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This article was published 8/1/2018 (1472 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A local developer has some lofty plans to redevelop the former Norlander Inn on Pembina Highway.
Ironclad Developments plans to build a six-storey, 285-unit, luxury apartment complex at 1792 Pembina Hwy.
The complex will have a combination of bachelor, one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units ranging in size from 375 to 1,050 square feet. Monthly rental rates are tentatively pegged from $950 to $1,700.
Ironclad CEO Ryan Van Damme said amenities will include a gym, car wash, pet-washing station, business centre and possibly a theatre room. The suites will feature higher-end finishes, including granite countertops.
Van Damme said Ironclad hopes to begin building the complex in April. It’s expected to take 18 to 20 months to complete.
It will be Ironclad’s fifth multi-family apartment project in Winnipeg since Van Damme and his wife, Karla, launched the company in April 2014. It’s also one of four apartment projects, with a combined total of 600 units, the company expects to launch this year. Two are in British Columbia and one is in Ontario.
Ironclad approached the owner of the Pembina Highway property — Winnipeg-based Canad Inns — about a year ago to see if it would be interested in selling. It was, so they hammered out a deal.
The deal calls for Canad Inns to demolish the building and clean up the site before turning it over to Ironclad. Canad Inns CEO Dan Lussier said demolition should begin in two weeks and take about a month.
Canad Inns acquired the two-storey, 36-room hotel in 1978, and changed the name to Express by Canad Inns. It was the first hotel in the city to carry the Canad Inns name, and was also home to the first Aaltos restaurant in the city.
Canad Inn’s head office operated out of the building for about a decade. That’s why it took Canad Inn’s founder and executive chairman Leo Ledohowski a while to decide to sell it, Lussier said in October when it announced the property had been sold.
"It has been a bit of a sentimental decision to make for Leo," he said. "It is the original property in the current portfolio, and it served as his head office... so there was a significant attachment to the site. (However), we’ve been talking about it for a number of years... It just made sense to move on."
Canad Inns has nine hotels in Winnipeg, plus one each in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Grand Forks, N.D.
The Express by Canad Inns building included a Reign Nightclub, a Playmaker’s Gaming Lounge and a Garbonzo’s restaurant. Lussier said the Playmaker’s lounge was the last thing to close, on Nov. 30.
He said Canad Inns plans to open a Garbonzo’s restaurant "shortly," although he wouldn’t say where. The company has one other Garbonzo’s outlet at 492 Portage Ave.
Van Damme said Ironside believes the Pembina Highway property, which stretches to the Red River, is ideally suited for luxury apartments. It also believes there is a need for more luxury rental units in the city.
He expects the units to appeal to a variety of tenants, including university grads, young families and empty nesters.
Ironclad’s other Winnipeg apartment projects include one project (two buildings, 85 units in total) on Archibald Street, two projects (three buildings, 195 units in total) on El Tassi Drive, and the Waterford Village complex (126 units) at 90 Waterford Green.
In addition to its projects here, the company has developed apartment complexes in Edmonton and Cold Lake, Alta., and also has a project in Langley, B.C.
Before launching Ironclad, Van Damme was director of construction management for Western Canada for a B.C. apartment developer. He said he returned to Manitoba to start his own company so he would be closer to his family and friends (he grew up on a farm in Cyprus River, near Brandon).
He said his previous job involved quite a bit of travelling, "and I was looking to stay a little bit closer to my family, essentially. I also wanted to be more involved in the lives of my children before they grow up and move on."
Doug McKay, Ironclad’s operations manager, said being based in Winnipeg has worked out well from a staffing perspective.
"There is a lot of local talent we can tap into here. People with a really good work ethic, really good skill sets. Just really good, solid people."
Van Damme said the company does projects in a number of provinces to avoid having all of its eggs in one basket.
"I think it’s a good way of insulating our company by bringing some diversity, geographically. That’s also kind of how my career started and what I’m comfortable with, and I think there are lots of opportunities across Canada."
Winnipeg Construction Association president Ron Hambley said, while there is quite a bit of multi-family construction in Winnipeg, diversifying into other markets is not a bad strategy.
"Obviously, we knew that Alberta has been going through some difficult times the last few years. But that’s a large population out there, and I’m sure there are still opportunities."
He agreed the Pembina Highway property is well-suited for residential development.
"It goes deep, right down to the river, so it’s a very attractive lot,"
Ironclad has a property management division — Ironclad Properties — which manages the apartment complexes it builds. Van Damme said the company has about 70 employees, compared with just him and his wife when they first started out.
— with files by Scott Emmerson