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Condos proposed for riverfront street

Highrise would further change Assiniboine Avenue's appearance

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Another highrise condominium complex is in the works that would further alter the face of Assiniboine Avenue, one of the city's premier riverfront streets.

Sandhu Developments Inc., a two-year-old Winnipeg firm with two suburban condo developments under its belt, has acquired the Restaurant Dubrovnik site at 390 Assiniboine and plans to build a 20-plus-storey condo complex on the riverbank property.

It's the second highrise residential development planned for the street. The other is a 25-storey apartment block that's been approved farther east on Assiniboine. If both projects proceed, they'll be the downtown's first highrise residential projects since the completion of Fort Garry Place in 1990, and another piece of the puzzle in efforts to attract more people and businesses to the downtown.

Plans Sandhu filed last month with the city call for a 28-storey building with parking and commercial space on the first five floors and 120 condos above.

But the company's owner, Karampaul Sandhu, said Thursday it's now looking at something a little smaller -- 20-plus floors, 80-plus residential units, three or four floors of parking and an expanded lobby instead of commercial space.

He said the company hopes to have the revised plans complete this spring and begin construction before the end of the year. He estimated it will take at least a year to build.

Sandhu said it's too soon to say how big the condos will be, other than most will be two-bedroom units, or what the asking price will be.

"But we are going to try to appeal to the masses and to make sure people can purchase these units at a good price, a competitive price," he said.

Winnipeg's Crystal Developers is putting up the new 200-unit apartment block, to be built on a former city-owned property between the Midtown Bridge and Bonnycastle Park.

The city approved the project in 2010, but last April, Crystal asked for a one-year extension to further study the property. Company officials weren't available Thursday to comment on how soon construction would begin.

Sandhu Developments is the second Winnipeg developer to take a run at the Restaurant Dubrovnik property.

In 2007-08, a group of local developers revealed plans for a $60-million, 16-storey luxury condominium-hotel that would also feature a plastic surgery clinic, sushi bar and robotic parking. That project never got off the ground.

As with that plan, Sandhu's project is facing opposition from the owner of an adjacent property.

In the first case, it was the owners of Bessborough Apartments on the east side of the property who complained a 16-storey building would be a bad fit for the neighbourhood. Although they haven't objected to the Sandhu plan, the owners of a three-storey office building on the other side have filed a complaint with the city.

Michael Falk, a spokesman for 396 Assiniboine Ltd., maintains a high-rise is too big for the site and out of character for the neighbourhood.

The owners also object to the original plan not including a loading/service area to accommodate moving trucks. Falk said that stretch of Assiniboine has only one lane for vehicle traffic -- the other lane is a designated bicycle path -- "so it's going to cause issues with loading and accessibility.

City officials also took issue with the absence of a loading/service area, and with the condo balconies extending to within 1.2 metres of the east and west property lines.

They denied Sandhu's request for zoning variances to address those issues. Sandhu appealed, and the appeal is expected to be heard at either the March or April meeting of the city's standing policy committee on downtown development.

Sandhu said Thursday the revised plan will address those concerns. He said he's hopeful the company can also allay the concerns of the 396 Assiniboine Ave. owners.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 17, 2012 B4

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