Armco being difficult again

Willow Tree developers try and skirt city rules.

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It's hard getting things built in this town. Sure, there's more cranes in the sky than there's been in decades, but municipal policies still often get in the way of a property owner's god-given right to vomit out mixed-use residential.

Perhaps that's why APL Properties Ltd., "an Armco Capital company," has taken an unusually strong-armed approach to getting their giant towers built at the corner of Robie and Quinpool. First, they ignored the city's request for narrower designs (to make the apartments more livable), then they added six additional storeys (bringing the height up to 28 storeys). Now, they've tried to skirt some of this lengthy development process by requesting a direct presentation to council.

As briefly detailed in this information item before council yesterday, that request was denied. Input, HRM staff says, is only "to be provided through the appropriate planning process." The city clerk's office says the application was denied because this is neither the appropriate venue nor point in the development process for such a thing to occur.

"Basically, because APL is going through the planning process, the developer would have the opportunity to make written submissions and present to Council at a public hearing only," spokesperson Jennifer Stairs clarifies in an email.

Elsewhere, Armco's George Armoyan has publicly offered the city $5 million for the former St. Patrick's High School. He generously opened his pocketbook to save taxpayers the cost of demolishing and remediating the 1950s-era structure. Council has already approved those costs up to $4.5 million, with an additional $200,000 to be spent on hiring consultants for rezoning applications.

"There is not doubt in my mind the private sector would do the demolition and clean up a lot more economically," Armoyan told the Herald's Brett Bundale. "Every job they try to do when it comes to construction goes over budget."

The Herald offers plenty of insight from other industry experts on why Armoyan is wrong. But even if HRM wanted to wash their hands of St. Pat's, it would be ridiculous for the city to just hand over the site to the first offer that comes their way.

What's clear is that Armco is gunning for this corridor. The St. Pat's property will likely be a key feature to shape the future look of the Willow Tree neighbourhood. Right now, the transition between the proposed 28-storey APL development and their closest neighbour is a not-so-gradual 26 storeys. Having another ridiculous tower right next door would certainly help Armoyan justify any future ridiculous towers.

Meanwhile, Armco Capital has launched a new PR strategy for their proposed Quinpool development. Their website is taking public feedback, and has information on the projects. It states Armco believes the introduction of new residential uses in the area "will serve to revitalize the Quinpool Road commercial district and more broadly support the economic growth of the Regional Core." They've also produced this very subtle one-sheet.

Of course, APL could still just make the changes the city asked of them, resulting in a building that's more livable and enjoyable for the residents in it. Maybe that's not bold enough.

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