Developer pitches tiny condo for downtown Yellowknife

A developer is planning a 12-unit “micro-condo” building on 54th Street in Yellowknife. The loft-style units would feature rooms about the size of two standard parking spaces, as well as electric cars to be shared among occupants.

Wayne Guy says 12-unit building would help breathe new life into downtown core

Wayne Guy pitches his idea for a 12-unit micro-condo to Yellowknife's city council members on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC News)

A Yellowknife developer's big idea to shake up the city's downtown housing market isn't actually that big at all.

Wayne Guy, founder of Yellowknife-based Guy Architects, plans to build a 12-unit "micro-condo" building on 54th Street. The loft-style units would feature rooms about the size of two standard parking spaces, as well as electric cars to be shared among occupants.

"There's now an option to be in a more central location at a fraction of the cost and not have that burden of running a vehicle and starting at 40 below," said Guy. "They sound on the small side, but like boat design, there's not a cubic inch that's wasted."

The proposal marks the arrival in Yellowknife of a type of housing that is popular in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver with millennials who value affordability, proximity to amenities and environmentally-friendly lifestyles.

They sound on the small side, but like boat design, there's not a cubic inch that's wasted.- Architect Wayne Guy

The 320-square-foot, loft-style condos will be fully-furnished and will include kitchenettes, granite countertops, laundry facilities and an open concept living-dining area. 

Guy submitted a development application to the city in early June and hopes to begin construction before the end of the summer. 

He said the price of one unit will be around $200,000.

Digital mockups show the layout of a unit. (Submitted by Guy Architects)

'New urbanism'

Guy said he based the plans for the development on the principles of "new urbanism," an urban design philosophy that promotes denser neighbourhoods, building housing close to shopping, repurposing abandoned areas, and strong public transportation systems.

The building will be the first to take advantage of the so-called "car-share" provisions of the city's zoning bylaw, which allows developers to reduce the required number of parking spaces per unit if they provide at least one shared car for every eight units. 

Without providing the two electric vehicles, Guy would be required to build a total of 12 parking spaces and wouldn't be able to fit both the building and the parking spaces without buying an adjacent lot. 

A digital rendering of the exterior of the building, which the company is branding Gem Housing on 54th.

Instead, the condo corporation will own the two vehicles and occupants will determine the process for sharing them.

Housing options like this will help to revitalize the city's downtown core by attracting people to affordable, eco-friendly housing, according to Guy. 

"What we're really looking at is making and giving downtown back to people rather than cars," said Guy. "People are good for business and if you can have affordable housing you will have more people and I think it's a win-win for the whole community."

Demand for condos rising in the North

Len Catling, a spokesperson for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), said tiny homes like the ones proposed by Guy have popped up in cities across Canada as housing markets heat up and people search for more affordable options. 

"It's been very prevalent in urban centres across Canada, and Yellowknife is no different," Catling said. "Developers are looking to build denser, more affordable options and demand is showing that those units are accessible to young people moving into the housing market."

Catling said a 2018 CMHC report on the northern housing market found demand for condos across the region is growing stronger, driven by their affordability and shorter construction time.

Marie Coe, a Yellowknife real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, said one of the keys to selling a unit like this would be keeping the condo fees down. 

"[Fees are] a sore spot but people still like to have those apartments-style condos where they're what we call, 'worry free,'" said Coe.

"You don't have to worry about snow removal, you don't have to worry about how the heating works, or anything, you just go into the place and open your door and that's it."

Guy, the developer, said he hopes relying on the city's electrical grid for utilities including heating and the low maintenance cost for electric vehicles will keep condo fees low.


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