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Downtown tower project to be revamped

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2014 (913 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A proposed downtown development -- the 53-storey Sky City Centre condominium/retail/office tower -- will look different than what was envisioned, but how much different won't be revealed until next year.

A senior official for Toronto's Fortress Real Developments Inc., which is developing the tower along with Windsor, Ont.,-based Mady Development Corp., said changes are being made to the design -- a 44-storey building topped with a nine-storey, glass-wrapped pentice, or crown.

The Sky City Centre tower.

FORTRESS ILLUSTRATION

The Sky City Centre tower.

"But we're not making that announcement (about the new design) quite yet," said Ben Myers, senior vice-president of market research and analytics at Fortress.

Myers said it will likely be March or April before the new design is unveiled.

"It may be earlier, but that's our target right now."

It will also be next year before the developers begin marketing Sky City's residential condos to the public, Myers said, although it could be sooner for investors who plan to buy one or more units as income-producing rental properties. "We wanted to launch it this fall to the public, but we felt we weren't quite there yet."

Myers said they have to build a sales office/display suite in a storefront space at 283 Garry St. Work on that is expected to get underway in the next 45 days.

The original Sky City plans, unveiled in May of last year, called for a $200-million, 53-storey tower to be built on a surface parking lot on the north side of Graham Avenue between Smith and Garry streets. The tower was expected to include up to 400 residential condos -- mainly one- and two-bedroom units -- up to 140,000 square feet of retail and office space and a 700-stall parkade.

The developers said they were also committed to attracting a full-service grocery store for the second floor of the tower's nine-storey podium, and Myers said that hasn't changed.

"We're still working with a couple of different parties," he said. "With these negotiations, you never know when they're going to get done. But the plan is still to get a grocery store down there. We think that would be fantastic for the project and fantastic for the downtown core."

The one design change Myers was willing to disclose was most of the condos will have balconies -- something that wasn't included in the original design.

Although sizes and prices for the condos -- there will be 11 floor plans -- are still being finalized, Myers said the goal is to have plenty of units priced in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.

Fortress officials have acknowledged in the past there is a certain amount of public skepticism surrounding the Sky City project.

"I get asked this question all the time: 'Is it really going to be built?' " company president and CEO Jawad Rathore said during a national real estate forum last May in Winnipeg. "And yes, it really is going to happen."

Myers also reiterated the project will proceed, saying Fortress and Mady still see Winnipeg as a good market in which to invest in new housing/condo developments.

In his biannual national housing market report released last week, Myers identifies Winnipeg as one of the "hot spots" for investing in Canada, along with Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa.

He disputes the suggestion by some analysts that Canada's real estate market, and some of its regional markets, are overpriced and due for a major correction.

"The housing market remains on solid footing overall in Canada," he writes. "Regionally, the Ottawa market began to cool last year and Winnipeg the same earlier this year, but both were coming off tremendous booms and are in the midst of soft landings."

He says after increasing by an average of six to eight per cent during the past 10 years, house-price increases in Winnipeg are levelling off this year. And while a building boom last year has resulted in a higher inventory of unsold homes and condos, "completed units are being absorbed at a relatively quick pace," he adds.

He says there were 438 multi-family units absorbed in the first six months of this year, compared with 212 in the first half of 2013.

Myers says demand for new housing units in Winnipeg should remain strong even if interest rates climb in the next couple of years because demand is driven mainly by employment and population growth. And Winnipeg is experiencing both.

He says three major forecasters -- the Altus Group, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and TD Bank -- are predicting Winnipeg will finish this year with anywhere from 3,300 new housing starts (Altus) to 4,300. His forecast is for 3,650 new starts.

For 2015, Altus and TD are forecasting 3,100 new starts, and CMHC is forecasting 4,350, he said.

Myers said Winnipeg should be able to absorb 3,800 new units next year. So if the Altus/TD forecasts prove accurate, the market could become under-supplied. If CMHC is right, an oversupply could result.

"I'm sure it will be lower (than the CMHC forecast) because the market seems to be slowing down a bit," he added.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Murray McNeill/Commercial Real Estate.

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History

Updated on Monday, October 27, 2014 at 6:45 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

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