Moncton's planning committee gave its approval for a six-storey building on downtown land near Robinson Court that was the part of a municipal land swap.
Galco Atlantic Investments Network Inc. proposed a building with ground floor commercial space, 84 residential units as well as underground parking at 200 Robinson St. It will replace a 70-space surface parking lot bounded by McMonagle Avenue and Queen and Robinson streets.
Galco's Stephen Gallant told the committee the building will include bachelor units in the range of 450 to 800 square feet that should be cheaper to rent than larger units in other buildings in the city.
"Moncton is growing, and particularly our downtown, is on fire now," Gallant said. "So at some point, smaller units, in our opinion, will be very much more sought after than the larger units due to the affordability factor."
Gallant said the actual rental rate has yet to be determined. The factors affecting that price are changing, including rising interest rates.
"But as a businessperson, I always believe in letting the market figure that out. And when we get there in two years from now, the market will dictate to us basically what we can charge, what we can't charge," Gallant said.
The company received the property through a 2017 land swap.
The city paid the company $222,990 for green space between Castle Manor and Mountain Road in exchange for the downtown parking lot.
The deal called for the company to start construction on a building worth $7.5 million within five years, or the city could repurchase the land. Council later extended the deadline to early 2023.
Galco's proposed building required the committee to approve eight bylaw variances.
They included larger setbacks for some parts of the building, reduced entrances on a side closer to a rail line and reducing required tenant balconies from 84 to 41. Instead of each unit having a balcony, the plans call for a large shared patio space.
Staff recommended approving the variances, calling them reasonable given the site's constraints. The committee voted unanimously in favour.
The committee's questions ranged from potential traffic impacts tied to parking lot changes, whether units would be deemed affordable housing, and the potential impact on the nearby Capitol Theatre.
As part of the plans, Moncton is converting a city-owned parking lot behind the Capitol Theatre to a one-way westbound lane called Seymour Street with about 22 parking spaces.
The committee was told payment stations will be removed and lines for the street painted this year, but more substantial work on underground services, curbs and sidewalks will occur in 2024.
Committee member Maxime Gauvin asked how the nearby Capitol Theatre, which has a loading dock close to the site, views the plans.
Sarah Anderson, a senior urban planner with the city, said they're happy it will include commercial space and help bring more pedestrians to the area, but it's a change and "there's growing pains with anything like that."
René Legacy, the city's manager of engineering and development, said 22 city-owned parking spaces behind the theatre will be reserved for patrons when there are major events taking place.
Committee member Myles Malley asked about the nearby CN rail line. Moncton's zoning bylaw requires that any new residential developments abutting rail lines be set back at least 30 metres from the railway right-of-way.
Anderson said McMonagle Avenue, which runs between the tracks and the property, means there's enough separation.
The plans don't need council approval, but the developer still needs to secure building permits before work can start. The committee's approval expires in 36 months if the builder doesn't get the permits.
The committee was told the intention is to have work start as soon as possible and have work complete in 2024.