Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

More units go condo

Geothermal apartments, townhouses will cost less than $200,000

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One of the province's largest geothermal residential developments -- the 19-building Terra Commons rental complex -- is being converted into condominiums.

A spokesmen for the developer, B & M Land Co., confirmed Tuesday the company hopes to convert all 19 buildings -- 340 rental units in all -- into condos over the next 18 months.

That's good news for anyone looking to buy a recently built condo for under $200,000 -- the townhouses will be priced at $184,900 or $199,900 and the apartment-style units at $159,900.

But it's bad news for beleaguered apartment-hunters. It means there are 340 fewer two- and three-bedroom apartments or townhouses to choose from in a city already plagued with one of country's lowest average apartment vacancy rates -- 0.7 per cent as of April, when the last rental market survey was done by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

B & M Land co-owner Andrew Marquess and business development manager Walter Parfeniuk said the firm decided to convert the units in the former McPhillips Common complex to condominiums because there aren't a lot of condos in northwest Winnipeg priced at under $200,000, especially newer, three-bedroom ones.

"I think there is a kind of niche there for anything that's $200,000 or lower," Marquess said.

It will also give the company its first taste of designing and marketing condos, which should come in handy for its next big project -- the $200-million, 900-unit townhouse/apartment/condo development being built on the former Fort Rouge Rail Yard site in south Winnipeg.

The high-profile railway-yard project is the first of several infill developments expected to spring up near the new bus rapid transit corridor that is supposed to connect the downtown to the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

Marquess said B & M Land and its co-developer, Calgary-based Lexington Investment Corp., are still working on the Fort Rouge project's design, and this will give them a good feel for the type of condo that will work well in Winnipeg.

As many as half of the units in the Fort Rouge project could be condos, he said. They'll likely cost more than the Terra Commons units, but the plan is to keep them reasonably priced.

They hope to begin servicing the railway-yard site in fall, he said, which could take up to a year. They hope to start construction next spring.

That's around the same time B & M Land hopes to finish the last five buildings in the Terra Commons development, which has been under construction -- off and on -- since October 2007. Although most of the buildings are finished, only about 82 of the 340 units are occupied, Parfeniuk said.

The townhouses and apartment units will be sold in three phases, and existing tenants will have the first chance to buy them, he and Marquess said.

Although the company only began marketing them about two weeks ago, "we've had a tremendous response from the existing tenants," Parfeniuk said. "A lot of them are in the process of trying to qualify for mortgages."

With interest rates at historic lows and the units priced below $200,000, the monthly mortgage payments for the townhouses, including taxes and condo fees, is less than the rent, he said -- $1,041 a month versus $1,250.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2011 B5

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