Developer Ahasanul Habib says he plans to start development of 69 condo units at the former Fort William Collegiate Institute soon.
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THUNDER BAY – The sign on the outside wall still congratulates the class of 2005, the final graduates in the storied history of Fort William Collegiate Institute.
With the ghosts of classrooms past still haunting its hallways, the century-old stone-and-brick school, designed with classical and medieval elements, has sat vacant for the past five years, after Sacred Heart School students moved on.
For years, developer Ahsanul Habib has been promising to turn the historic property into condominium units, revitalizing the 80,000 square-foot Marks Street institution and giving it new life. But Habib got caught up in other projects, and the former school collected chalk dust in the interim.
But now, his other obligations completed, Habib said he’s ready to wade full-force into the city’s burgeoning condominium market and expects to begin construction on a model suite, the first of 69 condo units he plans to build.
“Things haven’t changed, it’s just got delayed,” said Habib. “I’m still committed to do this project. This is a very unique building … It’s one of the few heritage buildings in Thunder Bay that needs to get a new life.”
There are two main changes to the scope of the project, he explained Monday, taking local media on a tour of the facility.
Instead of doing the project in two phases, the first consisting of 43 units, the second the remaining 26, Habib said they’ll likely decide to complete the renovations in a single phase.
“We will still sell them as condos, but any remaining units will be rented, which I will own,” Habib said. “It will be like a condo-style rental, with nice units. I think there is enough of a market right now to be able to do that and preserve the building.”
Habib, who recently renovated a portion of the old McKellar Hospital, said he expects potential buyers won’t be coming from the same pool as those looking at condo developments on the Thunder Bay waterfront or the Thunder Bay Country Club.
“The other projects that came on stream have different locations, different clientele,” he said. “I don’t think it will affect it much. And because we will also have rental units, I’m not concerned with that.”
Habib said several people who committed when the project was first announced have since found other accommodations, but a number have remained on the waiting list.
Individual units are expected to be about 1,000 square feet or more in size, but what sets this project apart from others are its common areas, he said.
“It will be designed for enhanced living,” Habib said, pointing to the gymnasium, auditorium and lecture theatre that doubles as an in-house movie theatre.
“It’s not just an apartment,” he said.
Habib added he expects to begin finalizing design and construction plans in the next three to four weeks.
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