Homes for ‘hipsters’

Century-old office building to be converted into affordable apartments, developers say


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The Winnipeg firm that’s converting a century-old Portage Avenue office building into rental apartments plans to offer “affordable” rents that include all the utilities, free Internet and on-site bicycle storage.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/09/2016 (2453 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg firm that’s converting a century-old Portage Avenue office building into rental apartments plans to offer “affordable” rents that include all the utilities, free Internet and on-site bicycle storage.

“We’re not looking to capture an ultra-high rent,” said Jason Bryk, a real estate lawyer with Pitblado Law and a member of the ownership group — the Sunrex Group of Companies— which recently purchased the eight-storey Sterling Building at 283 Portage Ave.

“We want to have an affordable rent that is going to bring more people to the downtown, which in turn is going to have a ripple effect in terms of further development of… things like restaurants, bars, grocery (stores) — you name it.”

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jason Bryk, left, and Phil McAmmond stand outside a vault in the basement that was once used by a bank.

Bryk and Sunrex vice-president Phil McAmmond said to keep rents as low as possible, the 50 to 57 one-bedroom apartments will be modest in size — 550 to 650 square feet. Monthly rents will range from $850 to $1,100.

“We want to offer a package where you know exactly what you’re getting,” McAmmond said. “There will be no big hydro-bill surprises, no water-bill surprises, no heating-bill surprises. If it (the monthly rent) is $850, or $1,150, that is the totality of what your cost will be.”

He said Sunrex, which owns and manages more than 1,000 rental units in Winnipeg, has taken the same approach with a highrise apartment block it owns on Grant Avenue. It’s proven to be very popular with renters, and they’re hoping it will also appeal to the type of tenants their Exchange Window Lofts project will be targeting, which is college/university students and what McAmmond refers to as “hipsters”. He defined hipsters as younger people who want to live downtown and to be able to walk or cycle to work, school or wherever.

Although there will be no on-site parking spaces for vehicles, McAmmond noted there’s a public parkade on Smith Street immediately behind the Sterling Building.

Two key downtown-revitalization proponents — CentreVenture Development Corp. president and CEO Angela Mathieson and Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone executive director Stefano Grande — said Monday any new housing projects would be a welcome addition to the downtown, especially ones that include affordable units and are situated on key downtown streets such as Portage Avenue.

“We’re really starting to see a residential resurgence on Portage Avenue, which is what we like to see,” Mathieson said. “So we’re very supportive of projects like that.”

“The second thing is housing is so important to us, especially on streets like Portage Avenue,” Grande said. “This is part of the entertainment district, and we want to make sure there are good housing options for people to live (there). It’s also really important to have people living there to activate that space seven days a week.”

The city and the provincial government offer incentive programs aimed at encouraging more residential development in the downtown, and McAmmond said Sunrex will be applying for assistance to help offset the cost of its redevelopment project.

Sunrex, which several years ago converted the Dreeman Place office/retail building at 238 Portage Ave. into five loft-style executive condos and two main-floor commercial condos, purchased the 105-year-old Sterling Building from a local, family-owned firm for $2.8 million.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg real estate lawyer Jason Bryk (left) and Sunrex vice-president Phil McAmmond stand on the roof of the Sterling Building, which is being converted into affordable apartments downtown.

McAmmond said the conversion of the building to apartments, which will include extensive renovations to the interior and the installation of new mechanical systems, windows, elevators and a new security system, is expected to cost an additional $6.2 million.

Work is to get underway immediately, and is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.

The deal also included the purchase of an adjacent two-storey retail building at 279 Portage Ave., which most recently housed the Panit Restaurant and Lounge. Bryk said Sunrex hasn’t decided what it will do with that building, but it will be part of the redevelopment project.

He and McAmmond said the company also will be seeking a retail tenant or tenants for the main floor and possibly the mezzanine level of the Sterling Building, which is mostly vacant and has been for many years. The preference would be something such as a restaurant or a coffee shop.


Updated on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 8:00 AM CDT: Adds photos

Updated on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 9:30 AM CDT: Headline fixed.

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