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Timmins developer building residential complex

Even before he saw the interior of the former Lionel Gauthier Public School, Pete Beaucage had a vision for its future incarnation.
Timmins developer Pete Beaucage is building a three-phase, 94-apartment complex at the site of a former public school, which will help alleviate a housing shortage in town.

Even before he saw the interior of the former Lionel Gauthier Public School, Pete Beaucage had a vision for its future incarnation. Situated on two acres of land, and with its spacious classrooms and wide hallways, the site was ideal for a residential complex.

Beaucage, who owns companies Praztek Construction and Maxx Mechanical Plumbing and Heating, is now in the first phase of a three-building, 94-unit apartment development that will transform the old school into new housing.

“Right now, we’re still working on interior demo,” he said, while visiting the site in June. “We’re just waiting for the city approval now to actually start the construction.”

For phase one, the old school will accommodate 24 two-bedroom units, ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet, and four one-bedroom apartments each measuring 850 square feet. Each unit will have its own laundry facilities. Beaucage hopes to finish this phase by February or March of 2016.

In the second and third phases, the developer proposes building two four-storey buildings, one with 32 units and one with 40 units, although he’s still in negotiations with the city to settle on parking requirements.

The total cost of the three-phase development is $25 million.

Beaucage is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to developers. Despite there being a need for apartment housing, not many new apartments have been built in 20 years, he contends. Amongst developers across the province, condominiums are the hot area of development.

“That’s where your best rate of return is and it’s your quickest rate of return,” Beaucage said. “Apartments, it’s a really long-term investment, so you have to be able to wait.”

At 36 years old, Beaucage said he’s got the time to patiently sit by for 10 or 15 years before he starts seeing a real return on his investments.

But it wasn’t always so. Beaucage spent the first part of his 13-year career building single-dwelling homes, but the cost of taxes on new builds became prohibitive. That’s when he decided to take on apartments instead, an area of development he’s grown to love.

His first project was a four-plex on Commercial Avenue.

“I was really nervous building that, because I’m putting a lot of money into it,” he said. “I’ve got to rent four apartments right off the hop, but they went like that.”

He’s since renovated or built several multi-unit residential complexes throughout the city, the most recent of which was the former G.V. Hotel, acquired through a tax sale from the city and completed at the end of May.

Beaucage originally proposed renovating the building, but the century-old structure didn’t work with his plans, which called for the addition of a third floor. So, he instead tore down the dilapidated structure, building in its place Sixth Avenue Suites, a brand-new, three-storey apartment complex, whose 34 units cater to seniors.

Still, there are challenges associated with apartment development. It can be difficult to secure financing, but it’s also been tough to find workers qualified in the trades. Several Northerners followed the last oil boom out to Alberta, but Beaucage is now seeing them trickle back as they are laid off with the rising cost of oil.

Beaucage is currently conducting a feasibility study to determine the viability of building in other communities, especially the southern Ontario market. He believes more apartment units will be needed as the costs associated with home ownership continue to rise and apartment living is seen as a more affordable option.