Developer PMV Canada's loss is Saint John man's big win

As Fredericton-based PMV Canada makes its final withdrawal from Saint John's rental housing market, Adam Pottle has nothing but fond thoughts about the company. "To the PMV people: Honestly, thanks," said Pottle. The 27 year old landlord credits the often discredited company with getting him into the development business.

Connell Smith, CBC

Just over a year ago he'd never been homeowner, but today he owns a four-unit building in the Orange Street Heritage District. His own apartment has a spectacular view of the Bay of Fundy, while tenants in the three other newly renovated units pay his mortgage and expenses. "It's absolutely an income property [and] without that excessive a mortgage on it either," he said. "It definitely turns a profit every month. It's clean, it's dry, everything's freshly redone." PMV arrived in Saint John in a big way in 2016, buying up dozens of older wood frame apartment houses in a bankruptcy sale. At the time, the company promised to renovate many of the buildings and demolish a handful that were in poor condition.

Connell Smith, CBC

But while the company did renovation work on some of its more profitable rental properties, others were left vacant and dilapidated. Municipal bylaw enforcement staff eventually moved in. City councillors later approved demolition of at least eight PMV buildings before the company decided to pull up stakes. With PMV's retreat underway, Pottle purchased three properties from the company: his own building at 147 Orange Street, the two unit next door at 151, and an empty building lot at 153. Total cost: $107 thousand. He flipped the building at 151 for $20 thousand to a Toronto owner who, he says, is planning to renovate it. He then listed the empty lot for $39 thousand. The renovation of his four unit was a challenge. There were broken windows. Someone had been squatting in the building. There were hundreds of used needles. The floor of another unit was covered in Warfarin blocks to control rodents. Five dumpster loads, mostly containing junk, were hauled to the landfill.

On the plus side, said Pottle, the previous owner had made a good start on some important upgrades. "PMV had actually taken care of a lot of the electrical, and they had modernized the plumbing. So a lot of stuff had been done, but things weren't necessarily connected to the right unit." Pottle hired a contractor to swap out windows, renovate kitchens and replace floors, and rebuild the front entrance. Finding tenants was surprisingly easy as each unit became available. The experience has fostered a love for heritage development in him. Pottle is now eyeing another central peninsula multi-unit, and urging other Saint Johners to get involved. "I think people need to realize it's not that hard. I'm not a wealthy guy, I've got a normal, average-paying desk job and I was able to go into the bank and put a case together, and it's not that hard. I'm encouraging more people to do this."