Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Lighthouse unplugged

Gov’t pulls out of plan for $80-million highrise

- By David Hutton dhutton@sp.canwest.com

The plan to build Saskatchew­an’s tallest building in the Saskatoon police station parking lot is officially dead, with the provincial government saying it is looking at another location for the assisted living component of the project.

Provincial government officials said Thursday they have zeroed in on a new site for Lighthouse Supported Living, an assisted living residence that was slated to move from the former Capri Hotel building on 20th Street and Second Avenue to the proposed condominiu­m tower.

The Lighthouse organizati­on has $11.5 million in provincial funding for a new facility, which was to be built by Calgary-based developer Stoneset Equities within a 95-metre tall, or 28-storey, terraced building alongside market-rate condos and retail space.

The $80-million highrise was touted in 2008 as the first major project in a changing downtown skyline that would bring together the unlikely combinatio­n of shelter beds, assisted living units, market rental suites and condos.

But last summer, the province said the updated cost of the project, at $25 million, was out of its price range and officially confirmed Thursday the concept is off the table.

The developer was willing to build only the 120-unit Lighthouse portion of the project, but the price was too expensive to proceed beyond the scope of the initial proposal, said Tim Gross, executive director of housing and developmen­t with Saskatchew­an Housing Corp.

“I don’t think a project would involve that initial plan that we had with Stoneset Equities,” Gross said.

“As the project progressed, they couldn’t make the private market component of the project work and at the end of the day, for $11.5 million that we had we didn’t have enough funding to proceed.”

Tony Argento, CEO of Stoneset Equities, said the extra costs were based on a “wish list” of additions to the project from the Lighthouse group and Sask. Housing. The company was willing to scale back the number of assisted living units to cut down costs, he said.

“The only thing that stalled the project was their disinteres­t,” Argento said.

The company spent $300,000 on architectu­ral drawings and engineerin­g work, he said.

“My only fear right now is that we spent a lot of money and if it’s a no go, we’d like to recover that,” Argento said. “You can’t string someone along and then say we just changed our minds and say it’s someone else’s fault.

“We ended up with the bill,” he said. “We’ll take some responsibi­lity but not 100 per cent.”

The provincial government has found another downtown location to build the Lighthouse project within the $11.5-million budget, though Gross wouldn’t specify where.

Lighthouse Supported Living has long been in need of more space for its clients, who are mentally or physically challenged, and often turns away people seeking a bed. They are also functionin­g currently as a women’s shelter and undergoing some renovation­s.

Gross said the focus now is on a new building solely for assisted living clients, not a mixed-use developmen­t.

“I think now we’re more focused on the use of the Lighthouse for the intended client group,” he said.

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