Tighter streetscape will meet needs of a growing capital city

Office centre replacing landmark Kamotiq Inn


The Kamotiq Inn is dead; long live the Kamotiq Centre.

From the rubble of the legendary, igloo-shaped Kamotiq Inn – which was in fact, neither inn nor igloo, but a rustic restaurant in a funky geodesic dome – a modern office building is rising that will carry its predecessor's memory in name if nothing else.

The Kamotiq Inn stood defiantly at the centre of Iqaluit's downtown core for 28 years, as more imposing office buildings rose around it.

A demolition crew pulled it down this summer, leaving a pristine vacant lot that had many passersby speculating over the summer about future prospects.

This month, workers got busy drilling and setting foundation piles into the permafrost on the valuable four-corners site for the new Kamotiq Centre, a four-storey, 3,000-square-metre (32,300-square-foot) office building that will replace the landmark restaurant that some considered notorious in its day.

Although primarily devoted to office space, the new Kamotiq Centre, as approved by council will also include some space for a retail business at street level, said Michèle Bertol, senior director of planning and lands for Iqaluit.

Denis Simard, general manager for the Nova Group of Companies, which owns the property and is putting up the new Kamotiq Centre, said the building should be completely finished and ready for occupancy by this time next year.

No tenants have been finalized, he said, but Nova is hoping to lease to federal, territorial and private enterprises.

Nor has a tenant been identified for the retail space on the ground floor, said Simard, which, according to the approved plan is only a thousand square feet.

The building will be finished in a deep red on the top two floors, said Bertol, and the lower two floors will have a natural wood siding.

The old Kamotiq Inn had its share of battles with both the fire marshal's office and the liquor board, occasionally losing its licence to serve liquor, and even being shut down.

New diners were often surprised by the almost hallucinatory experience, on entering the dome-shaped room, of hearing the sometimes intimate conversations of other diners on the opposite side of the restaurant, as clearly as though they were sitting in the same booth.

Parking was an issue for the proposed Kamotiq Centre, said Bertol. To meet code, 60 parking spaces have to be provided for a building of this size.

She explained that the bylaw allows for up to 25 percent of the required parking – in this case, 15 spaces – to be offsite, as long as they are adjacent or directly across the road.

But council allowed variances on the project to accept up to 20 spaces in an extended municipal parking lot that is "one lot down from directly across the road," said Bertol. Nova is paying the city $11,000 for each of the 20 "stalls," plus annual maintenance costs.

Council granted two other variances allowing the building to be situated closer to both adjoining streets than the bylaw originally required, which leaves more room for parking behind the building, and provides for "a better, tighter streetscape in the area," said Bertol.

The layout of downtown lots dates from the early 1960s, when the U.S. military left Iqaluit, "so most of the lots are small and don't fit the needs of a growing capital city," Bertol said. "When we redevelop, we try to maximize the use of the lot as much as possible, not just to meet today's needs, but also future demands. That usually involves variances."

Nova has become a major player in boomtown Iqaluit in recent years, erecting its namesake Nova Inn across from the legislature and building a number of condominiums in the Plateau subdivision.

Nova has also purchased the Navigator Inn. Simard said that no changes are planned for "The Nav" in the near future.

"We're going to be working with the city to redevelop that corner, but that's in our long-term plan."

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