Wright raises rental possibility
Mayor Wayne Wright dropped a juicy little tidbit on a proposed Downtown tower that caught councillors and city planning staff by surprise at Monday's council meeting.
During a discussion on Plaza 88 development's proposal for a 39-storey highrise at 900 Carnarvon St., Wright said he's been told it would be a rental building.
The developer is asking for several exemptions to allow for construction of 396 units with 50 of them being studios and 336 one-bedrooms. A staff report and several councillors expressed concerns about the proposal on many fronts including the small units, the building's height and a plan to have above-ground parking.
"My understanding is it's a total rental building," said Wright.
In response to that revelation, planner Bev Grieve said the developer had not revealed any plans of that sort except to say there would be some rental sold as strata with the buyers intending to rent them out. She also said the developer did indicate it was easier to sell the smaller units, mostly to investors, in the three towers it has already constructed next door.
Wright, however, said the developer told him the building could be sold to an affordable housing organization or possibly a pension fund looking for an investment.
"If we have an opportunity to have an affordable housing building we should look at it," said Wright.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr called the suggestion it would be a rental building "a bit of a red herring."
"It doesn't look like a housing organization could come out and buy it because they don't have the money," said Puchmayr. "Build what's permissible on the site, but if [the developer] wants to barter up we need to get something out of it."
While expressing many concerns about the building's proposed height, look, density, parking and traffic impact, Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said it would be nice to see some enthusiasm for rental housing.
But McEvoy also said many residents of the other towers have complained to him about the numerous empty condos, because investors can't find anybody to rent them. They even took him on a tour of the building's storage areas to show how many had nothing in them.
Coun. Bill Harper said there was no mention of rental in the application or in any previous discussion about rental housing. He also said in his opinion renting out individual strata properties was not workable.
Plaza 88 is seeking 33,000 square feet more residential space than it is entitled to under the zoning, and 5,500 square feet of commercial space. The developer is also proposing to provide 223 parking spaces when the required amount for such density is 550 spaces.
On Monday, council voted to authorize staff to work with the developer toward resolving all the issues raised in the report before it takes the application to public consultation.
"Get the developer to tell us exactly what he has in his mind," Wright told staff.