Red Deer city council approved a rezoning that could enable a south-side hotel to be turned into a 50-unit affordable housing complex for Indigenous people — despite concerns from a nearby property developer.
At a public hearing on Tuesday, Reg Kinch, investor in the Bremner Avenue South Centre (former Legion building), asked what would happen to his commerical development if things “went south” with the apartments next door?
Shining Mountain Living Community Services wants to purchase the Holiday Inn Express at 2803-50th Ave., if the property can be rezoned from a commercial motel to a multi-family housing complex.
The group’s executive-director, Raye St. Denys, said the bachelor, one and two-bedroom suites would be rented at 10 per cent below market rents to First Nations and Métis people — mostly seniors, but also some women, with or without children, she added.
To have affordable apartments with direct street access was her “dream” for six years, said St. Denys, who added there’s a need for more affordable housing in the city.
She noted many seniors and women from the Indigenous community are interested in moving into the complex, so it could be a step towards reconciliation.
Red Deer city council heard that problems arose in the area last winter when the Travelodge, which is located just north of the Holiday Inn Express, was used as temporary isolation space for homeless shelter clients with COVID-19.
Kinch said a hole had been cut in a wire fence behind the Legion complex and were found sleeping under tents behind some sheds.
City planners assured Kinch that the Travelodge is no longer being used for homeless clients. However, the Travelodge was previously approved for 47 housing suites — although this transformation has not yet started.
If this former motel and the Holiday Inn Express both became “back-to-back,” housing complexes, “that’s a lot of suites,” said Kinch, who remains concerned about “lack of controls” if all the tenants aren’t good neighbours.
The investor added he and his partner have other interests in the area, including the possible redevelopment of the Black Knight Inn, but are leery of making such a large investment with uncertainty around nearby housing projects.
St. Denys told council that Shining Mountains tenants have had no problems co-existing with neighbours in another apartment complex the group operates in Riverside Meadows and some four-plexes in Glendale.
Outside cameras would be installed at the Holiday Inn Express and other controls applied to ensure there are no problems, she added.
Most of council approved the rezoning — only Coun. Lawrence Lee was opposed because he said not enough study was done on the impact of these hotel conversions on neighbourhoods.
Mayor Tara Veer felt the housing proposal aligns with city redevelopment plans. “The zoning fits” with the Bower Place mall and other commercial businesses in the direct area, added Veer, who believes the rezoning is also a solution to some of Red Deer’s surplus hotels and motels.
To have legitimate uses in buildings, instead of vacancies, actually helps reduce social disorder and crime, added the mayor. She noted concerns about security could be dealt with at the development permit stage.