The City of Yellowknife and Holloway Lodging Corporation are in discussions over the sale of the 50/50 lot in the downtown core for the value of $1.
Should the city sell the land to Holloway, the company would seek to “take the need for residential units and add upwards of 180 units to the market,” according to information from the city’s agenda. “It also redevelops a lot currently only used for parking and loitering.”
Holloway, owners of both the Quality Inn and Suites and the upper half of Centre Square Mall, is proposing 12 floors of units consisting of studios to two-bedroom units for residential use as well as commercial space at the street level at 50 Street and 50 Avenue.
“In September 2014, the city bought the 50/50 property for an appraised value of $1,450,000. At the time the purchase was intended to support the downtown’s vibrancy, attractiveness, and economic competitiveness,” states the notes for council.
On Feb. 25, 2019, council directed administration to “dispose of the 50/50 lot through a call for a development proposal to lease or purchase the property, at appraised value, with a specific revitalization goal in mind.”
Administration is recommending to council to sell the lot for $1, while also moving funds from the Revitalization Initiative Reserve to cover the loss.
“I’m pretty excited we got a proposal,” said Coun. Niels Konge, who was cautiously optimistic.
However, he admitted he’s nervous about letting Holloway hold onto the land for an extended amount of time.
“I’m prepared to offer this at a really good deal, but don’t want the land to just be sitting there vacant for a very long time,” said Konge. “So, the thought going through my head was, why don’t we say, ‘OK, you pay full price for the land, then when your development permit goes in, we give you half of it back… then when the building permit goes in, you get the rest back.”
Charlsey White, director of planning and development, responded that the development permit could be 24-months — as opposed to the usual 12-month timeline — with finalization and occupancy occurring after 36-months.
In the event development isn’t completed, the property would return to the city free of charge.
“I don’t like those terms,” responded Konge. “I mean, for a buck, hold on to it for 24-months, get free parking, get a free place to put your garbage, and there’s absolutely, other than paying some taxes on it, no skin off.”
“We don’t want it back,” he continued. “I certainly don’t. I’m sure it’s pretty clear in our meeting minutes from 20-whenever we did this that I was fully opposed to ever buying this land.”
“And maybe it doesn’t have to be the full amount, but let’s say throw half a million dollars at it.”
Rob Sherman, Holloway’s chief operating officer responded, “Our perspective when we look at this, there’s a lot of risk associated with this type of project, even before the current climate.
“Like there’s a reason this things been vacant so long and no one has stepped up to do this,” he added. “We wouldn’t rule anything out, but based on what we have right now, I think that would be difficult.”
Revitalization has been a hot topic of discussion in the city over the past several weeks as the Bellanca Building, the Northern Lites Motel and the former location of the Polaris building are — prospectively or already confirmed — being converted to housing options for various means.