Friday, May 29, 2009

266 Graham Avenue - Dominion Post Office / Public Safety Building II

Canada Post
Project: Dominion Post Office / Public Safety Building II
Address: 266 Graham Avenue (Map)
Size: 826,389 sq ft
Architect: Blankstein, Russell and Associates
Opened: June 6, 1958 (as Post Office); July 6, 2016 (as PSB)

Dominion Post Office, Portage Ave. 1908 -1958 (source)

Winnipeg had outgrown the ca. 1908 Dominion Post Office building on Portage Avenue at Garry Street. In 1949, the federal government bought three large parcels of land off of Graham Avenue for a combination post office / government office tower.

Architects Blankstein, Russell and Associates were awarded the contract for its design. While the plans were being drawn up and the expropriation of the 18 remaining pieces of land on the block, mostly homes, was underway, the federal government put a moratorium on new public construction.

The government found itself competing with a backlog of post-war private construction porjects, everything from housing to new
factories to replace those worn out from working over-capacity during the war. By taking public projects out of the picture, it lessened the competition for still scarce materials like steel, wiring and pipes.

The design phase for the building was completed in 1953.

826,389 square foot structure took up an entire city block and consisted of two conjoined buildings. The shorter of the two was the mail sorting plant. The ten-storey tower would house the city's main post office on the main floor and a variety of government offices on the upper floors.

The building was constructed so that three additional storeys could be added, but they never were.

In September 1953, the building permit for the excavation and foundation work was issued to
Claydon Company. The permit for the construction of the building was issued on May 19, 1955 to the Foundation Company. The long delay between permits was due to the size of the building - the city needed that long to examine the construction plans to ensure that they met code. At $9,500,000 it was the largest permit ever issued in the city.

In May 1956, Mathews Conveyor of Port Hope ON awarded $1.5m contract for mail handling equipment.

Opening day (Tribune Archives)

Tenants began moving into the building in summer 1957. The RCAF recruiting office and Civil Service Commission were among the first to settle in. The post office itself moved throughout the Spring of 1958 and was operational by June 2.

The final price tag for the building was $11.5 million or about $850,000 more than expected.

ceremonial opening took place on Friday June 6, 1958 and was a mix of old and new.

Postmaster General of Canada
William Hamilton and Winnipeg Postmaster George Foord left Ross House, Winnipeg's first post office, in a 120 year-old former Wells Cargo coach owned by the Free Press. The Minister of Trade departed the airport by RCAF helicopter, landing on the helipad on the roof of the building. Both groups met at the front doors for the ribbon cutting.

The tower underwent major renovations between 1980 and 1985. This included replacing the original Tyndall stone facade with metal panelling. The post office hall shrank in size as Canada Post began contracting out some of its retail operations.

Winnipeg Post Office

In February 2008 Canada Post announced it had selected the Winnipeg airport as the site for their new, $50 million mail processing plant.

Around the same time, the City of Winnipeg was looking to retire the
Public Safety Building on Princess Street. It began negotiations negotiations with Canada Post and acquired the building for $30 million dollars.

"A downtown location would allow us to increase our visible presence on the streets and in covered walkways and add to our ability to build relationships with merchants, workers and visitors to the downtown," Winnipeg Police Chief
Keith McCaskell told CBC at the time.

It is expected to cost $105 million to renovate the building. Most police operations will be housed in the mail sorting plant, while a number of floors in the business tower will be leased out as an annual source of income to offset the costs.

Update 2019:

On July 6, 2016, the old PSB closed and the new one opened. The new building was years behind schedule, with more renovations still needed, and in the end costs had ballooned to about $216 million.

There were allegations of shady contracts and land deals, though no charges were laid by the RCMP. In January 2020, the city launched a lawsuit against several businesses claiming that their improper actions inflated the cost of construction.

Related Media:
What we still don't know about Winnipeg's Police HQ CBC (Dec 2019)
Police HQ price hits $193m Free Press (Jul 2012)
Renovation Costs Soar Free Press (Jul 2011)
City Gets Keys to Future Police Bldg Free Press (Dec 09)
City Staff Recommend Purchase City of Winnipeg (Nov 2009)
New Police Station Moves a Step Closer Free Press (Nov 2009)
Police Eye Canada Post Digs Free Press (Mar 2009)
Chief Wants Police Station in Downtown CBC (Dec 2008)

1 comment:

  1. Are there any photos of the post office building when it was on the west side of Main Street somewhere between Assniniboine and York Avenues, 1883 to 1886? I read that this building is still standing??