Rancher’s Valley Inn is growing up and out.
On Monday, Red Deer’s municipal planning commission gave site development approval for the two-storey hotel at 5017 49th St. to be expanded by two floors and a four-storey addition constructed on its south side.
Potters Hands Developments Ltd., which acquired the building on June 1, plans to develop it into affordable housing and commercial space.
The company, which is operated by Stan Schalk and Peter Leyen, owns several other affordable housing developments in the city. It wants to add 45 residential suites to the 26 that now exist in the Rancher’s Valley Inn.
Each unit will have its own bathroom and kitchen. Suites will range in size from 280 to 710 square feet, with 59 bachelor or one-bedroom units, and 12 suites with two bedrooms.
Commercial space is expected to be leased on the ground floor.
“Our hope is that we’ll see construction happening later in the summer and in the fall,” said Schalk following the commission’s meeting. “My hope is that we’ll be ready . . . about a year and a half from now.”
Although the budget has yet to be finalized, Schalk estimated the cost of the project at $4.5 million to $5 million, excluding property costs. He declined to comment on the purchase price of the hotel.
Schalk also indicated that a second phase could follow, with his company talking with the city about acquiring a 26-stall public parking lot on the south side of the Rancher’s Valley Inn.
He said there is “huge need” for affordable housing in downtown Red Deer, particularly by people who work in the area.
“I have a long list of people who want to rent from us who are exactly in that situation.”
Schalk is also confident there would be a demand for the commercial space in the building.
George Berry of Berry Architecture and Associates described to the commission how the building’s facade and roof lines will be broken up to minimize its visual mass. The acrylic stucco and painted brick exterior will consist of three colours, with the appearance of these changing with the light and weather.
“This is a very showpiece location, coming into the downtown, and so we want it to have some real class and some real feel to it,” he said.
Slated to be called The River Valley, the building will be handicapped accessible, including 10 units designed for use by people with any type of disability.
Only 18 parking stalls are planned, which is far short of the 92 required under Red Deer’s land-use bylaw.
Berry and Schalk stressed that most of the building’s tenants will not own vehicles, and Schalk added that additional parking will be available if Potters Hands Developments acquires the adjacent city-owned land.
In addition to reducing the required number of parking stalls, the commission voted to allow units in the building to be smaller than the approximately 400 square feet required under the land-use bylaw.
It did, however, impose a condition that canopies be installed above the commercial premises.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling said later that commercial development with a residential component above it should help bring people to the downtown core. He also said he is pleased that the Rancher’s Valley Inn won’t be torn down.
“From a LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) principle, this adaptive re-use of the existing hotel into a combination of commercial and residential, and building on top of it, is very, very efficient.”
Flewwelling said he couldn’t comment on the status of Potters Hands Developments’s efforts to obtain the nearby city property, but suggested further development in the area would be welcome.
“I’d be very happy to see that whole block filled in.”