A local firm that built some of Osborne Village's most prominent highrise apartment towers is getting back into the game after a more than 30-year hiatus with the construction of a new luxury-apartment complex on River Avenue.
The Lount Corporation, which is owned by Winnipeg's Lount family, is building a four-storey apartment block on three former single-family lots on the southwest corner of River and Norquay Street.
The steel-and-concrete Conrad House will include 37 open-concept, one- and two-bedroom apartments, some with an additional flex room off the kitchen. There will also be a 35-stall underground garage, as well as six covered, ground-level parking stalls at the back of the complex.
The apartments will range in size from 650 to 1,050 square feet and will rent for between $1,000 and $2,000 per month, said company spokesman Ben Lount -- the fourth generation of Lounts to work for the family business.
Construction is already underway, and Lount said the building should be ready for occupancy next spring.
Conrad House is the first apartment block the company has built in the area since the early 1980s, when a company it owned at the time -- the Shelter Corporation -- built the two highrise towers at 7 and 11 Evergreen Place. Lount said his grandfather, Graham Lount, later sold Shelter to his then-right-hand man, Arni Thorsteinson, but the family continued to operate the Lount Corporation.
Some of the other apartment buildings the family built in the Osborne Village area in the 1960s and early 1970s included 55 Nassau, Sussex House and Fountain House.
"We did get away from it (building apartment buildings) for awhile, for various reasons," Lount said. "So I like to call this (Conrad House) our sort of rebirth. If all goes well with Conrad House, our plan is to continue building quality rental properties."
The company's next project will be a six- or seven-storey, riverside apartment block it plans to build on Togo Street in the south Osborne Street area. That complex will likely have 60 to 70 units, but construction probably won't get underway until 2016.
The Lount Corporation also owns the former Gio's nightclub property at Smith Street and York Avenue. Lount said the company expects to demolish the existing building and redevelop the property, "but we don't know at this point exactly what we're doing with it. It all depends on (the availability of) parking (in the area)."
Lount said the family decided to get back into developing apartment buildings after seeing a growing demand in recent years for new rental units in Winnipeg in the wake of chronically low vacancy rates.
"And we had a piece of property we felt was the right piece of property to get going with," he added.
Lount said the company acquired the River Avenue parcel of land about two years ago from a local real estate agent. He said coming up with the right design for the site was a challenge because it's quite small and the neighbourhood development plan restricts the height of new buildings to four storeys or less.
Jenny Gerbasi, the city councillor for the area and a member of the board of directors of the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone, said Conrad House will be a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
Gerbasi said there's been a raft of new multi-family developments in the area over the last couple of years, with more on the way. But most of them are condominium complexes, she said, and what Osborne Village and Winnipeg in general need is more new rental units. Especially affordable rental units.
"But any new rental units is still good," she added.
Although restricting the height of new buildings may create challenges for some developers, Gerbasi said having clearly defined neighbourhood guidelines also works in their favour because their projects are less likely to be opposed by area residents.
"I think that's one of the reasons why we're seeing so much new development in the area," she added.
Lount said the family's new development is named in honour of his grandfather, who is now 93 and whose middle name is Conrad. He said his grandfather, in partnership with Thorsteinson, continued to develop multi-family housing here and elsewhere in Canada until the late 1980s.
Lount's father Colin has been with the Lount Corporation for more than 30 years, and is now chief executive officer. Ben is head of land development.
Before rejoining the family business about three years ago, Ben Lount had his own business -- Lount Built Homes -- which specialized in buying and refurbishing houses and multi-family complexes.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 204-697-7254.