Neighbours shocked at Holland College plan for new residence

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Holland College residence would displace 'extremely vulnerable' tenants

Residents and business owners around the new proposed Holland College residence are in shock today about the news that they may have to move.

On Wednesday, Holland College announced it planned to buy seven properties at the corners of Cumberland and Grafton. The property would stretch down Cumberland to the Maritime Electric building and down Grafton to property beside the dentist office. 

Staff at Sadat's Cuisine, located in one of the buildings that would be part of the deal, said they had no idea of the plans until the announcement was made — and are worried about what this will mean for their business, and if they'll lose customers if they have to change locations.

They also said they have poured a lot of money into the space and now don't know where they will go.

Other residents in the buildings say they wish their landlord had told them, so they could start to make plans. 

Not a done deal

Holland College said it has a purchase agreement with the owner of the properties, George Bassett, but it won't go through if the city doesn't approve rezoning for the project. 

"We have an agreement to purchase this property contingent on the process that we are currently involved with the city, so we have just initiated with the city an application for rezoning, lot consolidation and the request for a height variance," said Michael O'Grady, vice-president of Innovation, Enterprise and Strategic Development at Holland College. 

O'Grady said the college is hoping for a May 1 closing date, but many more steps need to be followed.

A spokesperson for the City of Charlottetown confirmed that the proposal is being reviewed and is expected to be put before the planning board at a meeting next week. That body will then put a recommendation to council, which could happen as early as March 13. At that point it could be sent to a public meeting before council makes a final decision. 

Neighbourhood issue

Beyond the civic process, the college is holding a neighbourhood meeting next Wednesday to outline its plans.

"We're an urban campus in a downtown neighbourhood and we certainly do feel for their situation," said O'Grady. "We will support them in their efforts to secure other accommodations and that will be part of the discussion at the neighbourhood meeting next week."

He said the need for the residence is the driving force behind the project. 

"Many of those students are from out of province or international locations and their decision to attend Holland College hinges on whether or not they get a bed," he said.

'Not just a matter of filling classrooms'

"It's not just a matter of filling classrooms, it's also a matter of providing a range of accommodations for students coming from both off Island and many Island students who would like to live on campus."

"It's in response to student demand at a time when the college for the sake of it's long-term sustainability needs to do more to accommodate students from further afield." 

O'Grady said it is up to the landlord to notify to his tenants. Bassett declined CBC's request for comment.

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