Mike Cavanagh describes bright, open, neo-industrial-style apartments as he stands in a south-facing room overlooking the harbour in the former Salvation Army shelter on St. James Street in Saint John.
"We want to get patios in there, we want to have bigger windows in the front room," Cavanagh said.
The developer takes possession of the five-storey brick and steel building this week.
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He plans to knock down interior walls, lower window sills and remove false ceilings to expose the steel beams.
Gone will be dozens of tiny, dorm-style rooms, which are being replaced by 25 large, open apartments that could rent for up to $1,700 a month.
Cavanagh has a long track record with several apartment buildings and dozens of new homes under his belt over the past 25 years.
He admits refurbishing a 36-year-old steel, concrete and brick institutional structure is something new.
"Maybe we'll call it the Sally Ann," he said.
Architect Peter MacKenzie is already working on the design and said the building is in great shape.
"It's an '80s built steel, concrete and brick building," MacKenzie said. "It's got good bones, it's got no sign of any kind of structural or environmental distress of any kind. It's nothing but green lights for this project.
"It's good from an urbanism point of view to get the people back into action, get the flow of people back into the neighbourhood."
The building conversion has been approved by the city's Planning Advisory Committee but, awaits a final signoff from city councillors.
Cavanagh had originally proposed construction of two 30-unit buildings on a site near the Millidgeville waterfront on Manners Sutton Road, but withdrew his application at the last minute amid complaints from neighbours worried about traffic and other issues.
Not on radar
The project had already come out on the losing end of a 7-1 vote by the planning advisory committee.
The developer said he was caught off guard by the opposition after having nothing but positive experiences with approvals for eight previous apartment buildings.
Concerned over a declining population, and worried the developer might leave the city, officials at Develop Saint John set out to find Cavanagh an alternate location.
Cavanagh said the former shelter building wasn't on his radar until it was presented to him by the city.
He estimated the total cost of the project will run between $2.5 million and $2.7 million.