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St. Albert Crossing back on track, new owner says

Office building set to open in early 2015 now that receivership is over

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am

NEW OWNER – The Prime Group of Calgary has bought the long-idle St. Albert Crossing building. The company plans to finish the professional building and have it ready for occupancy in early 2015.
NEW OWNER – The Prime Group of Calgary has bought the long-idle St. Albert Crossing building. The company plans to finish the professional building and have it ready for occupancy in early 2015.
CANDACE ELLIOTT/St. Albert Gazette

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St. Albert Crossing has finally taken new steps towards opening.

The vacant three-storey office building on St. Albert Trail has recently been sold to The Prime Real Estate Group, a Calgary-based company.

“They’re quite a big company. We’re really excited to have them,” said Sean McRitchie, St. Albert’s manager of business attraction.

“Especially with a Calgary-based developer with the size of portfolio they have. We’re always happy to have new investors in the city but one of this magnitude, we’re very excited to have them.”

According to its website at www.theprimegroup.ca, the company is “a full service commercial real estate development and investment firm with a growing portfolio valued over $250 Million CDN.”

It goes on to indicate that its development division is focused on “acquiring lands and building quality commercial real estate projects in class ‘A’ locations throughout Western Canada.”

Nick Moore, The Prime’s vice-president for real estate developments, said the company has always had an interest in the capital region.

“This is the first acquisition in the Edmonton market,” he said.

St. Albert Crossing was bought out of receivership. While original reports indicated that the building was tenant ready, Moore said that it would likely be ready in the first quarter of 2015.

“There’s no more delays or anything like that. We’re fully engaged. The expression is, ‘once the money is on the table and once we’ve paid for it, it’s just zero income-producing until we finish it.’ The motivation is not to take forever to finish this thing.

“From the folks in St. Albert’s perspective, they’ve been driving by that thing. It’s been sitting there for a year-and-a-half in a court-ordered sale. Well, that process is done. The new owner is in place. We want to finish this thing as soon as we can.”

Moore wouldn’t comment on the final sale price but the building was listed at $8.5 million.

The site and the struggle

St. Albert Crossing sits at 214 St. Albert Trail, right between Socrates Restaurant and the Esso Station, just south of Green Grove Drive.

Construction began after some citizens, including former mayor Anita Ratchinski, disputed the development, which included a concrete turnaround that cut almost halfway across Grandin Ravine and right over the creek.

Some residents argued that the permit violated the city’s municipal development plan. Others voiced their opposition because the natural area is one of three wildlife corridors used by migratory birds. The conflict led to the creation of the Grandin Ravine Support Group to oppose the project.

The construction permit was first issued nearly six years ago.

The building has been at a standstill since last year when a class-action lawsuit was reportedly filed against the former general partner of the project, the Paramount Group of Companies out of Edmonton. That company was asked to withdraw from the project soon after the suit was filed.

Documents from the Alberta Securities Commission showed that Paramount, owned by Samir Sawhney and Adeeb Azizi, was found to have distributed and traded securities and limited partnerships on numerous building projects without registration.

Those documents showed that the company had raised approximately $15.3 million and $18 million from investors from July and August 2007 on numerous developments around the Edmonton region, including the St. Albert Crossing building.

Land titles documents proved that the company owed more than $4 million in liens to various individuals and companies involved in the development of St. Albert Crossing.

This series of events led to the involvement of Avenue Commercial, a Calgary-based firm known to act as a turnaround company for troubled real estate.

Construction was expected to resume last July with tenants moving in early in 2014. At the time, the building was said to be at 95 per cent completion.

That’s not the case, Moore said, adding that there is still a fair bit of work to get through.

“It was a distressed property that was probably 75 per cent completed. I’m looking through the proposals right now to hire a prime consultant or an architect to work through and complete the building and perhaps enhance it for office tenants.”

The Prime Group, he continued, needs another six months to put the finishing touches on the building. Once open early next year, it will also have a new focus than what it was first intended for. It was originally intended to operate as a medical professional centre.

“Focusing on professional, not medical,” Moore clarified. “We are pursuing the professional side of things, some traditional offices. The reason being is we believe the building and the site is under parked for a medical opportunity. With clinics and so forth, you just need a lot more parking. It also doesn’t have a meridian catch from northbound traffic to turn into it.”

McRitchie reinforced The Prime Group’s commitment, saying that it’s fully engaged in finishing the project. He added that the company is already starting to market the space through their broker, Coldwell Banker Commercial.

Once completed, it’s estimated to hold between 45,000 and 50,000 square feet of space.

“It’s going to be office space. There’s not going to be any retail or commercial [use],” McRitchie said. “Right now, they don’t have an anchor tenant.”


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