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This article was published 29/5/2017 (1001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The city’s downtown development agency is taking another run at finding someone to purchase and redevelop a vacant property it owns at the north end of Princess Street in Chinatown.
The new request for proposals is for the CentreVenture Development Corp. property on the southeast corner of Princess Street and Logan Avenue.
"We see this as a great opportunity for a residential development, which we think is primarily what people would be interested in doing with the property," CEO Angela Mathieson said.
"But that’s not to say we wouldn’t be open to other types of commercial uses," she said.
Other possibilities could be an office building, a retail complex, or a building featuring a mix of work and retail space.
"We think right now, the biggest opportunity is housing, but we don’t know what everybody else is thinking. So we’re being quite open-minded."
CentreVenture purchased the property from the city in a tax sale in 2010. It subsequently demolished a collection of 1913-era buildings on the site that had been declared unsafe and began searching for someone to buy and redevelop it.
Since then, at least two local developers have looked at building residential complexes on the site.
Both projects failed to get off the ground.
"But a lot of things have changed since then," Mathieson said, citing a number of new developments that have been completed, are underway or are planned for the area.
They include the $12.7-million Peace Tower affordable housing project that was built across the street from the CentreVenture property, the Bag Factory Lofts apartment complex at 311 Alexander Ave., a $12-million, 94-unit rental-apartment development under construction on Ross Avenue, the $95.4-million Innovation Centre that Red River College will be building at 325 Elgin Ave., the Chinatown Development Corp.’s plans to redevelop the former Shanghai Restaurant property on King Street and the planned redevelopment of the former Public Safety Building and Civic Parkade properties on Princess Street.
"Princess Street is certainly going to be undergoing a massive makeover over the next couple of years," Mathieson said. "So we think this... provides somebody with the ability to get in on the ground floor with some of the exciting things that are happening in the area."
She also noted vacant downtown properties that are ready to be redeveloped are hard to come by.
"You could start tomorrow, which is kind of nice."
Interested parties have until Aug. 18 to submit their proposals. Among the criteria CentreVenture will be taking into account are price, whether the project will contribute to the revitalization of the downtown, and whether it supports the surrounding neighbourhood.
If none of the proposals are acceptable, Mathieson said CentreVenture might redevelop the property on its own, approach some other organization it thinks could do it, or hold onto it until the time is right to market it again.
"We want the right project, and we have the patience to get the right project," she added.
Another tenant has been found for an older Broadway office building that has undergone millions of dollars in upgrades and renovations over the past eight years.
Cambrian Credit Union has leased the top floor of the six-storey building at 287 Broadway, which leaves only the second floor and a few other small pockets of space still vacant.
The leasing agent for the property — Joe Banfield of Banfield Office Properties Group — said because it is a major tenant, Cambrian will have the option of putting its sign on the building, which is owned by Winnipeg-based Inlett Properties.
Kim Wentz, Cambrian’s vice-president, marketing & communications, said the institution expects to begin developing the raw space in June or July, and to have it ready for occupancy in November.
She said its commercial sales and wealth-management departments will be relocating from its nearby head office building at 225 Broadway.
"We were growing and that’s why we needed to find some additional space. But it is a lot of space (just over 9,200 square feet), so there may be other departments that eventually will move over there as well."
Wentz said Cambrian looked at a variety of other options, including expanding its head office building or moving to some other location.
"But moving (some departments) just two blocks away made the most sense," she said. "It’s a two-minute walk for us to go back and forth."
The 61-year-old building, which is located on the corner of Broadway and Smith Street, has undergone extensive interior and exterior renovations since Inlett Properties acquired it in 2009. That included gutting and modernizing almost every floor except the mostly vacant second floor.
Banfield said it took a number of years to find a tenant for the sixth floor because developing raw office space can be costly, and a lot of tenants aren’t willing or able to make that kind of investment.
"It’s also a big investment for tenants to move, so many are loathe to move," he added. "And you’ve got to find a tenant who wants Broadway, because it is a unique (downtown) submarket."
Banfield said most of the renters who viewed the second and sixth floors preferred the sixth because it had already been modernized and was a wide open, rather than subdivided like the second floor.
So he’ll be advising Inlett Properties to so the same thing with the second floor to make it more appealing, he added.