Florida-based developer and new owner wants to add two storeys and create a 60-unit student residence at 165 Prince St.
The Guardian usually reports the news but instead finds itself making headlines this time.
The building that houses the storied newspaper at 165 Prince St. in Charlottetown was sold earlier this year to Florida-based commercial property developer Steve Caryi, a native of Halifax.
Caryi has applied to the City of Charlottetown for a permit to add two floors that will be used to create a 60-unit student residence.
Caryi said Thursday the construction does not require a variance and that the plans are currently awaiting the approval of the city’s design review board, which will meet on Monday, Nov. 18 at noon at City Hall to discuss the matter.
“The intention for the building is to add two storeys,’’ Caryi said. “The two-storey addition will be student-resident rooms and the space on the second floor will remain office space and the ground floor will become retail.’’
All of The Guardian departments, including the newsroom, circulation, advertising and production, will be staying in the building. Renovations are underway that will see all of the departments moved to a smaller footprint on the second floor as one of the tenants in the building.
In March, the SaltWire Network, which owns The Guardian and the Journal Pioneer, put a number of its buildings in Atlantic Canada up for sale. The Journal Pioneer isn’t affected because the newspaper operates out of leased space which is not owned by SaltWire. However, The Guardian building was put on the market and subsequently purchased by Caryi.
“We’ve got a lady ... that wants to open a hair salon and we’ve got a couple of other prospects that are interested in retail space. There’s (also) a local lady who is on the second floor that is going to have a package-free store.’’
That package-free store is Unpacked, the brainchild of B.C. native Britannia Willes who said on Unpacked's Facebook page that Sarah Donald will be opening a location in the Guardian building. The idea is that the store would offer the same brands and products that a grocery store would but, because they are in bulk there’s no plastic packaging involved.
Blacksheep Project Management Inc. will be creating and managing the student residence. The privately-operated company currently runs Granville Hall in Halifax, a housing option that offers single and double occupancy rooms.
The student residence will include a live-in residence co-ordinator who provides support and assists with language practice and cultural integration. Both floors will be equipped with several washrooms, common areas and a kitchenette. And all units will include housekeeping services.
Issmat Al-Akhali, president and CEO of Blacksheep Project Management Inc., said the residence will be called Prince Hall and cater to students during the school year and be open as a “lower-cost hotel’’ during the summer, similar to what UPEI and Holland College do with their residence rooms. Students will not have to commit to staying for any length of time.
“We feel there is a need for it in (Charlottetown) where there is such a low-vacancy rate,’’ Al-Akhali said. “We have a lot of European exchange students in our Halifax property and it will be similar (in Charlottetown).’’
Al-Akhali said while the top two floors are being marketed to students he won’t rule out renting out to people looking for short-term accommodations but said students would be kept apart from any other residents.
He said they don’t have exact rates established yet but it would be equivalent to what a student would expect to pay if they stayed on campus.
The goal is to have construction done and everything up and running by September 2020.