News / Winnipeg

Osborne Village redevelopment plans draw ire from community

The historic motel that's been famed as a live music venue since 1965 is getting revamped as a mixed-use apartment and commercial space, to open next spring.

A design of the Osborne Village Motor Inn, which is set to house micro-apartments and commercial space.

CONTRIBUTED/CUSHMAN & WAKEFIELD WINNIPEG

A design of the Osborne Village Motor Inn, which is set to house micro-apartments and commercial space.

News of plans to turn the Osborne Village Motor Inn into micro-apartments spurred social media backlash on Monday.

The mixed-use plans being considered would see commercial space on the main and basement floors, with micro-apartments available on the upper levels starting next spring, said Ken Yee, senior vice-president with Cushman Wakefield Winnipeg.

The suites would range in size from 275 to 450 square feet with rents spanning $975 to $1,400, Yee said.

"I wouldn't ever pay these prices for such a tiny place,” one reader commented. “But that's me, I'm sure someone will."

"OMG!!!!!!! Let's pay WAY too much money for tiny apartments next to a fire hall! This is what everybody will want!" said another reader.

"This idea gave me cancer," a third person wrote.

Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said the compact living arrangements being proposed are already popular in other cities, but have rarely been tested here.

"The market ends up dictating whether or not it works in Winnipeg," he said. "(After) the immediate reaction (by readers), maybe the developers are scratching their heads and thinking, 'Do we need to workshop this a bit more?'"

Distasio said Osborne Village residents are traditionally protective of their neighbourhood.

"Anytime something happens in the Village there is an immediate mobilization of scrutiny," he said. "This is a pretty visible location so I think people were hoping for a signature something."

Local historian Christian Cassidy has been researching the history of the Osborne Village Motor Inn.

Built in 1965 by Champs Food International—the Canadian franchise owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken—the inn was built during a "peak time" for motels in Winnipeg, he said. It was the same year the Sherbrook Inn and the Dakota Motor Hotel were built.

The Osborne inn had 32 rooms, air-conditioning, a conference room for 250 people and four restaurants and lounges when it opened.

In 1970, Champs opted out of the motel industry to focus on fast food. They sold the inn to National Promotions—part of the K-Tel company—who renamed it the Plaza Motor Inn.

The Green family bought the motel next in 1978, rechristened it the Osborne Village Motor Inn, and held onto it until the building’s closure in 2015.

Cassidy hopes the building’s history is somewhat preserved by the new developers. Although they don’t have any plans to bring in a new music venue, the arts have long clung to the spirit of the space.

"Right from day one, from the original Rolls Royce Piano Lounge up to Ozzy’s, there was always a big entertainment component to it," said Cassidy, who hopes the exterior of the building will remain, though the interior is being gutted.

"The building itself, I think, stood the test of time," he said. "I don’t know if they’ll decide to paint the brown brick white or put shiny baubles hanging from it or something. I don’t think they could really improve on the building. It’s a very smart, urban motel."

Distasio said he approves of the current plans for the inn’s next steps.

"My view is in the Village right now you can still rent a rooming house for a few hundred dollars or you could buy a condo for several million," he said. "And the more options that we have, it just continues to contribute to the great diversity that is the Village."

A brief history of Osborne Village outcry: 

Osborne Village has seen a series of citizen uproars over city planning issues, including (but not limited to) these three incidents.

2004 — A proposal to replace the Gas Station Arts Centre with a Giant Tiger store drew ire and was shot down.

2005 — The Safeway opening on River Ave. came after years of neighbours voicing concerns about surface parking swallowing Village space. Plans for a Safeway gas bar were scrapped.

2011 — Expansion plans for the Shoppers Drug Mart on Osborne St. ousted beloved Vietnamese restaurant Vi-Ann from its former location.

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