November 23, 2016 3:42 pm
Updated: November 23, 2016 9:59 pm

Downtown Edmonton MacDonald Lofts to become property of ICE District

WATCH ABOVE: Daryl Katz is expanding the Ice District and will soon own another piece of downtown property. His latest purchase is an apartment building but residents are being told they won't be forced out on the street. Kendra Slugoski reports.

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ICE District Joint Venture, which is part of the Katz Group, announced Wednesday it has entered into an agreement to buy the MacDonald Lofts property in downtown Edmonton.

The 87-unit apartment building, in the area of 101 Street and 105 Avenue, is a subsidized housing unit. Most of the people who live in the 1912 MacDonald Lofts building collect some sort of social assistance.

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ICE District Joint Venture said in a media release Wednesday that while the state of the property will not be known until the sale is final, the company believes the entire property will have to be vacated for repairs and to resolve ongoing health concerns.

“In the event that any existing residents need to be relocated, ICE District Joint Venture will work with those residents, the Government of Alberta, and other social agencies on a process to find permanent, safe and affordable housing solutions focused on improving the quality of life for residents of the MacDonald Lofts Property,” ICE District said Wednesday.

“Except where there is an emergent health or safety issue, existing residents should be able to continue living in MacDonald Lofts until the physical condition of the building can be assessed.”

The Katz Group said it’s not sure what it will do with the building, as it will have to be assessed. The building is a designated historical site, so it cannot be torn down. Any physical changes to the outside of the building must be approved by city council.

“The facades and the historical designation are quite important to the city. We will have to work with the city to do any physical changes to the exterior structure of that building,” Glen Scott, senior VP of real estate with the Katz Group, said.

Scott said they will know a lot more in the next 60 to 90 days once the property can be assessed.

“Once we acquire a title it will be in the plans. And it is correct that we’re not in the social housing business but we don’t know what the site will look like in the future. The short-term message for sure is we want to make sure the people who are residents there are looked after appropriately.”

READ MORE: Bedbugs, cockroaches and feces: Edmonton apartments ‘unfit for human habitation’

The manager of the building, Dave Martyshuk of Martyshuk Housing, said no one will be homeless because of the sale. He said Martyshuk Housing has been retained by ICE District Joint Venture to maintain the management and operations of the building.

“Tenants are going to remain, there’s no eviction notices going out, there’s no rental increases in the future,” Martyshuk said. “They put it to me quite clearly that no one is going to be homeless as a result of this sale.”

Martyshuk said he doesn’t know what the future holds for the building, but if tenants move out he has other suites to accommodate residents.

“If a unit has been assessed and needs repairs then the tenant will definitely be relocated.”

Martyshuk said the sale of the building was inevitable.

“We’re in the midst of a downtown revitalization program. This move is good for the City of Edmonton, it’s good for the community here. And, you know what, it’s going to be good for these tenants,” he said. “It’s a 112-year-old building, it’s beat up, it’s been drastically underfunded and we’re going to be able to relocate these tenants and welcome them into a higher standard of life.”

Earlier this year, the building was brought into the spotlight after tenants were told to expect a $263-per month rent hike. At the time, Martyshuk said the rent increase was long overdue and the money was needed to pay for repairs and security.

After some backlash from residents worried the hike would leave them homeless, Martyshuk backtracked on the rent increase.

READ MORE: Downtown Edmonton building manager backtracks on $263 rent hike

Pat Lloyd, who has lived in the building for 11 years, said he is okay with eventually moving out. He said he wasn’t surprised by the sale.

“I expected it because it’s a very valuable piece of land,” Lloyd said.

Pat Lloyd has lived in the MacDonald Lofts building for 11 years.

Kendra Slugoski, Global News

 

Neither Scott nor Martyshuk would say what ICE District Joint Venture paid for the property.

The sale is expected to be final by the end of November.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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