Renovations company Artisan Projects Inc. is planning major exterior upgrades to the Park Lane apartments, one of three apartment complexes it owns on top of the hill along Mountain View Road.
But Artisan may have to delay or cancel its plans to renovate a larger set of apartments on Pearson Road and turn its Hillside Townhomes over to BC Housing as a low-income housing project.
Doug Caya, Houston project manager with the Coquitlam-based Artisan, told Houston council last Tuesday that the company plans to add fresh “curb appeal” to 21 apartments along Park Lane.
Built in the 1980s to house workers at the Equity silver mine, those apartments are familiarly known in Houston as “rabbit hutches” for their dated, square-shaped look.
“What we’re doing on those is changing the exteriors substantially,” Caya said.
But the B.C. government has recently extended a similar program to March of 2013.
Caya said that even if the federal grant does not start up again, it won’t necessarily stop Park Lane from going ahead.
But he said would throw a serious wrench in plans to renovate the 52 more apartments on Pearson Lane, which need more extensive repairs.
Mayor Holmberg said he was glad to see Artisan’s vision for the properties.
But Holmberg said he was surprised to learn that the Pearson Lane apartments might be worth renovating.
“We were always of the opinion that they would be a good place to do fire practice,” he joked.
Caya said he too had heard the buildings were condemned, but added that Artisan has had structural surveys and property inspections done, and those were enough to convince them to insure the apartments.
Still, Caya said, any renovations on the Pearson apartments “will be a lot more work,” and Artisan plans to hire a professional engineer for more guidance.
Artisan has had the most success with what it calls the Hillside Townhomes.
“We are really pleased with the rate of tenancy that we’ve received so far,” Caya said. Twenty of the 32 Hillside apartments are rented right now. All are two-bedroom apartments with rents starting at $550.
Even after what Caya said were fairly minimal renovations last fall, those apartments already have lower heating and hydro bills.
“It really feels different than when we first came,” he said.
Artisan had planned to turn the Hillside apartments over to BC Housing—the provincial agency responsible for building supported housing for low-income residents.
“BC Housing were on board last week,” Caya said, but the agency since decided not to join the project.
Mayor Holmberg said that news was disappointing.
“Certainly, I think we’ve identified a need for low-cost housing in this town,” said Holmberg.
In total, Artisan now owns 105 apartments between the Hillside, Pearson, and Park Lane complexes. Both Pearson and Park Lane are three- and four-bedroom apartments.
Caya said the company bought them in late September with just three days to view and consider the purchase.
“It looked obvious to us, but we’ve learned lots and lots since then,” Caya said. “We’ve had some tremendous challenges that we’ve gotten over.”