Makeover for Saskatoon trouble spot: Developer turning 20th Street building into affordable apartments

CBC News September 4, 2013 - A vacant rooming house with a seedy past in Saskatoon's Riversdale area is being transformed into rental apartments.

525 20th Street West could serve as a symbol of the neighbourhood's revival.

Four years ago the brick building's second and third storeys contained 20 rooms and eight shared bathrooms. The place was well-known to police. Public health officials shut it down, deeming it unsanitary and unfit for human occupation.

Stewart Property Holdings, a company that specializes in turning old and neglected or abandoned properties into low-income or affordable housing projects, is hoping to change the building.

"That excites us to think that we can take something that's been a negative for not just the building but even this community of Riversdale and rejuvenate the building and make it something completely different", said Tyler Stewart, who is overseeing the project.

When finished, the building will contain a dozen one- and two-bedroom rental suites. The main floor will be rented out as commercial space. Stewart hopes to attract a restaurant, and perhaps a boutique.

He plans to use revenue from the commercial space to subsidize apartment rents, keeping them below the going rate. At today's numbers, Stewart says that would be in the $700's for a one-bedroom, and the $900's for a two-bedroom.

He says a five-year tax break from the city would help in that effort. That request is making its way to city council. In the meantime, work on the building is already underway.

One thing Stewart says he won't do is convert the building to condominiums.

"We would make more money, faster money had we condo-converted these but our interest is in rental properties and in the affordable side of things", Stewart said.

It's not the company's first project in Riversdale, but Stewart considers it the largest one in the area to date.

"We've just always felt that there was something, there was just the feel about Riversdale that just needed an injection of some investors or people willing to put a risk out in buying some buildings or places and doing something with it, that it would create a catalyst," he said.

Stewart expects to have the apartments ready to rent out by the end of the year or early next year.

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