The Town of Canmore is planning to look at three proposals that would turn the four-acre (1.6 hectare) Moustache Lands site into employee housing and/or purpose-built rentals. Photo courtesy Town of Canmore.

Three companies to submit RFPs for Moustache Lands

The “moustache” that lies at the entrance to Canmore from Calgary will soon boast a residential development designed to alleviate the mountain resort town’s lack of affordable, available housing.

The four-acre (1.6 hectare) site — known as the Moustache Lands because the property is composed of loops created by the interchanges off the TransCanada Highway — is owned by the municipality, which has now shortlisted three potential developers to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP).

The three finalists – Northview Real Estate Investment Trust, ATCO Structures and Logistics and New Urban Realty Advisors and Zeidler BKDI Architects – will be given $20,000 honorariums, and have five weeks from the issuance of the RFPs to submit their proposals to the Town.

The proposals will be expected to include everything from actual design drawings, to a schedule and full project costs, said Canmore general manager of infrastructure Michael Fark.

He said council hopes to choose a winning project for the lands, located at 1451 Palliser Tr., as early as the end of this year or January 2017 at the latest. The project itself is expected to be in place by next year.

Under current zoning, the land allows for 49 minimum units to a maximum of 148 units per hectare —for a maximum total of about 200 units on the parcel.

The three main goals were proposals that addressed affordability, sustainability and profitability

Part of the proposal from each of the three finalists for development of employee housing, and/or purpose-built rental will be submission on whether the land will be purchased, leased, or be a joint public/private project.

The town issued a request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) in July, which resulted in 15 proposals — most of those from Alberta companies.

Fark said council was looking for solutions to continuing issues of housing affordability and availability, because the current rate of bringing on new units has been slow paced.

“We heard from the private sector that, ‘if you talk to us, we have solutions’. The EOI was saying, ‘here is the land; give us ideas on what you would propose.’”

He added the three main goals were proposals that addressed affordability, sustainability and profitability.

The Moustache Lands were acquired in 2012 by the Town of Canmore in a land swap with the province (which received land closer to town for seniors housing). The intention has always been that the Palliser Trail property be used for affordable housing, including employee housing.

“It is the number one need in Canmore. We have had zero per cent rental vacancy for the past several years,” said Fark, noting many residents can’t afford to buy and businesses can’t keep employees because they can’t find an affordable place to live.

And with the real estate market continuing to see strong sales this year — despite a downturn elsewhere in the province — Fark doesn’t see any sign the housing demand will taper off anytime soon.

The initial EOI process asked companies to list qualifications for the project, along with ideas on built form and unit counts to deliver the housing. Those submissions were reviewed and ranked by a committee made up of town administration and the managing director of the Canmore Community Housing Corporation.

The three shortlisted companies are all experienced in both rental and affordable housing projects. Northview holds about 24,000 residential rental units in 60 markets across Canada; ATCO is a global leader in modular construction, including provision of workforce housing; and Calgary’s New Urban helped bring the McPherson Place development (an attainable home ownership project) to fruition in the City of Calgary’s The Bridges development, near the Bridgeland LRT line.

Given the location of the Moustache Lands at the entry point into Canmore, Fark said the town’s architectural guidelines will also come into play with any development.