The developer behind a controversial 16-storey hotel project in Dartmouth has applied to convert the unfinished commercial building to residential.
Monaco Investments originally sought approval to build an apartment building at the corner of Prince Albert Road and Glenwood Avenue.
After a contentious public hearing in 2018, the Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council approved an eight-storey building for the site. Residents of the area felt it was too big, while councillors felt it was a fair compromise after earlier proposals for 15 and then nine storeys.
But the zoning at the time allowed the developer to build a hotel with no height limit at all. The company decided to move ahead with a 16-storey hotel, and it’s under construction now.
Halifax regional council looked at options to stop the hotel development. But in an information report in July 2019, then manager of current planning, Steven Higgins, advised council it had no viable options.
Higgins’ report mentioned the possibility of a future residential conversion under the Centre Plan, which had yet to be approved at the time.
“The current version of the draft plan and bylaw, if adopted without further amendments, would allow conversion from a hotel to any permitted use (including residential),” Higgins wrote.
“Council should note that the developer has indicated their intention is to develop the hotel as planned and they have no intent to convert the structure for residential purposes.”
Years later, the developer’s intention has changed.
Developer applies for residential conversion
On Feb. 1, HRM’s open data portal shows the developer applied for a renovation permit to convert the building, with an estimated value of $10 million. The number of storeys is listed as 17.
The description reads:
Renovation and internal conversion from the proposed 154 room hotel started under Building Permit 168044 to create a 99 unit residential occupancy.
The former hotel lobby restaurant/serving area to be converted to commercial space.
Level 3 parking garage to be converted to residential occupancy.
Clearstory on Level 2 to be filled in and used as amenity space.
The status of the permit, as of May 21, is “Applicant Revisions.”
Councillor not surprised
Deputy Mayor Sam Austin, the councillor for Dartmouth Centre, said he’s not surprised to see the developer change tack “given how much the world has changed since they started construction of that thing.”
While he would’ve preferred a shorter building, Austin said residential use is preferable.
“The building scale is wrong for the location, but residential is a better use than a hotel,” Austin said.
“We need more housing in the area … Not everyone who is downsizing out of their house wants to go live on Baker Drive. It gives another option in the area, and people living in an apartment building, they’re part of your community, they’re there every day. A hotel is much more transitory and much more intensive in terms of land use.”
Austin said he understands some people in the community will be upset about the change, but he doesn’t think this was the developer’s plan from the start.
The developer will have to substantially complete the building before HRM will approve a conversion, Austin said.