The city is taking extra measures to ensure a building goes up after the St. Regis Hotel is torn down. Fortress Real Developments plans to build a commercial space and parkade where the more than century-old Smith Street hotel stands.
"We want to make sure they are really ready to go because it is downtown and we don't want to have an open field there," said property and planning chair John Orlikow. "We are asking for more due diligence on the financing side."
"We have CentreVenture managing [the St. Regis] project for us directly and they are going to be asking for a little extra assurances from the developer before going forward," said Orlikow.
CentreVenture, the city's arms-length development corporation, sold the St. Regis to Fortress in 2015 for $4 million — subject to a development agreement that would require a 625-stall parking structure and commercial/retail complex to be built. Construction was supposed to begin by April 2017 but CentreVenture was granted a one-year extension.
Fortress says it will nail down a tenant before getting started on the St. Regis. "A lease for the parkade will be in place before construction starts," said Jenni Byrne, spokesperson for Fortress.
The city already requires Richmond, Ont. based-Fortress to provide proof it has construction financing prior to allowing excavation for its other project, the SkyCIty Centre condo development planned for Graham Avenue. It's one of the conditions of the $6.5-million grant city council approved last month.
"Right now, the position we are taking is that construction financing for the overall project would have to be in place before they can come in and dig a hole," said John Kiernan, property and planning director.
Fortress has told investors it needs to borrow as much as $220 million in construction financing to get SkyCity — which has not begun construction — off the ground.
Fortress is developing a similar project called Capital Pointe in downtown Regina where the Plains Hotel used to stand.
Excavation on that site began in 2015 after sitting vacant since demolition in 2011. Fortress took over the project in mid-2014.
Fortress confirmed it has not secured construction financing for Capital Pointe.
"The developer is currently reviewing multiple offers and plans to choose the financing package for Capital Pointe," said Byrne, who added that excavation delays at Capital Pointe were "due to unforeseeable site issues" which include weather and debris from the old foundation.
Last November, Fortress CEO Jawad Rathore told CBC News "We've broken ground. We've almost completed our excavation. We're almost at the bottom of our hole right now."
There was no construction activity when CBC News visited the site late last week.
A spokesperson for ITC, Capital Pointe's construction management firm, said no crews have been working since earlier in the week, because they're waiting for steel to arrive.
When asked if the St. Regis could be demolished, leaving the lot to sit vacant, Orlikow said, "We have the extra layers of protection here to make sure that doesn't happen."