are scaled with sensitivity to their new uses and promoting inclusive livability, with more human-scaled and unique places interlinked by people, light, and landscape. The project densifies the west end of the site through the addition of a new housing tower with a blend of multi-family and affordable housing while the east end of the site is redeveloped vertically into a comprehensive Healthcare Centre for Excellence.

Portage Place Photo Strip

Central to the redevelopment is the adaptive reuse of the existing shopping centre core converted into a unique urban living room of indoor and outdoor spaces with more than 15 diverse programs covering a range of uses including public health and fitness facilities, local food eateries, community use spaces, artist co-op, existing entertainment venue, outdoor stage, and a mix of private and public rooftop gardens that allow people to orient themselves in the downtown.

The design of the Portage Place redevelopment is seen as a confluence of memories, perspectives, histories, and stories, that will collectively re-shape the urban barrier that was Portage Place into something new – an inclusive place that cultivates the resilience of communities by providing places for security, support, and renewal. In this way, a primary goal is to build community as much as it is to build a healthy and sustainable campus of mixed-use buildings. Michael Conway, Design Lead, Architecture49

From an urbanistic perspective, the project is based on the principle of creating a pedestrian-friendly and safe campus that will improve the social and economic vitality of downtown Winnipeg. The Portage Place Revitalization project represents a pivotal moment in the transformation of Portage Place, propelling it into a new era as a dynamic and inclusive mixed-use campus that will redefine the downtown landscape of Winnipeg.

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