Whitehorse developer to build waterfront condos

A Whitehorse development company says it will start building condominiums on the city's waterfront this summer.

Units will go for between $389,000 and $569,000

An artist's depiction of River's Reach, a 20-unit riverfront condominium building that is expected to be ready for occupancy next year. Northern Vision says 40 per cent of units have already been spoken for. (Northern Vision Development LP)

A Whitehorse development company says it will start building condominiums on the city's waterfront this summer.

Northern Vision Development and its partner, Ketza Group, announced on Thursday the first phase of their riverfront construction plans.

The companies said they will start building River's Reach, a four-storey 20-unit condo building near the banks of the Yukon River, with the goal of being ready for occupancy by next year.

River's Reach will be located along the riverfront trolley tracks and walking paths, between Earls restaurant in Spook Creek and the Boston Pizza restaurant beside Shipyards Park, according to officials.

"When we formed Northern Vision in 2004, this whole development was one of the central focuses that we had," president Rich Thompson told CBC News on Thursday.

High demand for housing

"We certainly intended, before now, to be developing this project, but economic circumstances haven't really made that possible," he added.

Given Yukon's current mining boom, and the high demand for housing in Whitehorse, Thompson said now is the time to start developing Northern Vision's waterfront properties.

"We've got a perfect situation right now — a strong economy, strong residential and commercial demand — and we think that that's going to persist for some time," he said.

"It's a good time to be launching a fairly comprehensive project with the ability to accommodate a lot of demand."

But the new condos won't be cheap on either end of the scale, as Thompson said construction costs are expected to be around $400 per square foot.

40% of units already reserved

As a result, a small unit measuring 900 square feet is expected to sell for more than $300,000 he said.

The unit prices will range between $389,000 and $569,000, with underground parking and storage lockers included with each unit, according to a release.

Given the high demand for housing, Thompson said 40 per cent of the units at River's Reach are already spoken for.

In all, Thompson said Northern Vision plans to build four residential buildings and two commercial complexes along the waterfront, provided that Whitehorse's economy keeps up.

There may be enough consumer interest to push Northern Vision towards building a second condo tower later this year, he added.

City seeks housing market flexibility

Meanwhile, Whitehorse city planners want to pursue creative ways to create more housing, especially in the lower price range, in the city's tight real estate market.

Senior planner Mike Ellis said his department is hoping city council will approve a growth strategy with a wide-ranging set of proposals to open up more land for development and allow for a higher population density in existing neighbourhoods.

For example, Ellis said one proposed measure would let people build small second homes on their lots.

"Wherever there's single-family housing, provided that you meet certain criteria, that you'd be allowed to build a garden suite," Ellis told reporters on Thursday.

"That's a lot more of the city where you could have these smaller, typically rental accommodation units."

City planner Ben Campbell said staff are also looking at ways to redevelop the southern end of downtown Whitehorse and make better use of vacant, underused or boarded-up sites.

As well, officials say they want to allow more hostels, boarding homes and rooming houses, as well as press ahead with plans to open up the Porter Creek D area to development.