Homburg hints at plans for downtown Charlottetown core

Real estate mogul plans visit in June to explain what he wants to do with recently purchased properties

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 29, 2013
Richard Homburg, executive chairman of the Homburg Group of Companies.
Guardian file photo

More entertainment options in the Confederation Court Mall and extra residential spaces in the downtown core are some of the ideas real estate mogul Richard Homburg says he has in mind for Charlottetown.

In an interview with The Guardian, Homburg hinted at some of the plans he might be announcing in June when he visits the city to explain what he wants to do with the properties his company Homburg International purchased last week.

Although he wouldn’t get into his specific plans, Homburg said there are places like P.E.I. where some people don’t want to do business because they think the markets are too small.

That’s not the case with him, Homburg said.

“I have no ambitions to get out.”

Last week, Homburg International announced it bought Dyne Holdings, which owns the Holman Grand hotel, the Confederation Court Mall, BDC Place, the National Bank Tower and the Homburg Financial Tower.

The hotel has been closed since last year when its former owner, Homburg Invest Inc. (HII), shut it down because of sustained losses.

The hotel’s website changed to say it would be reopening soon and that it was accepting resumes for several positions.

HII is under creditor protection as part of restructuring efforts, but Richard Homburg has committed to paying contractors who are still owed for work on the hotel, even though he wasn’t in control of HII when the bills went unpaid.

Homburg said the different companies he has been associated with have invested about $16 million of their own money in Charlottetown over the years for various development projects.

That includes the $22-million Holman Grand for which the province loaned $16 million towards the construction.

Homburg said he felt like the work wasn’t finished and, right or wrong, some mistakes were made, including building the hotel on leased land.

“That’s looking at things after the fact. It doesn’t help you (with) anything,” he said.

With Homburg International buying Dyne Holdings, it gives the company the ability to consolidate all of the assets in Charlottetown under one corporate entity.

Homburg said that is important because it makes it easier to run them by simplifying things like payroll and taxes.

But when it comes to doing business in P.E.I., Homburg said his interests are in developing downtown Charlottetown, creating jobs in that part of the city and adding quality stores to the Confederation Court Mall.

That will involve renovations at the mall, for which Homburg said he has the money in place to further develop the downtown.

“We want to have more residential units there so more people live there and we want to get more attractive businesses in there that complement the Confederation Centre of the Performing Arts,” he said.

Homburg said he wants to bring things to P.E.I. that will be good for tourists, but also for Islanders outside of the tourist season.

“So how you gonna get more excitement and more business

in the part or central block?” he said.

Those businesses could include stronger connection to P.E.I. through products made on the Island, which Homburg said could bring trades people back to the city’s downtown.

He also said he has ideas about ways to build residential spaces that don’t include just putting up condominium units that are too expensive for most people.

“There’s no better time to build them when interest rates are low.”

As for why Homburg wants to do business in P.E.I., he said he likes the province and the Maritimes.

“It was always a personal thing,” he said.

And while Homburg said he wants to prove that downtowns can be successful, that wasn’t the only reason for the latest purchase.

“It’s not an ego trip. It’s simply reality that I like the Island and I want to spend more time there when I (get) closer to retirement maybe,” he said.