Iqaluit rejects apartment building proposal
“Nunavut Suites” too boxy and big for capital city
Iqaluit city council rejected a building developer’s plans to construct an apartment building in the downtown area because it didn’t like the proposed shape, size and look of the building.
Councillors voted six to one against the 48-unit building during Tuesday’s session.
“This is a preposterous situation in a town that’s bursting at the seams like Iqaluit is,” said Kenn Harper, general manager of Urbco Ltd., the developer behind the proposal.
“It’s no question there’s an excruciating housing shortage in Iqaluit. The government knows this. The public knows this,” he said. “The government of Nunavut is frustrated by this. The government can’t fill positions because it can’t provide housing.”
Under the proposal, construction company Ninety North, a wholly owned subsidiary of Urbco, planned to build a three-storey residential-commercial complex that would house 48 apartment units and 16,000 square feet of office space.
The building was slated for the large plot of land directly across from the Legislative Assembly building, where the Yamaha shop, a trailer, a two-storey home and the former Snack restaurant now sit.
Those buildings would have been demolished to make way for the apartment-commercial building, slated to be named “Nunavut Suites.”
But Nunavut Suites is now on the chopping block.
Although the permit met all the zoning bylaw requirements, including proper height and parking space, some members of the council’s planning committee had concerns the large box-shaped building would dwarf nearby buildings and would not fit in with the look of the neighbourhood.
Under its zoning bylaw, council can regulate the design, size, architectural appearance and landscape of developments to make sure they don’t detract from the character of the neighbourhood.
In particular, councillors complained that Nunavut Suites, as depicted in an artist’s rendering, looks too much like a large wall. The planning committee also took issue with the building’s overall appearance, saying it wouldn’t add character to the neighborhood and that its metal exterior reminded them too much of an industrial building.
But the planning committee did note some positive aspects of the design, saying the proposed blue and yellow colours were nice and bright and that the building was similar in shape to the nearby Igluvut and Parnaivik buildings.
The planning committee gave developers 16 new conditions, including a promise to remove snow from the lot and designate special parking areas for the apartment units.
But even after Ninety North agreed to meet these requirements, the development was met with opposition.
At the June 25 meeting, councillors criticized the proposed building, calling it an ugly box.
“I heard people say we’ve got ugly buildings in this city and the time to change that is now,” said Councillor Lynda Gunn. “It’s a box. Let’s face it.”
Councillor Stu Kennedy also rejected the development permit, saying there wasn’t enough information about how water would be drained from the lot. “To me the submission is basically incomplete and for that reason I could not approve a development permit,” he said.
Only one councillor, Glenn Williams, showed any support for the apartment building.
“What is the message we’re sending to other developers? That they’re subject to the whims and personal preferences that the council may have?” he said.
Harper agreed. “They certainly shouldn’t be able to reject development based on the size or shape or colour and other subjective things if the building meets all the bylaws,” he said. “The building is big. There’s no doubt it’s big. But big is not synonymous with ugly.”
The company won’t be resubmitting its proposal, Harper said. And the city isn’t just losing new apartments, but also office space and the jobs that the construction would have created. The city also won’t benefit from the $88,000 per year in taxes the developer would have had to pay out.
But overall, Harper said, Iqaluit council is stifling any plans to bring much-needed housing to the city.
“The City of Iqaluit has a responsibility for housing. Not a direct responsibility for providing it, but an indirect responsibility in making lots available for housing development,” he said.
“The decision has given a clear message to the developers that Iqaluit, unlike other progressive cities, is not open for business,” he said. “It’s closed for business.”