In this February photo, the McKenzie Seeds building stands out over downtown Brandon as seen from the roof of Scotia Towers.
The developers of the McKenzie Towers project in downtown Brandon may be shifting their focus to rental apartments, instead of the original condominium plan.
Resland Development Group, based in British Columbia, has been working on plans for years to renovate the historic McKenzie Seeds building into a mix of residential and commercial space.
Construction was initially expected to begin in 2011 on a 93-condo project. It has since faced considerable delays and ultimately, there was not enough interest from prospective buyers.
As the Brandon Sun reported last July, the developers decided to halt sales and look into a different approach.
When contacted by the Sun Thursday, Trevor Broad, manager with Resland Development Group, said they are in negotiations with a few different parties.
"I’m not really at liberty to say what those are about or who those are with at this exact stage, but within the next couple of weeks I should have some more information," Broad said.
Broad said rental apartments are a possibility, but "nothing is confirmed at this stage."
Shaun Cameron, Renaissance Brandon board chair said they remain in contact with the developers.
"They’re just trying to find the ... best use for the property and whether that becomes rental or condo, or a mix of both, it’s important to make sure that space gets occupied," Cameron said. "It’s key for the downtown, it’s key to attract people downtown."
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell said the province also continues to work with the developers on the project.
"It’s important for downtown Brandon, it’s very important for Brandon," he said, adding that tax increment financing brought in by the NDP has supported the redevelopment of the historic building.
The financing grant provides Resland with an eight-year investment to help the company pay off incremental education tax increases that will be levied on the property as it’s redeveloped.
"If you think that the (demolition of the) Prince Edward Hotel was a devastating and catastrophic event in Brandon’s history, imagine the demolition of the McKenzie Seeds building, which is an international icon for Brandon," Caldwell said.
Sandy Trudel, the city’s director of economic development, said any new apartments or condos would be a welcome addition to Brandon’s housing market.
"If you look at the continual increase in the average sale prices for homes and you look at the continual low vacancy rate, there’s no question as to the fact that demand is exceeding supply," she said.
One of the goals with revitalizing downtown is to attract more residents to the area.
"It’s a known fact that businesses follow population growth, so if we’re able to have some density in the downtown area … then it’s reasonable to say that, in turn, will create demand for additional businesses," Trudel said, adding: "No one wants to see a vacant building."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 3, 2013