The Bell Block at 370 Donald began life as a warehouse in 1905. But as of this spring, it will be reopening with a new life as a loft apartment building.
“There was tremendous potential there, as I think anyone who admires the Exchange District can see,” says Daniel Melendez, Vice President of Your Next Place. “We wanted to respect that fact that is was a warehouse, so we have some exposed ductwork and beams, and exposed the brick walls. It’s those kinds of finishes we’re proud of, that respect the buildings heritage. People in Winnipeg are sophisticated – more sophisticated than we maybe give ourselves credit for.”
Melendez believes that because of sites like Pinterest, travel and all the popular media around home décor and renovations, people have a better understanding of the design potential for homes, and their expectations have risen as a result. “So the onus is on us as developers to pick that up and say OK, I’m in the business of giving you what you want,” says Melendez.
And based on the reactions from visitors to 370 Donald, Melendez is confident that’s the kind of aspirational space they’ve created with their renovation. While they’ve kept touches like beams and brick intact, they’ve also built in sleek and modern kitchens and bathrooms, added in an elevator and storage space for tenants’ bikes, and are installing a small gym in the building. Square footage is small, but feels larger thanks to an open loft concept, 7.5 foot high windows and ceilings that soar up from 9 to 12 feet high.
The choice to make the building’s units rentals was a very deliberate one for the company. “I think there’s a ton of will for this kind of space,” says Melendez. “I don’t think there are a ton of people who are in their early twenties who wouldn’t want to live in this district – but they don’t want to have to buy. There`s a place for condos, but there needs to be diversity, and giving people the opportunity to experience downtown without buying. And if the trickle down is that they love downtown and eventually want more space, they’ll grow into one of the condos.”
Melendez says their company is trying create to a sense of community in their building, and connect with the community in downtown Winnipeg as a whole. “Our first tenant is a cook at a local restaurant downtown – we want people to live and work downtown. We want to have local people, who work at the 201 Portage building, the Richardson building, who work downtown and want to live downtown. That’s the whole philosophy.”