Merchants corner nears fundraising goal

North End education hub getting ready to open in 2017

The old Merchants Hotel awaits its transformation into Merchants Corner.

Supplied photo

The University of Winnipeg’s Merchants Corner project is more than halfway to reaching its fundraising goal after wrapping up 2015 with a successful event. 

The first snowfall of the season didn’t deter those who came out to support fundraising efforts of the community housing and education project at the Windsor Hotel on Nov. 19.

Jim Silver, the chair of the urban and inner city studies (UICS) department at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) and a leader of the project, was impressed by the turnout.

“The event was important also because people had a great time. The place was packed and we were able once again to raise awareness about the Merchants Corner project,” Silver says.

At the Windsor, the band Frenz played blues, jazz, and folk tunes. There was a silent auction, free pizza and a lively atmosphere, with some members of the audience joining the band on stage.

The Merchants Corner is expected to become an educational hub on Selkirk Avenue when it opens in 2017 and will house the UICS Department, the University of Manitoba Inner City campus, the offices of CEDA-Pathways to Education, the Urban Circle Training Centre, and the Aboriginal Education Directorate, and 30 units of student housing. Frontier College and the Winnipeg Public Library will also participate with other programs.

Silver says that architect Hijab Mitra of Mistecture is designing the multi-use space and Manitoba Green Retrofit has been involved in the gutting of the inside of the old Merchants Hotel, which is still ongoing. The builder’s contract also requires about 20 per cent of the hiring to be done locally, following the principles of social enterprises. 

The province has invested more than $15 million in the project and $3.7 million is being raised by the project’s organizers, the Merchants Corner Steering Committee – made up of various community-based organizations in the North End, as well as UICS.

Silver said that so far two of that $3 million target has been raised. Some major contributors include The Winnipeg Foundation, the Thomas Sill Foundation, the Burns Foundation, Great-West Life, Wawanesa Insurance, Michael Nesbitt, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, the Asper Foundation, the Assiniboine Credit Union, Bob Silver and an anonymous donor.

The Merchants Corner fundraising team includes Rhonda Lorch, Kathy Mallett, Diane Poulin, Jeff Palmer, Jim August, Martin Landy and Jim Silver.

Published in Volume 70, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 7, 2016)

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