City council has allowed for discussions of converting an old church into a housing complex to move forward, but not without concern.
Greenwell Asset Management purchased property on India Avenue that used to house the Bethel-First Baptist Church with the intention of converting it into a high-end, multi-unit housing complex for industrial executive workers and, later, for seniors.
The company plans to spend approximately $1.8 million on the project, constructing 18 suites, all 400-sq. ft. in size, with private bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces. One of the suites would be reserved for the on-site manager.
Because the property isn’t currently zoned for multi-family dwellings, Greenwell Asset Management submitted a rezoning application for the city’s consideration.
City councillors had a number of concerns with the project, including parking. The site plan includes 18 parking spots: Fourteen in the main lot, two on the building’s south side and two in the back. Geoff Greenwell of Greenwell Asset Management noted the spaces meet the city’s size requirements and conform to setback requirements.
But Coun. Barry Cunningham was doubtful.
“I went and looked at that lot. I drive a full-size pick-up truck. If this is going to be an apartment block for executives from construction companies, they’re going to be driving pick-up trucks … I found when parking my truck in that lot you’d be lucky to get another seven in,” said Cunningham.
Coun. Joy Thorkelson said she’s in favour of housing densification, but worried that the building would have a lot of wear and tear from project workers by the time it was ready for seniors.
But Greenwell assured council the company wouldn’t allow a $1.8 million investment to become rundown.
Cunningham questioned why the design didn’t include an elevator if the intention is to convert it into a seniors’ facility eventually.
“I don’t want somebody coming in here and blowing smoke up our butt about them doing something down the road and just building an ordinary apartment,” he said.
Coun. Blair Mirau noted regardless of whether or not the facility will be converted into seniors housing down the line, the proposal is to make use of a currently under-used property.
Greenwell said the main floor would always be accessible to wheelchairs, adding that the building plan includes leaving space for an elevator shaft on the south side when the time comes to convert it into a seniors’ facility.
Greenwell also noted the existing design includes space for a commercial kitchen and lounge, which wouldn’t be necessary for the rooming house or regular apartment building. The company also intends to have pre-wiring done so each room can have panic buttons in the future.
“It’s costing us about $180,000 more than we’d need to spend if we weren’t going to [convert it for seniors],” he said, adding if no major projects go ahead the group still intends to build the complex just for seniors.
All members of council were in favour of doing first reading of the rezoning bylaw in order to learn more about the project.
Greenwell Asset Management will host a public information session on their proposed project between 5 and 7 p.m. on March 4. The event will be held at the building in question, located at 1433 India Avenue.