Moncton seeing more downtown residential construction as 12-storey building pitched
City has sought to increase the number of people living downtown
Moncton's skyline could soon change if the city approves a proposed 12-storey apartment building downtown, the latest in a series of planned or under construction apartment buildings in the core.
Frederic Properties Corp. is proposing the building with 148 rental units along with three levels of underground parking at the corner of Botsford and Victoria streets north of St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church.
Designs show the building named St. Bernard Square rising about 38 metres, which would make it among the city's tallest, though dwarfed by the nearby Bell Aliant Tower that's 127 metres tall.
Christian Hébert is an architect with Design Plus Architecture in Moncton, which designed the building. He said based on initial conceptual designs, construction of the building could cost around $35 million.
"If all the stars align and we can start into the detailed design and we can get everybody on board, we would like to see the shovel on the ground before the end of this year," Hébert said in an interview Thursday.
"This is a large project. It's going to take a few years to build."
It's one of two proposed downtown apartment buildings the city's planning advisory committee will consider at its Feb. 24 meeting.
The second is a six-storey building with a parking garage on the corner of Highfield and Campbell streets proposed by Ashfield Living Highfield Inc.
That's only steps away from another six-storey building Ashfield is already building and about two blocks from three other apartment buildings under construction.
"There's a strong or big appetite from developers to build on this land," Luc Babineau, an economic development officer with the City of Moncton, said in an interview Wednesday.
Babineau said St. Bernard Square would be considered a "city changing" structure by the City of Moncton, a classification based on having a tax assessment of more than $10 million.
Babineau said the city approved construction of 48 residential units downtown in 2017, zero in 2018, 120 in 2019 and 248 in 2020.
"This is surpassing the 2017-2019 numbers in one project," Babineau said of St. Bernard Square.
Anne Poirier Basque, executive director of Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., called the spate of proposed or already underway apartments good news for the city's core.
"It seems like it's kind of a snowball effect right now," Poirier Basque said. "It's changing the look of our downtown for sure."
The city has long sought to increase the number of people living downtown. A study by Downtown Moncton, which represents downtown businesses, found only about five per cent of the city's population lives downtown.
"It's going to drive development because we're going to need more services downtown," Poirier Basque said, saying more residents will mean greater demand for pharmacies, groceries and other services.
Many downtown office workers have been working from home during the pandemic, which has hurt businesses in the core.
Valdo Grandmaison is listed as Frederic Properties Corp.'s director in corporate records.
The company's plans for St. Bernard Square involve 170 underground parking spaces, walk-up townhouse units taking up the first and second floors, with the building core then set back. Two-storey penthouse units are planned for the top of the building.
A private street would run between the building and the church, which Hébert said would ensure the building doesn't undermine the structural stability of the church and provides distance to separate the structures.
The plans require the city's planning advisory committee to approve multiple variances from planning bylaws, including allowing a building taller than 19 metres, underground parking below a minimum threshold, and the requirements for how far the building should be set back from surrounding roads.
If the planning committee approves those variances, the project would still require a city building permit.
Hébert said he couldn't say what the developer may charge for rent if the building is constructed.
Residential growth has fuelled construction in Moncton recently, with the city reporting nearly half of the $202.3 million worth of building permits issued in 2020 were for residential buildings. Eleven new apartment buildings with a total of 728 units were green-lit by the city last year.
However, many of the newer buildings are coming with pricey rent rates.
While Moncton has introduced a program to encourage developers to include affordable housing units in new construction, Mayor Dawn Arnold said late last year that none had yet used that program yet.