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True North Real Estate Development and Southern Chiefs’ Organization form partnership to bring new synergies to Portage Place and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn redevelopments

December 12, 2023

True North Real Estate Development and Southern Chiefs’ Organization form partnership to bring new synergies to Portage Place and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn redevelopments


WINNIPEG, Dec. 12, 2023 – True North Real Estate Development Limited (TNRED) and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) today entered into a memorandum of understanding that will see new collaboration on the Portage Place redevelopment and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn projects. With both initiatives significant catalysts for the social and economic revitalization of downtown Winnipeg, TNRED and SCO bring a shared focus on key downtown priorities including multi-family and affordable housing, healthcare, food security, and community spaces, along with the principles of reconciliation, inclusion, and building thriving communities.

The Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn project, which will redevelop the downtown HBC Building, will be a place where economic and social opportunity are created, and First Nations heritage is celebrated. The Portage Place redevelopment will complement this revitalization with a mandate to serve and reconnect north and south downtown Winnipeg neighbourhoods with public greenspaces, essential and community services, culture and arts, affordable housing, and a healthcare centre of excellence.

“Our collective vision for both the Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn and Portage Place developments weaves together the many layers we believe are necessary for a successful downtown transformation,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “Our innovative partnership demonstrates the benefit of respectful and collaborative dialogue to improve the urban health of downtown Winnipeg, creating a catalyst for others to follow from their respective communities and organizations at the local, provincial, and national level.”

“As we have explored the avenues for social and economic opportunity through the Portage Place redevelopment, we have become increasingly more cognizant of the synergies with Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn,” said TNRED President Jim Ludlow. “Together, we will bring forward thinking solutions to our collective pursuit of market and affordable housing, healthcare, Indigenous relations and reconciliation, and downtown revitalization to realize exponential social and economic benefit.”

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Together, Portage Place and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn account for almost two million square feet of downtown Winnipeg development. With broader campus-like community thinking, TNRED and SCO are committed to evolving the downtown social and economic narrative by creating meaningful and impactful public spaces responsive to the needs of Winnipeg’s downtown community and the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

The memorandum of understanding between TNRED and SCO is rooted in five key concepts:

  • Downtown campus: First Nations and reconciliation
  • City building: A Bridge Between Communities
  • Housing initiatives: Multi-family development and co-investment
  • Development and project management
  • Education and training

Leveraging the strengths and influence of each other, the memorandum of understanding between TNRED and SCO will provide a model for a new and innovative partnership among four levels of government and private enterprise, showcasing Manitoba-made solutions to our local urban challenges and bringing both projects, downtown Winnipeg, and the guiding principles of inclusion and reconciliation to the national forefront.

“Strong downtowns are the heart of strong economies across Canada,” said The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan. “The partnership between True North Real Estate Development and Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents the rich history and the future of downtown Winnipeg. It’s central to what makes our city special, and is reconciliation in action. Our government looks forward to working towards the collective vision of this partnership.”

“This is an exciting step forward for Winnipeg’s downtown, which is Manitoba’s downtown,” said The Honourable Wab Kinew, Premier of Manitoba. “I’m confident this partnership will drive important development projects forward and lead to great things in the future. This is economic reconciliation in action—by working together we can create a downtown that is safe, vibrant and a welcome place for all Manitobans.”

“The collaboration between True North Real Estate Development, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and various levels of government is a game-changer for downtown Winnipeg,” said Mayor Scott Gillingham. “This work has the potential to go beyond just building structures – it’s about creating a welcoming community, expanding training capacity, and addressing economic reconciliation. This is set to be one of the most impactful projects in our downtown’s history.”

TNRED and SCO are exploring joint programming, investment, and ownership opportunities to fast-track market and affordable housing development at Portage Place. Targetting more than 200 housing units, the multi-family offering would be significant and will have a substantial focus on offering affordable and accessible units.

TNRED and SCO intend to collaborate on the creation of entities in development, project management, and construction to assist in the delivery of the redevelopment. This will ensure knowledge sharing, mentorship, and training with a focus on First Nations participation in these areas, removing barriers and leading to increased inclusion and leadership opportunities for First Nations people.

Similarly, TNRED and SCO will ensure a focus on construction and skilled trades internships and on-the-job training, establishing working groups in partnership with Manitoba’s post-secondary institutions to help recruit students and deliver complementary training programs with measurable goals for skills advancement, prioritizing First Nations inclusion in advanced educational and skills training, and mentorship.

“As First Nation youth, we are inspired by the partnership between Southern Chiefs’ Organization and True North. This collaborative partnership exemplifies reconciliation in action, with potential for the betterment of downtown Winnipeg. The developments between SCO and True North create a bright future for First Nations youth. Some examples include employment opportunities, accessibility to critical supports and services, and addressing the stigma associated with downtown Winnipeg. We look forward to witnessing the positive impacts of this partnership for First Nations and Winnipeg’s downtown community,” shared SCO Youth Chiefs Tréchelle Bunn and Josh Gandier.

Next steps for this partnership include creation of a working group to outline the process and timelines for public space design and programming. Further, an agreement on multi-family ownership and investment will be concluded by mid-2024. A second working group will be formed to address the priority of education and training.

Last week, TNRED received approval on a six-month extension to continue the analysis and due diligence necessary to ensure its vision for a campus redevelopment plan is responsive to the needs of the community and can be successfully fulfilled. TNRED will continue engagement with SCO and other key partners in both the public and private sectors. Public consultation also remains a pillar of these efforts, with work ongoing to assess and incorporate feedback from the first phase of consultation and phase two of the public engagement strategy, which has already commenced.


For more information, please contact:

True North Sports + Entertainment
True North Real Estate Development

Krista Sinaisky
Director, Corporate Communications
C: 204.228.8576

Southern Chiefs’ Organization
Melanie Ferris
Director, Communications
C: 204.557.0157

About True North Real Estate Development & Portage Place redevelopment project
True North Real Estate Development (TNRED) is a well-known Winnipeg based developer and owner of mixed-use real estate and sports entertainment assets in Winnipeg, including the 1.5 million-sq.-ft. transformative mixed-use True North Square. TNRED remains committed to a better Winnipeg through the pursuit of real estate developments that produce meaningful social and economic impacts, and that contribute to the growth and development of the downtown core and to attracting people to live, work and play downtown. TNRED has entered into an Option Agreement with the Forks North Portage Partnership (FNPP) that provides the exclusive right to acquire the FNPP interest in Portage Place following a period of research, due diligence, and public consultations through to June 30, 2024.

About Southern Chiefs’ Organization and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 85,500 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.

The Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn project was announced in 2022, when SCO and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) announced that SCO would take ownership and redevelop the flagship HBC building in downtown Winnipeg. The project includes more than 300 affordable housing units for families, post-secondary students and veterans, and culturally safe assisted living units for First Nation Elders. Families living in the building and employees who work there will also have access to much needed high quality, licensed childcare built on the language nest model. The multi-million-dollar project will include a museum, health and healing centre, businesses and office space, and will create social and economic opportunity, revitalizing the HBC building while preserving its important heritage and helping to revive Winnipeg’s downtown core. The project will create significant long-term employment, and over a million working hours during the construction phase. It is the largest redevelopment of a historic building in Manitoba, and one of the largest in Canada.