A downtown office building designed by one of the most prominent architecture firms in Winnipeg’s history is up for sale.
Located at 222 Osborne St. N., the former headquarters of Green Blankstein Russell and Associates — which designed dozens of buildings in Winnipeg, including the current city hall, the former Winnipeg International Airport, the Manitoba Museum and Planetarium, the Wildwood Park housing development and the Centennial Concert Hall — is listed for $2.4 million.
The building on Osborne, designed by the firm, was built in 1951, and many of their more prominent designs originated within its mid-century modern style offices, which the firm would occupy until 1983.
In the nearly 40 years since, the free-standing, two-storey building has been occupied by a number of private businesses, including currently a law firm, a home-care business and an immigration specialist. It’s undergone significant renovations, says Capital Group senior director of sales and leasing Bob Antymniuk, and is available for purchase and has space for lease.
“The present owner has done a marvellous job,” Antymniuk said, adding that it could be a great fit for tenants in a variety of fields looking for downtown office space. “The outside obviously has great curb appeal, and the inside matches it.”
(The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation feels subsequent owners didn’t do the building any favours. “Unfortunately, new owners have modified the original aesthetic of the 222 Osborne Street building through a series of renovations, both internally and externally,” reads the foundation’s summary of the building on its website.)
As it was originally built, the office emphasized natural light in all areas, the foundation notes, and was an early example of “steel and curtain” wall structure in the city. It featured a modular framework of nine units “almost forming a cube,” with a central module removed; in its stead stood an elm tree, planted to mark the opening of the building.
The building has two 4,500 square-foot spaces and one 1,500 square-foot space available to lease at a rate of $14 per-square-foot. Located in close proximity to sites such as the legislative building and the Law Courts, Antymniuk said there’s been significant interest in leasing, more so than purchasing to this point; the property fits modern needs, has good amenities like kitchens on each storey, Antymniuk says, and he said there is flexibility for interested parties.
It’s definitely an interesting moment to be in the market for office space. According to Statistics Canada, as of late February, less than one quarter of Canadians with a job or business reported that they worked exclusively from home, with hybrid work plans up 0.9 percentage points over the previous month. That means that even as companies beckon employees back to their office, workers continue to exercise their ability to do the same work from home.
To Antymniuk, the fact there’s been interest in leasing indicates there’s still considerable value being placed by employers on sharing a workspace rather than working in separate locations.
The national first-quarter report from real estate firm Colliers, released in March, said that in Winnipeg, downtown office vacancy was at 14.5 per cent, a decrease as compared to the end of 2021. Meanwhile, asking net rent fees per square-foot downtown were up from just under $15 at the end of last year to $15.79; the average suburban figure was $16.49.
“With COVID restrictions easing,” the Colliers report noted, “businesses continue to prioritize their spatial requirement decisions that have been on pause through the pandemic. While the formalizing back-to-work policies are evolving, on what scale and with what frequency remains to be seen.” The report notes that in the city there has been an uptick in leasing activity, with “realistic” commitments from both the private and public sector beginning to materialize.
Many companies downtown, including some of the largest employers, are still favouring flexible work plans, which may see an uptick in interest with the potential arrival of another wave of COVID-19 infections in the province.