Nova Scotia Journal

Saturday, December 2, 2023

A developer intends to convert office space in downtown Halifax into housing

downtown Halifax into housing

Key Takeaways:

  • The province will subsidize the rent on 38 of the 100 apartments.
  • A Halifax development firm intends to turn vacant downtown office space into apartments.
  • The change will take place at 1660 Hollis St., the Centennial Building, a 54-year-old office tower. 

According to Elliot MacNeil, president of Sidewalk Real Estate Development, about 30% of the building was vacant when purchased earlier this year. He expects that rate to rise to about 50% with upcoming lease expirations.

As the commercial tenants clear, approximately half of the building will be converted into one-, two-, and three-bedroom loft apartments.

The project is one of three announced last week by the province as recipients of more than $6 million in rent subsidies for some units. Sidewalk, formerly known as the Bruno Group, has recently redeveloped several buildings on Portland Street in downtown Dartmouth.

“1660 Hollis is one of our bigger redevelopment and adaptive reuse projects coming up,” MacNeil explained in an interview.

He assumes that the flip will be completed within the next 18 to 24 months. The structure is already zoned for residential purposes.

Also Read: Here’s a look at the reasons behind inflation in Canada

The Hollis Street building was purchased for $16.65 million in August, according to property records.

Sidewalk vice president Joe Nickerson declined to speculate on how much the conversion will cost because designs have not yet been finalized. But, according to him, the $1.9 million from the province is the only government funding the project has received thus far; the rest is supported by “an appreciated group of investors.”

It’s also too early, according to Nickerson, to put an exact figure on what residential tenants will be charged in rent. But, in general, he stated that rents would be comparable to market rates in the area.

According to a 2020 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation survey of the private rental market, average rents in the southern half of the Halifax peninsula were:

  • $1,270 for a one-bedroom apartment.
  • $1,758 for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • $2,029 for a three-bedroom apartment.

As part of the provincial agreement, Sidewalk has agreed to rent 38 of the 100 apartments for at least 20% less than the CMHC average rate for the first 20 years. In addition, there will be no design differences between the units designated for affordability and the other 62 apartments, according to Nickerson.

“Part of our pitch for this funding was that we don’t want to do ultra-low income housing in the downtown core,” he explained. “What we want to do is make a more affordable unit for people who want to live in a healthy downtown.” Nickerson anticipates that this group will include university students, artists, new entrepreneurs, and people who work in bars and restaurants.

Source: CBC News

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