Wednesday, March 29, 2017

160 Osborne Street - Former Osborne Village Motor Inn

© 2019, Christian Cassidy,-97.1442076,3a,75y,62.79h,81.69t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sQBkXQKLsVp6CtjqdDwXx5A!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1
Former Osborne Village Motor Inn
Top: Google Street view 2009. Bottom: May 2018

Place: Former Osborne Village Motor Inn
Address: 160 Osborne Street (Map)
Opened: June 1965
Architects: Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna
Contractor: Kraft Construction Ltd.
Cost: $900,000

The early 1960s were the glory years for "motor-inn" development in Winnipeg.

Ever since people started traveling routinely by private automobile in the 1950s, motels became an increasingly popular choice of accommodation as they provided things that downtown hotels couldn't, such as free parking outside your door and air conditioned rooms with large windows.

In the 1960s came a hybrid of motels and hotels which in Winnipeg were usually referred to as motor-inns. They offered the conveniences of a motel with amenities that were once the domain of downtown hotels. This included fine restaurants, cocktail lounges, entertainment spaces and banquet / conference facilities.

Examples of this new breed of accommodation included the Viscount Gort Motor Hotel (1960), the Curtis Hotels of Curtis Gordon and Assiniboine Gordon (1960), the Carlton Motor Inn (1960), the Westminster Motor Hotel /Sherbrook Inn (1965) and the Dakota Motor Hotel (1965).

June 30, 1965, Winnipeg Tribune

The three-storey Osborne Village Motor Inn was also built in 1965. Its was financed by Oscar Grubert's Champs Foods International.

Champs had various restaurant interests in Manitoba but is likely best known as the rights holder for the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in parts of Canada. In fact, Manitobans of a certain age will remember KFC being referred to as "Champs Chicken" for over a decade.

The company wanted to expand its financial interests beyond the food industry and decided that a chain of upscale motor inns would become a key part of its long-term business plan.

Champs ad from June 30, 1965, Winnipeg Free Press

Architects Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna, (now Number Ten Architectural Group), designed the building which cost a reported $900,000 to build. It was constructed so that two additional floors could be added at a later date, but never were.

Its 32 spacious rooms featured air conditioning and custom built furniture. There was a conference room for 250 and a total of four restaurants and lounges, including the Cock and Bull, Winnipeg’s only charcoal pit steakhouse. The Rolls Royce Piano Lounge featured live entertainment nightly and the motel's Rolls Royce automobile was used in promotional material and as a "loaner car" for those who booked weddings at the hotel.

The maitre d'hotel was Derek Toms who used to manage the Grandome Hotel at Grand Beach.
Undated album recorded at Champs (Discogs)

The house entertainer in both the Cock and Bull and Rolls Royce Lounge for the first three years or so was Welsh pianist / singer Idris Evans, who even recorded a live album there. The Tribune's Gene Telpner said in a review that Evans was: "Doubly blessed with a  good singing voice plus a velvet touch on the keyboard."

After his run, Evans returned to England and toured as the pianist for Sarah Churchill, the songwriter / poet daughter of Sir Winston Churchill.

July 16, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

Champs decided after just a few years that the motor-inn business was not for them and announced in 1970 that they were selling up. There was no indication in newspaper reports that the motor-inn proved unprofitable.

The company instead renewed its commitment to its restaurant business and in the years to come would spawn chains like Grubee's and Mother Tuckers and well-received stand-alone restaurants like Pierre's and The Garden Creperie.
Top: As the Plaza Motor Inn (CardboardAmerica on Flickr)
Bottom: March 15, 1972, Winnipeg Tribune

The new owner of the motor-inn was National Promotions which was owned by the Kives family of K-Tel fame.

At the time they also owned the Westminster Motor Hotel, (now Sherbrook Inn) and the Viscount Gort Hotel. They rechristened the Osborne Street property the Plaza Motor Inn and named the chain K-Tel Motor Inns.

K-Tel did little in the way of renovations or changes to the hotel. The steak restaurant stayed as did the Rolls Royce Lounge. They did convert one of the spaces, likely  The Huntsman Lounge into The Studio, a basement beverage room and discotheque.

This was the era of the rock band beverage room in Winnipeg hotels and The Studio transformed into a showcase. Bryan Adams played there shortly before he got his big break.

K-tel's dream of a hotel chain didn't last much longer than Champs' did. In 1978, they sold off two of them, though retained the Viscount Gort which they expanded and continue to own today.

The next, and final, owners of the motel were the Green brothers, with Chuck Green as the front man. The Greens were no strangers to the bar business. Growing up, their father owned the Westbrook Hotel on Keewatin Street.

They purchased the Plaza from K-Tel in 1978, though it wouldn't be rechristened the Osborne Village Motor Inn" until 1980.

July 21, 2007, Winnipeg Free Press

It was under the Greens that the rock bar "The Zoo" became famous across the country as a must-play venue in the city.  In a 2007 Free Press story, David Sanderson sat down with Chuck and compiled a list of just some of the bands that played its stage, (above).

The basement lounge-turned-discotehque became Ozzy'z bar.

When Chuck died in 2011, his brothers Coleman and Dave Green took over the business. It was they who sold the building in August 2015.

Rumoured plans for the building included a  conversion into a boutique hotel or condominiums.

In late March 2017 it was announced by owners Fusion Capital Corporation that the building would be gutted and turned into "micro-suite" apartments for rent upstairs with reconfigured commercial spaces on the main floor. Work on gutting the building began and it was thought that parts of it cold reopen as early as the end of 2017.

That plan stalled and the building was sold to new owners, a Manitoba numbered company, in the summer of 2018.

Dec. 11, 2019 Appeals Committee agenda

The new proposal included the redevelopment of the entire site: demolishing the motor-inn in favour of a new six storey apartment tower, developing a commercial space on the former parking lot to the east on Wardlaw Avenue and building an underground parkade beneath the two.

The rezoning required ran into difficulty primarily due to the commercial space portion as Wardlaw Avenue is a residential street. The owners appealed to the city's appeals committee and their application was granted.


2019 Redevelopment
Councillors clear path for residential development Winnipeg Free Press
Appeals Committee agenda for Dec. 11, 2019 City of Winnipeg
Developer has big plans for Osborne Village Winnipeg Free Press

2017 Redevelopment
Osborne Village Inn to reopen with 'micro-apartments' CBC
Osborne Village developer envisions micro-apartments Metro
New plan for Osborne Village Inn Winnipeg Free Press

2015 Sale
Osborne Village hotel sold, future of space unknown CBC
Osborne Inn on the way out? Winnipeg Free Press

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