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Sunday, 29 April 2018

Merchants Corner Opens

On Saturday, April 29, 2018 Merchants Corner was officially opened.

The building was constructed in 1913 for the Steiman family. The first two floors contained the family's hardware store and the upper storey was Steiman Hall, a community hub for Winnipeg's newcomer Jewish and Ukrainian communities.

During the Depression, Steiman turned it into the Merchants Hotel. (Read more about the history of the building here.)

Fast forward a few decades and "The Merch" had a notorious reputation as home to gang activity and violence and was considered by most to be a blight on the neighbourhood.

After the brutal murder of one of its patrons in 2011, the province stepped in and tasked the U of W Community Renewal Corporation to put together a community coalition and study the possibility of redeveloping the site.

It concluded that something could be done and the hotel was purchased and shut down later that year.

The development had two main phases.

First, was the development of a three-storey community housing complex on the hotel's parking lot on Pritchard Avenue. Merchants Corner Housing opened in February with rent-geared-to-income suites aimed primarily at students attending educational institutions along Selkirk Avenue.

The second phase was the redevelopment of the hotel and construction of a new extension to the west.

The main floor of the complex is home to the U of W's Urban and Inner City Studies program, with administrative offices and classrooms space. The second story houses a tenant, Community Education Development Association (CEDA), which works with many of the participants in the program and the surrounding community. The top storey contains student housing.


Having toured the building before, during and after renovations, I can say that the transformation has been incredible.

The Merchants Hotel has come full circle back to its Steiman Hall days as a place dedicated to nurturing and improving the lives of those living in the surrounding community.

Congratulations to the coalition of partners who worked to make this vision a reality.

Also, kudos to project architects Mistecture Architecture and Interiors. They managed to turn a dilapidated SRO hotel into a 21st century educational facility without having to mess with the exterior of the Steiman Block.

All of its enormous windows are still there, flooding classrooms, offices and housing units with light. The original cornice and decorative metal and stone trim, often the first things to go in a major renovation, have been fixed up and kept intact.

In fact, it is interesting to see how little the building's exterior has changed in the past 105 years!

- The press release for today's opening.
- For more photos before, during and after renovations, see my Flickr album.
- For a full history of the building.

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