It wasn't working as an office building, but a local developer is betting $2 million Portage Avenue's Dreman Place will succeed as an executive-condo/retail complex.
That's how much the Sunrex Group of Companies has spent over the last couple of years on converting the top five floors of the six-storey building at 238 Portage Ave. into five New York-loft-style, executive condominiums, and the main floor into two retail/commercial units.
While some might see executive condos as a tough sell in Winnipeg's still-evolving downtown, Sunrex vice-president Phil McAmmond said the market helped convince the 23-year-old company it was a worthwhile gamble.
He said the Class C office building, which Sunrex purchased 21/2 years ago, had been largely vacant for a decade or more.
"Everybody tried to lease this (office space) out," he said, "but it wasn't happening."
Besides, Sunrex's specialty is multi-family, residential development. Not only does it own and manage more than 1,000 rental units in the city, it has completed more than $40 million worth of condo developments in the last 21/2 years.
"So it (converting the building to condos) was a good fit," he added.
One of the things working in Sunrex's favour is there are only five condos in the entire building -- one per floor, ranging in size from 2,000 to 1,250 square feet. And the listing agents -- Century 21 Bachman & Associates' Gary Bachman and Tom Hayward -- have already sold one of them.
Bachman said they're selling the units as raw space. So buyers can design them any way they want and pay Sunrex to do the work.
The three remaining empty shells are priced at $450,000 each, while the fully developed display suite is priced at $599,000.
The monthly condo fee, which includes one underground parking stall, will be $700 to $750 per month.
Bachman noted everything, with the exception of the original concrete floors and walls, is new. That includes windows, doors, plumbing, electrical, furnace, air conditioning and ductwork.
"They (the condos) are big enough that they can be mixed-use, with an office at the back and living space at the front," he added.
Hayward said a couple bought the second-floor unit and opted to develop the back half as home-office space and the front half as industrial-style living space, with polished concrete floors and countertops, and exposed ductwork in the ceiling.
The fifth floor display suite includes an office/den/bedroom, a laundry room, and a three-piece bathroom at the back of the unit; a family room and master bedroom with walk-in closet and a five-piece bathroom in the middle; and an open-concept kitchen/dining room/living room at the front, with trayed ceilings, six floor-to-ceiling windows facing onto Portage Avenue and direct access to the adjacent 375-stall parkade.
CentreVenture Development Corporation president and CEO Ross McGowan toured the building and the display suite last week and was impressed with what he saw.
"I think it's one of the best condos in the downtown with the way it was finished and the layout. It's terrific," he said. "It has a very impressive New York style to it. It faces onto Portage, so it's got a great view, it's close to the MTS Centre and to Portage and Main, and it's got a parkade attached to it."
Bachman and Hayward have been marketing the units for a couple of weeks, and said the target market is young professionals -- singles or couples -- who work downtown and like the idea of being able to walk to work and to downtown restaurants, shops, and sports and entertainment events.
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.