Developer plans to convert Yellowknife's Bellanca Building into rental apartments
'We feel that is what the city needs most at this time,' says a director of Borealis Development Inc.
Buyers of the Bellanca Building in downtown Yellowknife say they plan to convert the long-vacant office tower into apartments for rent.
"We feel that is what the city needs most at this time," Afzal Suri, a director of Borealis Development Inc., the company that bought the Bellanca, wrote in an email.
As first reported by Cabin Radio, Borealis Development Inc. proposes converting the former federal government office building into a 72-unit apartment building called "The Nest," complete with a penthouse suite, gym and retail space at the ground level.
Amid a housing crunch and ongoing efforts by the city to spruce up the downtown core, such a development comes as welcome news to some.
"In our downtown, I think there's a lot of opportunity there. Somebody thinks the Bellanca Building has some opportunity, so good on them," said city councillor and builder Niels Konge.
"For me, anytime private business wants to do investment, it's a great thing. It's way better than government doing it. Government screws up almost everything they touch."
Bellanca sat empty for a decade
The Bellanca's former owner, real estate investment giant KingSett Capital, let the 10-storey building sit empty and falling into disrepair for a decade. One windy day in 2018, about five storeys' worth of siding fell off the exterior — it was never replaced.
Toronto-based KingSett Capital owns several office buildings in Yellowknife's downtown, and is part-owner of Northview Canadian High Yield Residential Fund, the city's most prominent commercial and residential landlord.
Borealis Development bought the Bellanca and the neighbouring parking lot for $1.4 million.
According to documents filed with N.W.T. Corporate Registries, Borealis Development incorporated in August 2021 and has two directors: Suri, and Mansoor Ahmad Anjum.
Suri is the store manager of The Brick in Yellowknife, and Anjum is the store's owner.
Anjum couldn't be reached for comment. Suri declined an interview request, asking instead to answer questions via email.
Suri said the company plans to begin construction before the end of this year, with the hope of opening the building to the public in 2024.
When asked if any of the units would be offered as affordable rentals, Suri wrote: "No comment." He also declined to comment on the development's estimated cost.
The city approved a development permit for the Bellanca's lots, subject to certain conditions. People who say they'll be adversely affected by the project had until Thursday afternoon to appeal it.
The city did not respond to CBC's questions about whether anyone had made an appeal.