City council votes against historical designation for Somerset Building

By | May 6, 2020

Winnipeg city council voted against designating heritage status for the 113-year-old Somerset Building on Portage Avenue.

The vote ran 10 to six in opposition to adding the north and west facades of the building to the city’s list of historical resources.

In a final plea on Wednesday in front of council, Canad Inn president Lea Ledohowski told councillors the COVID-19 pandemic has crushed the hospitality industry and she has been “solely focused on crisis management.”

“This is perhaps not the greatest use of time, focused on historic buildings… when we should be looking at economic recovery,” Ledohowski said.

Lea Ledohowski, with her father Leo, says the economic crisis has been devastating for the hospitality industry and this is “perhaps not the greatest use of time to be focused on historic building.” (Warren Kay/CBC )

Ledohowski and her father Leo repeatedly told councillors over the last few months that adding the Somerset Building to the city’s list of historical resources would jeopardize plans Canad Inns has for its downtown properties.

The building, Ledohowski said, has been altered or renovated more than 80 times and doesn’t have heritage characteristics anymore.

Waverley West councillor Janice Lukes agreed with that assertion.

“I don’t believe the building meets the criteria… the alterations alone have fundamentally changed the character and historic value of this building,” Lukes said.

Cindy Gilroy, who represents the Daniel Mclntyre ward, supported the designation saying it has been recommended by the public service and helps establish a legacy for Winnipeg.

“We need to be strong on this… it is a critical part of our city’s features,” Gilroy said. 

Property and planning chair Brian Mayes attempted a last minute plea to his colleagues to vote for the designation.

“We don’t vote for heritage status based on who owns the structure,” Mayes told city council. “It’s important to be consistent on this.”

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