The following article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on July 9, 2007.
Executive condos planned
By Murray McNeill
A local firm is adding a new twist to a mixed-use real estate redevelopment project that’s underway in downtown Winnipeg.
Inlett Properties is in the midst of an $11.5-million redevelopment of the former Canadian Red Cross building at 226 Osborne St. North, and it recently revised its plans to allow for up to six of the 18 condominiums in the development to be sold as furnished executive condos. The company hopes the condos will be purchased by local companies that are looking for an alternative to having visiting out-of-town executives stay in a hotel or apartment block which rents out suites to extended-stay visitors.
Inlett spokesman Doug Russell said as far as he knows, this will be the first time this type of product has been offered in Winnipeg.
Russell said the company likely won’t know how strong the interest is until it begins marketing this fall, but he’s hopeful it will strike a chord with local companies. If it doesn't’t, Inlett can always go back to marketing them as regular residential condos, he said.
When Inlett originally unveiled the redevelopment in June 2005, it said it hoped to begin building the condos in 2006. But Russell said it now looks like it will be 2008 before construction can get underway.
He said the timing will depend on the kind of response the company gets from the marketplace.
“I think it will be positive. It’s a great building with a great view (overlooking Memorial Park).”
Two real estate brokers who are active in the local condo market agreed Winnipeg could be ready for something like an executive condo.
“I think it’s a fabulous idea,” Barry Greenberg, a broker/owner with Newman Greenberg & Associates and a director with the WinnipegREALTORS Association (WRA), said in an interview.
Greenberg said he’s been fielding a lot of calls in recent years from companies looking for condos to rent for executives who are coming here for three, six or nine months and don’t want to stay in a hotel or a regular apartment.
“But it’s very difficult to find higher end (rental) condos that executives would like,” he said, so maybe some of these companies might be interested in buying one instead. “I think there could be a lot of demand for that type of thing. They may even find there is an enormous demand and they may turn some of the others into executive condos, as well.”
Another factor working in Inlett’s favour is that condos are gaining in popularity and in value, Greenberg said, so companies may also see this as a good investment.
Monica Newman, Greenberg’s partner at Newman Greenberg & Associates, said the timing is also good because office condos have finally started to spring up in the city after gaining widespread acceptance elsewhere in North America.
As the concept of office condos gains acceptance here, that could make companies more receptive to the idea of also investing in a residential condos, Newman said.
The operations manager for Fort Garry Place, one of the local downtown apartment complexes that rents out furnished suites to extended-stay visitors, said there’s certainly been a growing demand for its units.
Lorraine Crawford said that when she joined Fort Garry Place five years ago, the complex had 110 one- and two-bedroom suites set aside for extended-stay visitors. Since then, it’s added 13 more to keep up with the demand.
Crawford said the suites have been rented out for anywhere from a week to two years. The people leasing them include military personnel, business people, people here to receive medical treatment, and homeowners who have been temporarily displaced because of flooding or a fire.
“But it’s geared mostly to business people,” she said.
It’s a similar story with Place Louis
Riel Suites Hotel, which has been renting
out extended-stay suites for more than
15 years. But it also gets quite a few
guests who are in the city to work on theatre
or movie productions, said Krista
Mask, the hotel’s manager of marketing
Mask said that at any given time, at least 50 to 60 of the hotel’s 295 suites are being taken up by extended-stay guests, all of whom are there for at least a month.
She said the suites appeal to longer term guests because the rental rates are at least 30 per cent less than they’d pay if they were renting a suite on a day-to-day basis. (The hotel’s daily corporate rate for a one-bedroom is $139).
Crawford said Fort Garry Place’s extended-stay rates range from $1,500 a month for a large one-bedroom suite to $2,000 a month for its largest two-bedroom unit.
Russell didn’t say what the asking price will be for Inlett’s condos, which will include studio suites and some one and two-bedroom units. They’ll range from 800 to 1,400 square feet, and Inlett will offer to manage the executive suites on behalf of the companies that buy them.
Inlett’s original plan called for the construction of 14 condos on two new floors that were to be built on top of the existing two-storey, 23,050 square-foot building.
That was to be the second phase of a proposed four-phase development. The first phase, which has been completed, involved the refurbishing of the existing building to create new office and retail space.
The third phase was to involve the construction of a new building adjacent to the existing one that would include a glass atrium and space for several commercial operations such as a restaurant and a coffee shop. That would be followed by the construction of a new eight-storey office tower.
Russell said because of the weak demand for new office space, the plan has been revised to include condo units on top of the new building, as well. The office-tower will likely be put on hold until demand for new office space picks up.
© Winnipeg Free Press, July 9, 2007, reproduced with permission.