Representatives from Red River College joined a host of North End advocates and community organizations in celebrating a newly-announced housing and retail development on Selkirk Avenue yesterday morning.
Following news the notorious Merchants Hotel is now being managed by a coalition comprised of 20 government and community agencies, RRC President Stephanie Forsyth commended those involved on their collaborative vision of renewal and revitalization.
“This is what Red River College is all about — meshing the needs of the community with the community’s educational goals, so that we can move forward,” said Forsyth. “That constant renewal is so critical to initiatives like the one announced today.”
At yesterday’s event, Premier Greg Selinger announced the Merchants Hotel and four adjacent lots will be redeveloped into a mixed-use building containing family housing, education and commercial space. The hotel itself is now the property of the province, who’ll be working on development plans alongside those groups making up the coalition, among them the North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC), Urban Circle Training Centre, Selkirk Avenue BIZ, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies, SEED Winnipeg, and Red River College.
In making the announcement, Selinger referred to the Merchants Hotel as a “blight” on both Selkirk Avenue and the North End, promising its redevelopment will serve as a symbol of the community’s ability to overcome adversity.
“It’s long overdue,” said Selinger, noting North End advocates have for years complained the Merchants is too close to schools, stores and community agencies.
“Everyone thought (the Hotel) brought the neighbourhood down, but with it gone, we can now bring the neighbourhood back up together.”
As part of her remarks, Forsyth also promised that RRC will play an integral role in providing trades training to area residents, in the hopes they can find employment working on construction projects at the Merchants site and elsewhere in the community.
“New tradespeople are going to be needed to renovate and renew the Merchants Hotel,” said Forsyth. “We’re really supportive of that vision for the community — to have local people building the skills they need to rebuild and continually move their community forward.”
Red River College has maintained a presence on Selkirk Avenue for more than a decade, delivering its Early Childhood Diploma and Family Support Worker/FASD Certificate programs in conjunction with the Urban Circle Training Centre, partnering with Ndinawe to provide its Child and youth Care training to previously street-involved students, and launching its first demonstration childcare centre at the newly-opened Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre in partnership with Urban Circle and the University of Manitoba’s Inner-city Campus.