$13M apartment project expected to break ground in downtown Cornwall

JC Godard

A downtown Cornwall property that’s been vacant for more than 20 years is about to be transformed into a new apartment building, bringing more residents into the Seaway city’s historic urban core.

Construction is set to begin this month on the J.C. Godard Development – Prime Square project, a five-storey, 44-unit residential building with commercial space on the main floor. The total construction cost is estimated at $12.9 million.

The development on the corner of Second Street East and Pitt Street has been a long time coming, said Mark Boileau, general manager of Cornwall Economic Development.

“This is located in the heart of our downtown, so the community has often asked questions of what the fate of that property would be,” he said.

The new apartments will also increase Cornwall’s affordable housing stock, with units ranging in size from 418 to 790 square feet and rents starting at $975 per month.

Boileau said the project will help increase the diversity of housing options available to new and existing residents.

“We seem to be doing fairly well as a community for condominiums, but there is a shortage of apartments,” he said.

The City of Cornwall is supporting the project through its community improvement programs. Brownfield funding was used to help remediate the site in 2008, and recently the city identified six vacant properties – including the Prime Square site – in need of development incentives.

To help spur the development of the vacant sites, the program reimburses eligible developers on a portion of their property taxes. Since a new development increases a property’s value, landowners would otherwise face higher property tax bills. For the Prime Square site, the incentive is worth up to $1.7 million over 20 years.

‘Excited to get this project underway’

The property has a rich history that goes back nearly two centuries. A private residence was constructed on the site in the 1820s and the property was subsequently used as an army barracks, ballroom, concert hall and, eventually, a hotel with space for retail.

Prime Square property in 1800s
The original building on the Prime Square property, seen in the 1800s. 

After the building was destroyed by a fire in 1997, there were several unsuccessful plans to develop the site for residential and commercial uses. A local entrepreneur purchased the site in 2006, intending to build a glass-fronted office building, but the project fell through amid the 2008 financial crisis.

It traded hands several times over the next 13 years before it was purchased by developer J.C. Godard – who oversees a portfolio of companies that also includes Tri-Star Construction – in February 2021.

Tri-Star Construction has completed several projects in Cornwall in the last decade, including an expansion of the Riverdale Terrace retirement residence as well as construction of the King’s Landing and Knox City Centre apartments, the latter of which is located just one block from Prime Square.

Godard said in a statement that Prime Square will be “an amazing place to live” with restaurants and shopping next door and Cornwall’s waterfront a short distance away. He added he’s anticipating strong demand for units.

“At the same time, we also recognize the need to keep rents affordable and to create a positive living experience for our tenants,” Godard stated. “I am excited to get this project underway.”

The building is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.