Feds earmark $31M to Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahhogn redevelopment project

Money will support building repairs, environmental upgrades and workforce development.

The Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) received a $31 million funding boost from the federal government to support the redevelopment of the Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahhogn project.

Affordable housing units, a childcare centre and a museum are among the spaces slated to open in the former downtown Winnipeg Hudson’s Bay Company building. SCO, which represents 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations spanning over 87,000 members, is leading the redevelopment of the building, which it acquired in 2022.

“We know that cities are judged by downtowns, and we know that downtown housing is absolutely critical to a safer, more vibrant Winnipeg. We also know that Winnipeg is Canada’s most vital city when we talk about reconciliation,” Minister Dan Vandal, responsible for PrairiesCan, said.

Most of the money, $25 million, is coming from Infrastructure Canada to support building repairs and upgrades. The remaining $6 million from PrairiesCan will support the creation of Miikahnah Connect, a First Nations workforce recruitment app.

The team hopes to hire more than 400 people to work on the project through the app.

SCO said approximately 8,000 hours of work on the project has already been completed by a 90 per cent First Nations workforce.

Manitoba’s Minister of Housing, Addictions and Homelessness, Bernadette Smith, said the province will dedicate up to $10 million for the social housing component of the project in addition to their $25 million Bay Building Fund.

“This continuum of care that we’ve been talking about, getting people from encampments into homes, into employment and into even imagining their own home–this is what I see this place being,” Smith said.

SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said the project is expanding affordable housing to 358 units, up from the estimated 200 units previously planned.

“We added an entire floor of units here, so there’s going to be more housing here than there was initially,” Daniels said during the question period.

The project will also develop services like childcare and subsidized food costs for residents to access. Across the street from Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahhogn, SCO is working with True North Real Estate Development to build a 15-storey tower that will host health care facilities and housing.

While the timeline isn’t set in stone, Daniels said they hope to host a soft opening on the former Bay building’s 100th birthday in 2026.

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