So/Po – it’s a new abbreviation that Longboat Development Corporation and Artis REIT hope will catch on in Winnipeg. It stands for South Portage, an area that may soon be home to new development So/Po Square, a mixed- use development they have partnered on that will fill the block at Graham and Donald, currently home to a large surface parking lot owned by MPI.

While plans are still in the feasibility study stage, the vision for the space is starting to emerge. In the initial plans, three mid-size towers flank an open air plaza. The plaza faces Graham Avenue and is open at the back, encouraging pedestrian traffic to flow through between major downtown destinations like the MTS Centre and Winnipeg Convention Centre. The plaza space could be used for programming and events like concerts from spring to fall, and includes large outdoor screens that could air Jets games for overflow crowds not lucky enough to get tickets.

As a mixed-use development, ground level of the towers is envisioned as home to retail, restaurants and patios facing the plaza. Two would be designed for office space and a third for a multi- story parkade with potential for a hotel.

That multi-use plan is part of Longboat and Artis REIT’s commitment to fitting their development with the needs of the area and plans for other developments in the area.
“It has to be in keeping with not just what MPI is looking for, but with the city of Winnipeg and the planning department sees, in line with what the SHED (Sports Hospitality Entertainment District) sees, all of those partners – we’re looking very closely at all of that and paying attention to what else is going on,” says Scott Stephanson, President of Longboat Development Corporation. “There are lots of tremendous urban planning perspectives to draw on from other cities. We see the SHED district as something that will have a little more consistency, rather than just ad hoc development. Something where the whole vision is cohesive, where you walk downtown and realize that you’re in the SHED district and see a real renewal of use.”

Stephanson looks forward to a future of more and more developers joining them in the downtown soon. “We’re here to support the downtown and we’re pleased that other players are coming to the table. With these projects maybe it’s been our turn, and at some point soon we’ll see it be someone else’s.

(Source: Downtown Winnipeg Magazine, Summer 2013)