‘A large ask, it is concerning’: Learning why the Portage Place development deadline was missed

WINNIPEG — A deadline passed this week to seal the deal on the Portage Place development, putting it in jeopardy.

Now we’re learning more about why that deadline may have come and gone.

“The change in ask very late in the game is going to be very difficult,” said Liberal MP Dan Vandal.

A $400-million plan by Starlight Investments would see the mall transformed, including residential towers on each end plus a community hub.

But in order for the deal to be finalized, Starlight wants a big chunk of change from Ottawa. It is more than the original request.

“It is a large ask, it is concerning, I wish they were a little more upfront about the costs,” said Winnipeg Property and Development Chair Councillor Cindy Gilroy.

Starlight agreed to buy the mall, land and parkade for $70 million.

In return the city agreed to kick in $20 million of cash and subsidies. The province put $28.7 million in tax grants on the table.

Another $20 million was expected from the Feds.

Now Ottawa says Starlight wants $50 million and a $243 million loan.

“So the first I learned of it was about ten days ago for $50 million and the $240 million-dollar project which is going to make a difficult negotiation even more difficult,” said Vandal.

The taxpayers’ watchdog says the Feds should walk away from the deal even if that kills the project.

“This is not the right time to be giving big corporations buckets of taxpayers cash,” said CTF Prairie Director Todd MacKay.

Winnipeg’s property and development chair said the late request is frustrating, suggesting if something can’t be worked out with Starlight, other developers may be interested.

“There could be multiple developers looking at this property if there was all three governments coming together with some money,” said Gilroy.

Vandal says his government is still trying to salvage an agreement with Starlight.

“We are certainly not looking at other things other than Starlight now but listen we all know, we’ve been around long enough to know that when one door closes another one opens up,” said Vandal CTV News did not hear back from Starlight for comment.

Last month the company said a significant investment is needed in the property to make the redevelopment a reality. 

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