There’s more good news for those cheering the redevelopment of Sarnia’s downtown core.
The company that owns the last piece of vacant land on the west side of Front Street has announced plans to build a 15-storey rental highrise there.
Construction could start as soon as this summer.
President Joe Carapella said London-based The Tricar Group has owned the waterfront acreage at 275 Front St. since 2008.
Tricar has already contributed to downtown’s growing population by building a condo highrise and apartment highrise on two corners of Front Street and London Road. The buildings sold or rented quickly and Tricar officials have said there’s a waiting list for more rental units.
Until very recently, Carapella was preparing to build another 12-storey tower at London and Christina Street. Tricar had moved ahead with soil testing, an exemption related to parking and obtained a setback requirement because the lot at that site was slightly too small.
City Hall’s building department was waiting on a site plan for 383 Christina St. so the 126-unit project could go ahead.
But Carapella’s plans abruptly changed last week.
“The site at 275 Front St. is best suited for the market demands at this time based on hundreds of registrations that have been received from those interested in upcoming developments in the city,” he wrote in a statement.
“Sarnia is a city with a lot to offer including the waterfront, parks, dining and an abundance of nature to enjoy,” said Carapella.
“There is a healthy market for this type of development and the unique opportunity to live on the river and enjoy the amazing views.”
The property, which is across from St. Andrew’s Church, is the former location of the Sarnia Gazette building. Since then, it’s been enclosed in chain link fencing.
Around 2006, an Ottawa man bought the property with plans to construct a 15-storey condo. He completed an environmental assessment and spent $500,000 on cleanup. He also spent $400,000 on shoring and installed water and sewer services.
He then hired a contractor who began driving piles 140 feet into the ground to support the building. About 180 of the planned 340 piles were in place when the developer ran out of cash.
By then, pre-sales of condos worth about $12 million had been confirmed. Those who pre-purchased were reimbursed and the land went back on the market.
That’s when Tricar came along. But rather than build right on the waterfront, Carapella chose to enter the Sarnia market with buildings at the corner of London and Front, just across the street.
For years now, 275 Front St. has been an eyesore and a seasonal pond for waterfowl that perch on the rusted pilings.
It appears that’s about to change. No details yet on what the rents will be at the new highrise. City approvals are still required.
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