Minto Communities is increasing its presence in the Calgary real estate market with plans to build a large multiresidential development on a former school property which would include up to 2,500 units.
The 2501 Richmond project will be built on the former Viscount Bennett site which Minto purchased from the Calgary Board of Education earlier this year.
“I think a lot of Calgarians have been driving by this site on Crowchild (road), looking out their window going ‘What are the possibilities here?’ ” Greg Mills, president of Western Canada for Minto Communities, told RENX. “The learning centre has been closed down for so long, it’s surplus land. We just got involved in it about 12 months ago.
"The school board had it on the market. We closed on it in March of this year and spent the summer sort of strategizing and thinking about what we should do on the site and trying to get it right. It’s not often you find an 11.5-acre site in the inner city. It’s big enough to be master-planned and it’s so well-located. . . . For us it was a no-brainer.”
The company sees redevelopment of the site as an opportunity to deliver enhanced public amenities and a range of housing options.
The vision is to incorporate multiresidential buildings with open green spaces that will connect to the existing community.
Minto envisions three distinct but connected open spaces for the redevelopment.
Site work could begin in 2024
The company has submitted a land-use redesignation application to the City of Calgary and expects to begin site work in 2024.
Minto says it will meet with community groups throughout the process, which will conclude with a public hearing prior to a council decision.
“We see it as an alternative to living in the Beltline (adjacent to the city’s downtown core),” Mills explained.
“It’s an alternative for what we’ve got planned. We’re going to bring some multifamily options to diverse housing types to this community that just don’t exist right now.”
Mills said the vision is for higher-density land uses on the site.
“We’re going to spend a little bit of time to see what the market needs and wants. It will be all vertical buildings ranging from four-storey to whatever the market will determine us to have. Maybe up to 30 storeys, and a diversity of housing types,” Mills said.
“Obviously some condominium, some purpose-built rental, possibly some student housing if it makes sense and we’re thinking seniors, too. It’s a good location for seniors.”
Mill said the project could encompass 10 or 11 buildings of varying heights. The south end would have lower buildings while the north would have higher buildings where a rapid transit bus stop exists.
A five-storey rental building is already under construction across the street from the 2501 Richmond project.
Application process likely to last a year
“It’s going to be a long process. We’re going to be in this for probably a year,” he said of the application process with the city.
More detailed planning will come in 2025 with the hope of breaking ground at the end of 2025 or early 2026. Mills added that full build-out would take seven to 10 years.
The land-use application also includes some commercial use.
“I think we want to talk to the community to see what the right amount would be and the location,” Mills added.
“Then talk to some commercial developers and see if there’s any interest. . . . Maybe there’s a spot for some commercial there, but not huge. I would say just some local service-type stuff.”
Mills said the city has gone through some tough times over the past few years with depressed oil demand and prices and the pandemic. But he feels the market and the economy are coming back strong.
“We’re seeing lots of demand for the lower-price-point multifamily,” he said, “and I think it’s just an affordability thing.
"There’s lots of people moving to the city and a lot of people are looking for rental accommodation and affordable condominiums, too.
"A really strong market on the multifamily side, for sure."
Minto's other Calgary-area developments
He said Minto's single-family segment is also performing well.
"We have a single-family, master-planned community in Airdrie and we’re seeing some really good pick-up there, too.”
The Airdrie development just north of Calgary, called Wildflower, is approximately 320 acres with about 2,500 low-density units – a typical suburban neighbourhood.
Some show homes are on the site now, with townhomes and multifamily also be coming to the site early next year.
Minto just completed two mid-rise towers in the Bridgeland neighbourhood called Era with more than 150 multifamily units, primarily condos.
Minto also has a project on the east side of the city near Chestermere at Stoney Trail and 17th Avenue S.E.
Called East Hills Crossing, it is composed of 650 multifamily units and Mills said Minto is about 90 per cent sold there for townhouses and condos.
“We really like the market (in the Calgary area). We’ve grown here in Calgary from just a few people to a pretty big squad now . . . lots of projects on the go,” Mills said.