At least 120 people looking to rent an apartment in the city of
St. John’s will have more options once a new building goes up on Topsail Road.
City council approved an application Monday by Killam Properties to construct a six-storey apartment building at 485 Topsail Rd. — directly across from Lawton’s Drugs.
Coun. Tom Hann said this is only the third apartment building in the works for St. John’s since the early 1990s and it’s desperately needed to meet housing demands. He said there is an apartment building under construction in Pleasantville and another that’s been approved in principle for Empire Avenue.
Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff said it’s her recollection that it’s been a couple of decades since there was an apartment building constructed in the city.
“It’s about 20 years since we’ve had any new ones and, in fact, we’ve lost a lot, ones that have been turned into condominiums,” said Duff, who chaired the meeting Monday in Mayor Dennis O’Keefe’s absence.
“I think this is a good project simply because there is a great need in the city for apartment units,” said Hann.
In response to a question by Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary about the price range, Hann said it’s his understanding apartments will be in the $1,000-$1,200 a month range.
Hann, chairman of the city’s planning and development committee, told council the project meets the city’s regulations and the land will not have to be rezoned, and a public meeting to receive feedback from the community will not have to be held.
Hann said there have been other applications submitted to the city for that area that didn’t proceed, and there have been concerns expressed by residents in the past.
“Given the zoning it does fit all the requirements, and therefore the development committee is recommending approval. I know the ward councillor wants to have something to say, because I think we need to talk to residents on Holbrook Avenue because, with the last two applications, I think there were some concerns, so there has to be some discussion between the developer and the residents,” said Hann.
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Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley, whose ward includes Topsail Road, said he’s well aware the project meets the city’s development regulations, but residents still deserve to be told what’s going on.
“From my perspective it looks very good in terms of how it will impact the residents. I’m going to arrange a meeting with staff, developer and residents to identify any concerns they may have or how we may make this project more effective and palatable,” he said.
“I think that’s the reasonable and honest thing to do. But there’s no question about it, let me be upfront, that this particular project meets all of our regulations and standards, and I just want to keep the residents informed, and I think we owe it to them,” Tilley said.
The city’s acting director of planning, Ken O’Brien, said because the project is in a zone that allows an apartment building to be constructed, there is no decision for council to make in terms of zoning, so the meeting with residents will only be an information session to let people know what is happening.
It will not be a public meeting held for citizens to air their concerns about a project in the hopes of swaying council to approve or not approve a particular development.
However, as council approved the Topsail Road project, it said it was subject to three conditions, one of which is the information session for the residents of Holbrook Avenue — at which time residents will also be able to view the development plans.
Hann said even though the apartment building is a permitted use for Topsail Road, the developer will listen to residents, and if there are any concerns that need to be addressed, there may be some way to address some of the issues.
“I think this is a unique opportunity, and Killam is a national developer and all they do is develop apartment units, and I’m sure you’re going to see them come back with more. I think they have identified the market and the need for apartment units and I think we’re going to see more developers coming forward in the $800-$900 price range,” he said.
The other conditions include compliance with the requirements of the city’s departments of planning, development and engineering, as well as compliance with all aspects of the St. John’s Regional Fire Department.