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Developer walks away

Scraps North Kildonan apartments; may not pursue other projects

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2008 (3176 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeggers looking for rooms to rent may have to "move to Saskatchewan or Alberta," chided the owner of a Vancouver company that cancelled a $50-million apartment expansion in North Kildonan in the face of political opposition.

Minutes before Mayor Sam Katz's cabinet had the chance to vote on a proposal to add two new towers to an existing apartment complex on Whellams Lane, Devonshire Properties formerly withdrew its application for three zoning changes it needed before the company could add 331 new units to the property.

The move Wednesday pleased dozens of North Kildonan residents who trekked through snow to city hall to see what council's executive policy committee would do with the proposal, which was rejected by northeast Winnipeg councillors on Nov. 17 before the more powerful property and development committee overturned the recommendation the following week.

Edgewood Estates

Edgewood Estates

"I'm thrilled. I'm going out to celebrate," said Marcel Segstro, one of several hundred North Kildonan residents who opposed the project because of safety, traffic or sewage concerns.

But Devonshire owner and president Zev Shafran said he's frustrated with Winnipeg, which suffers from a shortage of apartment units but seems reluctant to approve new construction.

The 331 units planned for Whellams Lane would have exceeded the total number of apartments created in the city in 2008. Developers only built 319 new rental units this year, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which pegs the Winnipeg apartment-vacancy rate at 1.1 per cent.

"Most cities are clamouring for rental accommodation. Most cities go out of their way to try to accommodate," Shafran said in a phone interview.

"What's going to happen in the next 10 years? There's going to be no housing built. What's everyone going to do in Winnipeg? Move to Saskatchewan or Alberta?"

Devonshire has apartment expansions planned for existing properties in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver and had no trouble receiving approval from the latter two cities, Shafran said.

He withdrew the Whellams Lane application because he was told it would not have received enough votes at EPC. Most councillors do not like overturning rulings made at community committee hearings, where citizens can speak out.

More than 200 people turned out to oppose the Whellams Lane proposal on Nov. 17 and many were outraged after the property committee reversed the decision on Nov. 25.

For years, councillors have complained that Winnipeg's consultation process is flawed, as few councillors are brave enough to vote against the wishes of large and sometimes angry crowds.

"I don't think we should be turning down deals that bring $50 million worth of private investment to the city and add half-a-million dollars to the property-tax base," property committee chairman Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), said.

Councillors must consider what's best for the city, not just their wards, he said.

But, Mayor Katz said there is nothing wrong with the community-committee process, even as he lamented the loss of an apartment expansion that would have alleviated Winnipeg's housing shortage.

"We're not going to pretend this kind of development is bad for the city," Katz said.

"Hopefully now, the area councillor (Jeff Browaty), the developer and the community can move this project along."

Shafran, however, said he is not sure he'll bring a new proposal forward.

"I believe our company is a good corporate citizen and we wanted to build something good for the city," he said.

"It's pretty frustrating to go through a process like this and not have the permit to build."


Opposition rules

City-wide apartment vacancy rate: 1.1 per cent

Apartment units created in Winnipeg in 2008: 319

Number of new apartment units that developer Devonshire Properties wanted to add to an existing apartment complex on Whellams Lane in North Kildonan next year: 331

What happened? The developer withdrew its application in the face of opposition from area residents.

Number of new apartment units that Winnipeg's Crystal Developments wanted to create on a surface parking lot at the corner of Fort Street and Assiniboine Avenue this year: 120

What happened? The developer withdrew its proposal in the face of opposition from the Friends of Upper Fort Garry.

-- Sources: Free Press files, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation



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