Broclville Convention Centre closed; housing proposed

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The Brockville Convention Centre is no more, but its owners want to turn the property into rental housing.

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Brockville council’s planning and development committee on Tuesday evening will hold a public meeting on a request to rezone the Kent Boulevard site into a residential property, though its owners aren’t closing the door on a future commercial use.

Located across the street from the Holiday Inn Express, the Brockville Convention Centre opened just under a decade ago, and has hosted everything from weddings to awards banquets to political events.

But Ali Rehman vice-president of the Chayell Hospitality Group which owns both the Convention Centre property and the hotel, said the change of purpose makes more business sense, especially in an ongoing housing crisis where governments are urging an increase in supply.

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“It kills two birds with one stone,” Rehman said Monday.

“You have a rental shortage … and then the second thing is, due to COVID, there has been a decline in corporate meetings.”

There is already plenty of competition in Brockville for events bookings, he added.

The Convention Centre closed at the end of 2022, with all 2023 bookings refunded.

“January and February were usually empty anyway,” said Rehman.

The owners plan to turn the property into eight rental units for residents aged over 50.

“We just saw that there’s an acute shortage of rental units in the market, and we have a building,” said Rehman.

The public meeting, slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday, will discuss applications for amendments to the city’s official plan and zoning bylaw to “permit the property to be redeveloped for residential uses on the main floor while maintaining the ability for possible future commercial,” notes a report from city planning staff.

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The planning report notes there are no objections to the plan from internal city departments or the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority. Hydro One, meanwhile, states the project must not disturb its infrastructure.

A letter to council by Tracy Zander, the company’s planning consultant, says the owners propose to use the existing parking areas, shared with the hotel, “while enhancing and adding additional green space and swales for stormwater management to the north of the building.”

“There are no identified natural features found on or surrounding the lot that would be affected by the intended use and renovations of the existing building,” Zander notes.

“Additionally, the proposed use of mixed commercial and residential would not require additional development or servicing in order to achieve this, aside from some exterior and interior renovations of the existing building.”

The proposal comes as city officials continue to seek more opportunities to build housing amid a housing affordability crunch.

City councillors have in the past praised projects geared for older residents, noting they often encourage homeowners to downsize in middle age or retirement, thus placing more existing housing on the market.

Tuesday’s public meeting will be strictly for comments about the proposed zoning and official plan amendments, with no decisions made. Planning staff will return at a later date with a recommendation.

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