New Brunswick

A sneak peek inside Moncton's Castle Manor condos

Taking years longer than expected and costing millions more than hoped, the Castle Manor condos are nearing completion and the developer Jay Tse says it was a labour of love.

Million-dollar condos to hit Moncton market soon as renovation project nears completion

Developer Jay Tse hopes the renovation of Castle Manor will be done by August. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

Taking years longer than expected and costing millions more than hoped, the Castle Manor condos in Moncton are nearing completion and developer Jay Tse says he'd do it again, if he had to.

Castle Manor is a Gothic Revival estate built around 1905. It served as an orphanage and a senior citizens home. When it hit the market in 2014, the property gained national attention for the relatively cheap asking price of $699,900 — what some would pay for a home in larger cities.

This unit, nicknamed the Chapel, is available for $1.1M. Tse said it would have been easier to remove the dome, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. “There’s not many people who can do this today. There was a lot of blood sweat and tears doing this.” (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Tse and some investors bought the property in 2014 for $475,000. Four years later, the 25,000-square-foot building has been turned into 13 condos that range in price from $317,000 to a whopping $1.3 million.

"They are not the same, you know," Tse said. "It's not cookie cutter so it adds more challenges in every step of the way."

In 2014, Tse was planning to have 14 units, priced between $275,000 and $350,000 ready for the fall of 2015, but things changed as he got deeper into the project.

Each of the 13 condos in the building are different to allow for some of the original Gothic features to remain. This stained glass window is double-paned with tempered glass. Jay Tse said the window could not fit through the door and had to be brought in through another unit. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"It's a challenge, you know. I told people it's not a headache; it's a migraine and that's exactly what it is," said Tse with a laugh. 

Most windows, doors and the elevator are custom made to fit the heritage building's features. Tse said the specialty items cost more and he often had to wait for them.

But he said now that the project is 99 per cent complete, he'd reluctantly do it again, comparing each unique unit to a baby. 

Moncton's Castle Manor renovated into 13 condos

5 years ago
Duration 1:29
Taking years longer than expected and costing millions more than hoped, the Castle Manor condos are nearing completion and the developer Jay Tse says it was a labour of love.

"I've grown attached to it. It's almost four years," he said. "I've never done a building that has taken so much of my time and effort."

Tse said he's been in construction for 35 years, and he's worked on projects for longer than this, but Castle Manor was by far the most difficult and the most rewarding.

One ground floor condo at Castle Manor is finished and furnished to give a sense of what the units look like. The more expensive condos, like the penthouse and the Chapel, a condo that used to house the orphanage chapel, will be left rough so the buyer can pick the finishing touches. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

"I can tell my grandchildren, 'You know your grandfather had a hand in this."   

Another challenge Tse has ahead is selling the condos. He said there has been "phenomenal interest" in the units, but he admits, "Moncton is not a condo market yet." The renovation is expected to be completed in August. 

Developer Jay Tse kept as much of the original building as possible, like the wooden staircase and exposed brick walls. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"The units here are a lot more expensive than what you see around."

He said it will take a unique buyer to purchase a place in the building, but he's confident it will happen.

Tse estimated the renovation has cost him about "$7 million and counting," but he attributed his relaxed attitude to "very rich relatives."

"To them in Vancouver, it's just a house."

Tse said he appreciates that he has the financial backing to take the time to do what he wants with the building, and also: "Thank God I have very good tradespeople."