Building boom underway in Iqaluit

But this year’s developments won’t put a dent in city’s housing shortage

These three-storey multiplexes in the Plateau subdivision are among the new buildings being built in Iqaluit. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

By Thomas Rohner
Special to Nunatsiaq News

As winter returns to Iqaluit, snow and ice settle on a changed city landscape: six new major developments began construction this past sealift season. That includes 92 residential units and 179 hotel rooms, according to the city’s planning and development office.

The city saw almost three times more residential units permitted in 2019 than last year.

But most of the 92 units approved this year may go towards government staff housing, rather than public housing units needed to address the city’s long-standing housing crisis, said Mark Brodrick, Iqaluit’s new director of planning and development.

Last year, Iqaluit needed nearly 200 more units to meet its housing demands, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. Iqaluit also needs as many as 105 new units per year to keep up with its growing population, according to the city’s general plan.

Meanwhile, commercial development saw well-established corporate landowners, mostly based outside Nunavut, gain even more properties.

“It’s no secret that there’s a lot of competition for housing and that the city needs more residential units,” Brodrick told Nunatsiaq News.

Mark Brodrick is Iqaluit’s new director of planning and development. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

Brodrick arrived from B.C. about two months ago to fill the director position, which had been vacant for two years, he said from his new Iqaluit office.

So far he has been burying his nose in report after report to learn about the city’s current challenges and plans, Brodrick said. Those include balancing new developments with their impact on current infrastructure, making Iqaluit’s water source more secure, and making the city more livable for everybody.

“I go down these rabbit holes, which are necessary but time-consuming. I can only take so much before I have to go for a walk.”

Those reports include the first-ever development activity reports—one each for 2017 and 2018—produced by the city, Brodrick said.

Last year, 31 residential units were approved by development permits—the second-lowest number in the last decade, said the 2018 report.

The annual average number of residential units approved in the last decade is 82, which the report said is consistent with a “medium growth rate.”

But the average over the past five years has been well below that—42 units per year.

On the commercial side, two new hotels began construction this past season—Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre on Federal Road and a hotel across from the Tamaatavik Boarding Home, on the site of the old Friendship Centre. The hotels will help fill a hole left by the closure of local hotels in recent years.

The city’s current infrastructure can handle the boom of development Iqalungmiut saw over the 2019 construction season, Brodrick said—at least for the short term.

There are some issues that have reached “critical status”—like Iqaluit’s water supply, which needs a longer-term solution—and others that need work in the near future, like the city’s transportation management and general plan, said Brodrick.

For example, with the infrastructure developed by QC for its hotel, the city-owned land around the hotel could be further developed, said Brodrick.

“Could Federal Road be less industrial and more commercial or even residential? Is public transportation possible for the City? What can we do to encourage citizens’ use of active transportation—that is, without a vehicle?” Brodrick asked.

But with a new council just sworn in, city administration will be looking to elected officials for direction on strategic goals and priorities, he said.

Below is the list of new major developments provided by the city, with information from the city and other sources on each new development:

This four-storey hotel, being built across from the medical boarding home, will feature 85 rooms, a bar/lounge and a restaurant. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

Building #523

  • Type: commercial
  • Building: four-storey hotel
  • Leaseholder: Jam (2016) Investments Inc. This appears to be owned by the Mrdjenovich family, as the Alberta Gazette gives the same address for the company, under a previous name, as what’s found online for Mike Mrdjenovich’s Nova Builders Inc. in Edmonton.
  • Location: across from the medical boarding home, on the former site of the Friendship Centre
  • Details: 85 rooms, bar/lounge and restaurant.

This will be the site of a new church being built by the Iqaluit Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

Building #1018

  • Type: mixed religious/residential
  • Building: two-storey Jehovah’s Witnesses Church with staff residences
  • Leaseholder: Iqaluit Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Location: in the core area near the beach, a stone’s throw from Baptist Church
  • Details: construction has not yet begun, but the site will include place of worship and two staff residential units once constructed.

This three-storey building being built by Northview Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust will offer a mix of commercial and residential units. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

Building #1036

  • Type: mixed commercial/residential
  • Building: four storeys, ground floor commercial and upper three floors residential
  • Leaseholder: Northview Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust (formerly Northern Properties)
  • Location: site of old Navigator Inn, across from Baffin Gas
  • Details: Top three floors to contain 30 one-bedroom apartments. Northview is one of the wealthiest real-estate investment trusts in Canada and leases more residential properties than any other company in Iqaluit, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. That includes holdings across all residential sectors: public housing, staff housing and private housing.

This four-storey building being built around the corner from the site of the old Navigator Inn will feature businesses on the ground floor and 24 apartments above. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

Building #1085

  • Type: mixed commercial/residential
  • Building: four storeys, ground floor commercial and upper three floors residential
  • Leaseholder: 5437 Nunavut Ltd., owned by Milan Mrdjenovich, Mike’s son
  • Location: around the corner from the old Navigator Inn site, towards the old airport terminal
  • Details: The Chartroom sports bar is on the ground floor, while 24 apartments are slotted for upper three floors. Housing to go to federal government employees, according to Brodrick.

The Aqsarniit Hotel on Federal Road will include 94 guest rooms, and a dining room, lounge, conference space and fitness room. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

#1400s

  • Type: commercial
  • Building: four-storey hotel and conference centre
  • Leaseholder: none; this is Inuit-owned land being developed by the development arm of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the Qikiqtaaluk Corp.
  • Location: Federal Road
  • Details: the Aqsarniit Hotel will include 94 guest rooms, dining room, lounge, conference space, fitness room and will create 60 to 70 permanent jobs, according to QC. In a deal with the City of Iqaluit, QC has agreed to front the costs for developing some infrastructure around the hotel, including water services and roads, according to Brodrick. This project involves a $70-million investment, according to QC.

These three-storey multiplexes in the Plateau subdivision will feature residential units of varying sizes. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

Building #5121 & #5123

  • Type: residential
  • Building: three-storey multiplexes
  • Leaseholder: TBG Construction, owned by local businessman Glenn Malloy, whose businesses, including Nunavut Excavating Inc., operate in communities across Nunavut
  • Location: Plateau
  • Details: 18-unit complexes to have residential units of varying size. Other residential holdings by TBG in the city are rented for staff housing, Brodrick said.
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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by akalik on

    Great, we’ve got three luxury hotels, a bar and lounge, and staff housing. Sounds like they really have a hold on the housing crisis! Not.

    • Posted by snapshot on

      Thanks to Pond Inlet Inuit, Iqaluit gets to enjoy all the benefits of Inuit money coming in.

  2. Posted by Outsider landlords on

    Very concerning to see the monopolies continuing to expand in Iqaluit. Now we’ll have an absentee landlord from Alberta being thrown into the mix. Must mean they see more easy $$$ here than at home.

    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      To “outsider landlords,” you can’t know very much abut property development in Iqaluit if you think that the Mrdjenovich family is being “thrown into the mix”. Mike Mrdjenovich has been developing and building in Iqaluit for 20 years or more, usually using the name Nova Construction. He’s been building elsewhere in the north for much longer even than that. He’s earned his nickname “Magic Mike.”

  3. Posted by Not the chartroom on

    The article incorrectly states that the Chartroom is located in building 1085. While similar siding was used on the buildings the Chartroom is a stand-alone building next to the liquor store, whereas building 1085 is across the street from Caribou Cabs office

  4. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    Just what we need – more bars/lounges. One specifically across from the medical boarding home that has their share of problems with our inebriated guests. And as I suspect the overflow of patients from the boarding home will be put up.

    • Posted by Ugh on

      Most people who go to these bars/lounges are responsible drinkers who cause no problems for anyone. The fact that there are a few rule breakers at the boarding home shouldn’t have an effect on everyone else.

  5. Posted by Well Well on

    Well … Northview and Nunastar should explain WHY they keep some apartment totally EMPTY when there’s a crisis in town … Yes they rent it to the GN or Fed gov .. but still .. they are EMPTY !!!!

    • Posted by Explain on

      It’s a business and they don’t have to explain anything. You cannot hold private companies accountable for the housing shortages that is based on the baby booms. There always will be a housing shortage until there will be more responsible family planning involved. If you cannot effort multiple children, don’t have them. You cannot hold the Government, Federal or Provincial, private businesses or investors accountable for problems that are created by yourself.

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        Succinctly put

    • Posted by Duh on

      Instead of asking the landlord why they are rent apartments that are empty, ask the GN and feds why are they renting apartments and keeping them empty while there is a housing crisis. Landlords wouldn’t purposely keep apartments empty, they rent to make money.

  6. Posted by Dave on

    Great article. Well done!

  7. Posted by Rami on

    It is nice to see the city breaks its own bylaws. Those ugly boxes on the plateau break several of them, but obviously paid someone off for a “severance”. If I was one of the homeowners who saw those being built within 20 feet of my window I would be hiring a lawyer fast. Is there no minimum footage required between new construction and existing structures? Piling them up like sardines to maximise their profiit, with no thought put into prevailing winds. Also can the construction companies learn the colour wheel? They make siding in colours other then burgundy, orange and blue.

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