Saturday, August 22, 2009

Downtown Places: 238 - 240 Portage Avenue

Dreman Building Dreman Building Parkade

Place:
238-240 Portage Avenue (former Dreman Place)

Address: 238 - 240 Portage Ave (Map)
Opened: 1963

Background:

Dominion Post Office (left)

This was the site of Winnipeg's main post office from 1908 to 1958. It's actually an L shaped lot as the post office proper faced Portage and the annex, built in 1928, faced Garry Street.

When the post office vacated in 1958 the fate of the original building was debated. A number of civic projects ranging from a downtown library to cultural space were floated but, in the end, a consortium of buyers headed up by grain trader I. J. Dreman purchased the land from the feds for $221,000.

Architect's drawing, June 4, 1962 Winnipeg Free Press

In 1962 council gave the go-ahead for demolition and the construction of a six building that contained retail, office and parking. A unique feature was the extensive basement level - of the 56,000 sqare feet of office and retail space, 31,000 of it was underground.


August 8, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press

It was billed as the first "automobile age" building in Winnipeg. A modern office building with central air conditioning and built-in covered parking. On the hottest or coldest of days you were only steps away from car to door.

The original tenants were mostly financial: Mercantile Bank, National Trust, Royal Bank. Over the decades as more modern office towers were built at Portage and Main these 'natural tenants' began to leave. By the late 1990's the building was virtually empty. The only tenant was Peace Hills Trust.

WFP November 14, 1963

Jospeh Dreman still owned the building until his death in July 2000 at the age of 90. Considered an icon of the Winnipeg grain trade, the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange ceased trading to observe a minute of silence in honour of him. Sherrill Hershberg, Dreman's daughter and a social worker by trade, took over the building.

Hershberg said she wanted to make that section of Portage Avenue 'funky' and pedestrian friendly. Hartford invested $400,000 and aside from existing tenant Peace Hills Trust, attracted new ones like Soup Pierre, Second Cup and Clark Huot. It was used as a Fringe Festival venue and even hosted a downtown run of Shakespeare in the Park on the top level of the parkade.
For her work Hershberg won a Manitoba Women Entrepreneur Award in 2005.

In May 2002 the structure was also given a name: I. J. Dreman Place

Since that time, Royal Canadian Properties has taken over ownership. The 'I. J. Dreman Place' is gone, replaced by 238 - 240 Portage Avenue. In Fall of 2009 that massive underground space will feature parking spaces.

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  1. It's a shame they tore it down. What a beautiful building.

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