Energy efficiencies key to first phase; two more to come on former Dal property

JAMES RISDON @chronicleherald

The Chronicle Herald – October 14, 2016 Edition

The view from the top floor of Fenwick Tower — now called the Vüze at South Village — in the south end of Halifax is breathtaking.

But, these days, there’s no one there to see it.

The 33-storey apartment building’s top 10 floors are empty. Joe Metlege’s Templeton Properties, the building’s landlord, has gutted those floors right down to the concrete. Workers have ripped out studs and drywall and are replacing old electrical wiring, plumbing and even the exterior cladding on the building as well as doors and windows with new, energyefficient products. Insulation is being added.

“We’re going to create a 50 per cent energy savings in the building from what was there before,” said Metlege in an interview Thursday.

In that move to reinvent Fenwick Tower into a modern, energy- efficient building, oilpowered boilers are being replaced with more compact, natural gas heating, freeing up enough space for four new apartments and cutting heating costs in half.

“We’re spending $55 million to $60 million just on the tower,” said Metlege. “It’s going to be finished in early 2018.”

With that investment in the property, rents for one- and twobedroom Vüze apartments, which will average about 875 square feet, will be higher than those current Fenwick Tower residents are used to paying.

“In some cases, rents will go up 15 per cent but we’ll still be about 30 per cent cheaper than comparable buildings,” said Metlege. “The rents were suppressed for a number of years in that building.”

On its website, Templeton is already listing apartments for rent in the Vüze with one-bedrooms ranging from $1,195 through to $1,395 per month and two-bedrooms starting at $1,650 and going to $1,795 per month.

Residents in the older apartments are going to be offered leases in the new section of the building.

“We’re working with the natural lease dates,” said Metlege. “Upon turnover, we’ll give people the option of moving into the new building.”

Although those apartments are in the same structure, Metlege said he considers the Vüze to be a new building because “everything is different.”

When Templeton Properties bought Fenwick Tower from Dalhousie University for $17 million in 2009, it had 252 apartments and another 26 dorm rooms for students on the top two floors. That tower, which has a 10,000-square-foot footprint, sits on three 43,000-square-foot floors of underground parking and one floor of offices used by Dalhousie’s administration.

Metlege is upfront: The price Templeton Properties paid for the Fenwick was a bargain.

“The land value alone is more than what we paid for the tower,” he said Thursday.

The developer and landlord’s plans for the South Village development on the Fenwick Tower site has morphed over the years. The first phase is the redevelopment of the former Fenwick Tower.

But there are three other phases yet to come.

The next phase of the development will include the construction of a four-storey, 21-apartment building on Fenwick Street with the first floor having five apartments with entrances right off the street. Dubbed “micro-units”, these will be 500-square-foot apartments designed to maximize all the available space and will feel bigger than they are, said Metlege.

During that roughly $12.5-million second phase of the development, Templeton Properties will also create a two-storey office building for itself on the property and add another four storey commercial building with ground floor retail space.

On South Street, the developer is planning to erect a $35-million, 10-storey building with 100 apartments with retail space on the ground floor during the project’s third phase, which is to start in the next 3-4 years. During that phase, Templeteon will also put in a $20-million, eight-storey building with 65 apartments and ground floor retail.

The total investment will be about $125 million.

A landlord, Templeton’s current plan is to rent out the apartments in South Village but Metlege is keeping his options open, looking to strata-title the entire development so the apartments could later be sold off as condos.

“Right now, our decision has been made to rent,” he said. “But we’re giving ourselves the option to have that flexibility.”

In some cases, rents will go up 15 per cent but we’ll still be about 30 per cent cheaper than comparable buildings.

Joe Metledge Templeton Properties