A new condominium project that could see a Toronto developer build Winnipeg's first multi-family housing complex out of shipping containers has cleared its first major hurdle at city hall.
The Nightingale 956 project, which would see an 18-unit condo complex built on a residential lot at 956 Notre Dame Ave., received the green light last week from the City Centre community committee.
Tali Zhiubritskaya, the Toronto business coach/developer behind the project, now needs the OK from the city's executive policy committee and city council before the project can proceed. She hopes to get that within the next six weeks.
"We're very, very excited," Zhiubritskaya said in an interview. "We've passed our first hurdle and we got a really great response and acceptance of what we're hoping to achieve."
Although she hopes to obtain city approval within the next six weeks, Zhiubritskaya said it will likely be the spring of next year before construction can begin and late 2014 before the project is completed.
The project, which Winnipeg Free Press columnist Brent Bellamy first wrote about in March of last year, will be built on a property that has been in the Zhiubritskaya family since 1930. There is an old house, a former shoe-repair shop, and a former cycling shop on the property at the moment.
Zhiubritskaya said the property belonged to her grandparents and was passed down to her father and then to her.
She said she wants to build an environmentally and socially responsible housing complex as a legacy to her late father and grandparents.
The plan is to build the complex out of 36 recycled shipping containers stacked three across and six high, with a central, exterior circulation core.
The complex will feature a geothermal heating and cooling system and a car-sharing program, which the residents and others in the neighbourhood can join.
Zhiubritskaya said it was Winnipeg architect David Penner who suggested building it out of used shipping containers.
"This will be a landmark model. The goal is to create a model that can be replicated in other neighbourhoods, other cities and even other countries."
She said she and Penner aren't sure if they can get their hands on 36 shipping containers at the right time and at the right price.
If they can't, the back-up plan is to build a wood-frame structure that has the same dimensions a shipping-container complex would have.
That way, it could still be used as a prototype for future projects that do use shipping containers.
She said talks are underway with a shipping-container manufacturer, and they should know within the next couple of months which route they will go.
While in some ways it would be easier to build the prototype complex out of wood, she said, their preference is to use recycled shipping containers because it's a "greener" option.
Zhiubritskaya said all 18 condos will be loft-style units, with the living quarters on the main floor and a bedroom on the mezzanine level.
The front wall will be floor-to-ceiling windows to let in lots of natural light.
The nine front units will be a little over 600 square feet in size, and the nine rear units will be about 500 square feet.
Cost estimates haven't been finalized, but Zhiubritskaya said they'll be priced at less than $200,000.
Although Nightingale 956 would be the city's first multi-family housing complex made out of shipping containers, it's not the first building.
Mario Costantini, owner of the Fort Whyte Business Park and ADM Storage, has built a two-storey home and a two-storey office building out of shipping containers at his south Winnipeg business park.
He also has a roughly 100-unit storage facility made from shipping containers and has converted about 25 containers into portable office/trailers he rents out to a variety of customers, including construction, mining and oil companies.
There is also a bike lab/repair kiosk on the University of Winnipeg campus that was made from two shipping containers joined together.
Costantini and his wife moved into their 1,600-square-foot shipping container house in the fall of 2011. And ADM Storage moved into its 2,000-square-foot shipping container office late last year.
Costantini originally planned to build up to six of the single-tenant office buildings around the industrial park's drainage pond.
But he has since decided to build just the one for now.
"I'm 65 years old now and I have a nice little place here with the pond stocked with trout. So I'd kind of like to keep it as a little park-like setting."
Instead, he plans to build an oversized single-vehicle garage from two halves of a shipping container joined together and see if there's a demand for that.
He said he's also keen to share his expertise and knowledge with anyone else who is interested in building something out of shipping containers.
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.