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Conservatory building nearing rental stage

Construction crews working on the Conservatory building in Glenmore are making headway in their efforts to turn the once-dead development into a new pocket of rental suites.

Work on the 100 condos being completed under developer Sunstar Ventures   has been so robust, it's even encouraged interested locals to take to their phones and make inquiries on rental rates, but developer Bob Buvyer said it would be best to hold off for two more weeks.

"People are calling, but we're not yet taking applications," Buvyer, Monday, noting that a rate structure had yet to be completed. By the end of the month that should be worked out and system to field inquiries will also be put in place at the same time time.

"Then, hopefully, we can have tenants in the building in April."

The project, he said, is at the 80 per cent complete mark from where they started and, as might be expected with a construction site that lay dormant so many times, there have been challenges getting it there.

None, however, have been insurmountable, said Buvyer.

In fact, while finishing touches are being put on the new building— including two outside elevators to cover up the wall that was once thought to be the starting point of phase two— further plans for a nearby town-square fit with commercial and low density residential space are underway.

"We haven't brought those plans to council, but we're in the process to bringing it to the planning department," he said.

Closer to the starting block  is the new phase two, which is far from the grandiose high-rise structure initially proposed when the development was conceived in 2002.

"We're looking at starting one of the phases of the multifamily townhouse development," said Buvyer.

"That will be at the back of the site, off Valley Road, and it has to go through rezoning first, because it's presently zoned agriculture—not in the ALR, but still agriculture."

All in all, the soon to be renamed Conservatory is facing a much different destiny than was originally anticipated, not to mention ensuing years when its failure prompted community speculation.

Although ground was broken on the project in 2002,  it was just a yawning hole in Glenmore until construction started in earnest by 2005.

That didn't last long, as the building boom put pressure on construction costs and resources and the site stayed dormant until 2008.

In 2002, the Conservatory was supposed to ring in at just under $14 million. By the time construction was in full swing again in 2008 the first phase of The Conservatory was expected to cost something closer to $29 million, which was far above previously secured financing.

There was no means to recoup costs from investors who purchased their suites at a cost of  $240 a square foot, considering developers could only increase prices by 27 per cent.

By the time the property went into receivership, costs were more in the range of $470 and $550 a square foot.

They still moved forward, but as construction reached the 84 per cent completion mark, developers had to go back to the bank to do some refinancing. That kept them afloat for a few months, but the project eventually went into receivership.

Many have looked at the project over the years, but Sunstar Ventures is the first to make headway.

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