Winnipeg land gift came with an unusual catch

A somewhat bizarre technicality means the City of Winnipeg could have trouble recouping some of the cost of its new police headquarters because of the terms of a 137-year-old land gift.

WINNIPEG — A somewhat bizarre technicality means the City of Winnipeg could have trouble recouping some of the cost of its new police headquarters because of the terms of a 137-year-old land gift.

In 1875, when Winnipeg was only a year old, a generous property owner gave the fledgling city land that would eventually include part of what’s now known as the Civic Centre complex.

There was one condition — in the event the land is no longer used for a public purpose, it must revert to the donor’s descendant.

That’s creating a potential problem because the city had planned to sell the building currently housing the Winnipeg Police Service in the Civic Centre complex order to help pay for its move into new headquarters elsewhere.

Chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl says city officials are now trying to track down the donor’s descendant.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck says she has come up with a possible solution, suggesting if the building is sold to a college or university it might still qualify as a “public purpose” under the terms of the original gift.

Sheegl and Mayor Sam Katz have said it would be ideal for Red River College to acquire the land.