Council green lights Baker Street condos

Ten upscale condos planned for the space above the Royal Bar and Grill are headed to market, as 330 Baker Street undergoes a transformation from low-income housing to loft-style apartments.

  • May. 19, 2011 12:00 p.m.
Luke Menkes’ ambitious plan will bring new life to the building at 330 Baker Street.

Luke Menkes’ ambitious plan will bring new life to the building at 330 Baker Street.

Ten upscale condos planned for the space above the Royal Bar and Grill are headed to market, as 330 Baker Street undergoes a transformation from low-income housing to loft-style apartments.

At its most recent meeting, city council approved building and bar owner Luke Menkes’ application to stratify the building. The plan allows for 16 strata units, 11 of which will be residential.

Menkes has already moved into the Royal’s penthouse suite, and says he’ll sell the remaining 900 square-foot condos — which will occupy space currently used by Swingers Squash Club (see related sports story page 20) — for about $275,000 each.

“The second floor was low-income residential for years, but we’ve got an engineer’s report that there’s no way to soundproof it completely with the nightclub, so we’re going to have office condos on the second floor,” he adds.

The basement will also be listed as commercial space.

Menkes took over the bar in 2009, bought the building last year, and says upgrading the residential space at 330 Baker has been in the “back of my mind” since that time.

“It’s always been my dream to live in a loft downtown, so I’m doing that for myself and I get to share it with other people.”

Once construction is complete, he says the building will include an elevator, rooftop garden and French balconies.

“They open inwards and you have a railing, so you’ll be able to stand kind of outside even though you’re inside,” he adds. “It’s just really funky, modern but heritage-style lofts.”

The building’s second and third floor were previously low cost apartments. According to Menkes’ development application, five of the nine apartments were already vacant when he purchased the space.

Two other apartments have “had multiple, transient tenants,” but are also vacant at this time. One other renter has moved to another city, while the single remaining tenant will be offered an upgraded suite and help finding other accommodation during the renovation.

While city councillors noted the loss of lower-rent spaces when discussing Menkes’ application, several suggested they weren’t worth fighting to keep.

“We are losing some low cost rental units, but my understanding of the conditions is they were places that you don’t want human beings to be living in anyway,” councillor Donna Macdonald said during the meeting.

“From the description of what has been going on with the housing in that hotel in the last couple years, there has been a lot of transient turnover,” added councillor Kim Charlesworth. “It would be, I think, counterproductive not to allow the stratification to go forward just on that basis.”

Menkes says he is willing to let investors buy and rent out the condo units, and if they don’t all sell he may rent some of them out himself.