Moderate income housing needs could take precedence over low-income needs as City council has taken a shine to the strata-fication of The Royal on Baker.
The Royal Grill and Lounge on Baker Street is looking to renovate their existing building into a strata, taking 14 rental units off the Nelson market and instead putting 16 residential units up for sale.
A development application received by City Hall for the building at 330 Baker Street, would renovate the building and stratify the lounge, commercial space and residential units.
Under the Strata Property Act, City council must approve the change and, in their regular meeting Monday night, council’s desire supported a City staff report that recommended approval of the application.
If the strata were approved, a City staff report read, the existing rental units could be taken off of the market and sold as individual units.
“However, this proposal would still work towards supplying housing for moderate income households,” the report stated.
The application was approved by City council for stratification, subject to “the proponent demonstrating that the proposed renovations substantially comply with the most recent edition of the BC Building Code” of the Strata Property Act.
Under the act, approval for the change must take into account the priority of rental accommodation over privately owned housing in the area and proposals for relocation of persons currently occupying the building.
However, the City has no policy with respect to the conversion of existing buildings into strata units. The Official Community Plan is “silent” on the conversion of rental units in existing buildings to strata units.
One letter of complaint has been received by City staff from the adjacent neighbour with concerns over the following: cleanliness of the property, location of the dumpster, lighting of the back lane, sound levels and parking.
Currently the City does not require the provision of parking spaces when a change of use occurs within the downtown core or when renovations are done to an existing building. The provision is required when new floor space is added or a new building is constructed.
The draft Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan encourage mixed use developments within the downtown core — which is compatible with the proposal — and early indications are City council supports the project.
Prior to Royal Nelson Investments Ltd. president Luke Menkes acquiring the building June 1, 2010, there were nine low-income rental suites in the building.
Five units on the third floor were delivered vacant by the previous owner on June 1, 2010, Menkes said in a letter to council. Those units have been demolished and converted into a single unit which remains vacant.
“It is expected that the building, with the proposed upgrades and a proper maintenance fund set up under the strata, will last many decades,” he said.
Royal Nelson Investments Ltd. are proposing to renovate the commercial and residential units and remove the racquet courts.
The building will be reconfigured with the main floor being the pub — expanded to include the area currently occupied by a coffee shop and office space — commercial space in the basement and five residential units on the second floor, a games room and three office suites.
On the third floor there will be four residential units and an audio-visual amenity room. The third level, previously part of the racquet courts (to be divided horizontally), there will be two residential units and two rooftop patios.
The building will be stratified into 16 units, with 10 one-bedroom residential units, one two-bedroom residential unit and five units of commercial space.
All of the residences will consist of all-new plumbing and electrical, windows, doors and finishing. The five commercial suites either have already been significantly upgraded or will be, under the strata plan.
The plan does not rule out rental units, however. In Menkes’ letter, he said an investor could buy the units and rent them out to tenants at their discretion, subject to strata rules.