It’s a real estate developer’s job to help bring a client’s vision to life. When the real estate developer is also the client, the job takes on a different kind of pressure.
That’s what Geoff Milnes of Progressive Real Estate has come to realize as his company’s new office begins to materialize on a large lot on McMillan Avenue at Stafford Street.
Not only did the company have to make sure the building — which will also feature condos and retail space — fit the esthetic of the Corydon neighbourhood, it also needed to ensure when it was finished, it would be a towering example of the company’s capabilities — a resumé tidbit carved out on a street corner.
"It’s hard not to put a little added pressure on this job," Milnes said in July as construction neared.
For the last several years, Progressive has been operating out of a small 800-square-foot space on Pembina Highway, putting the growing company in a tight squeeze. About three years ago, the company set its sights on lots at 928 and 936 McMillan Ave., the former site of two stand-alone homes, as a potential solution.
Once the vendor agreed to sell, the company with Landmark Planning and Design engaged with community members to ensure the ensuing project wouldn’t stick out for the wrong reasons.
The conclusions of those pre-design meetings were somewhat predictable: concerns about added traffic, building height, and a design that didn’t fit were all brought up. The concept they came up with was of a residential and commercial building that looked more residential than commercial: "Essentially, it’s designed to look like a big house," Milnes said.
Aside from Progressive’s 5,000-square-foot office, the building will also feature a 1,400-square-foot ground-level retail space, ideal for a bistro, café or small shop, and on the top level, four luxury condos, expected to sell for around $650,000.
Progressive won’t be the only future office tenant working on bringing the building to life: Affinity Architecture is doing the design work, and will be moving into a space of its own.
The Winnipeg-based firm, which specializes in large-scale multi-family residential buildings, vehicle sales and service centres, and technical facilities, has been working with Progressive for years, so it made sense to cosy up next to each other in a new build.
"When they approached us to design (the building) and asked that we include some commercial condo units in the concept, we saw an opportunity for ownership of our own space, in a very desirable location," Affinity principal Evan Hanson says.
Hanson said Affinity’s goal was to not only tailor the design to its needs, but to the neighbourhood’s. To that end, the firm used design touches — a pitched roof with deep overhangs, a heavy stone base — that referenced other houses in the neighbourhood and along Stafford.
The goal was never to design a trend-setting building, but to create one that fit the neighbourhood, Hanson said, and it’s his hope it will do just that.
Of course, just as there is a different kind of pressure on Progressive, Affinity is feeling it too as it seizes the opportunity to plan its future home.
"This project is special in that we are also the client, and we get the pleasure of dreaming up our office design and the excitement of occupying the end result — a purpose-built, brand-new office space," Hanson said.
Milnes said that piles were put in the ground early in July, and it’s Progressive’s hope the building will be complete within eight months, and outfitting finished within the next 12.
"Inside a year, we should be moved in," he said.
And Corydon Village will say hello to a few new neighbours.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.