A local developer is frustrated that after a years-long struggle to build a $75-million high-rise downtown, the City of Winnipeg now plans to open a dog park next door.
Rubin Spletzer, CEO of Crystal Developers Ltd., calls the city’s decision to open an off-leash pooch park beside Heritage Landing “insane," citing a list of concerns from traffic congestion to a loss of property values.
“How would you like to have a $70-million building and you put a dog park beside it, right there. I don’t think you would enjoy that. Neither do we," Spletzer told Metro during a recent interview at his 25-storey apartment complex at 300 Assiniboine Ave.
“If they’re going to place it the way they designed it right it next to me, my whole building is going to lose about 10 per cent on value, which is around $7 million.”
“I will fight the city that the taxes have to then be reduced accordingly."
More specifically, he said a lot of design work went into ensuring the façade of the building overlooking Bonnycastle Park— where 0.15 hectares of land will be turned into an off-leash dog area— met the city’s requirements
He calls it “annoying” that tenants looking outside a large window in the lobby and entertainment room will now see dogs running around.
Spletzer's concerns have resulted in delays to the dog park opening, according to Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, who chairs the committee on protection, community services and parks.
“The city was wanting to hear what the concerns were and to see if we could allay some of those concerns,” Pagtakhan said.
Last July, Mayor Brian Bowman— who campaigned on a promise to open an off-leash dog park downtown— announced that Bonnycastle Park had been picked as the future location of the off-leash area after an online survey where 1,800 people responded.
At the announcement, the city said construction on park amenities — like new fences, waste bins and lighting — was supposed to start at the end of the September or beginning of October and last up to four weeks.
Then last October, municipal communications manager David Driedger told Metro that after talking with different stakeholders, “it was determined that some design revisions had to be made and as a result we've run into some delays.”
Pagtakhan says Bonnycastle Park maintains the city’s preferred location for the downtown off-leash dog site.
He said the city's chief administrative officer, Doug McNeil, is still working to resolve the issue, but couldn't specifically say how.
The next step is for the city's urban design advisory committee to review the design of the park and recommend any changes, Pagtakhan said.
His goal is to now see the park open by late summer or early fall.
Spletzer, meanwhile, has little hope the city will make design changes that solve his concerns.
“There’s a lot of tenants that already said if the city puts up that dog park in here, we’re moving out,” he said, adding that since the apartment complex opened last month, there are 26 tenants in the building’s 234 spaces.
Despite an open house and online survey about where a downtown dog park should go, Spletzer--who also owns 90 Garry Street-- says the city didn’t properly consult with neighbours of the park, many of whom are seniors.
He also questions the suitability of the location since seven of the high-rise buildings in the area do not allow pets.
“Now I know, dogs need a place to run around. And I know the mayor has promised somewhere, but why choose the most attractive park and destroy it for a dog park?”
Some of his concerns pre-date the dog park plan, and involve an overall frustration with the city over what he characterizes as an uphill battle to get the high-rise built in the first place.
In 2008, the company got the go-ahead from the city to build a 15-storey apartment complex near Upper Fort Garry, but the project was met with public backlash over concerns the site’s history would be destroyed.
Spletzer says they eventually agreed to a deal involving former mayor Sam Katz to purchase land in the Broadway-Assiniboine area and build the high-rise there instead.
He says issues arose after discovering Manitoba Hydro lines buried underneath the land which equalled a costly removal and more delays.
“Now they’re putting a...dog park beside it.”
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