Travelodge turning into apartments

A small hotel on the western edge of downtown has welcomed its last guest.

Gemstone Apartments paid $3 million for the complex just east of Bronson Avenue, between Albert and Slater streets. It intends to eventually reopen the buildings – which used to operate as part of the Travelodge chain of hotels – as apartments, with about 30 units.

“We’re very confident in the downtown rental market,” said Gemstone president Josh Zaret. “You hear all the time that there is a shortage of rental inventory in the Ottawa area, so we’re pretty confident (we can) satisfy that need.”

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Mr. Zaret said the buildings’ “character” and the ability to walk to work will be the company’s big selling points.

He said he expects the Slater Street building will be open to renters in a few months, after Gemstone makes some cosmetic changes such as adding a fresh coat of paint and putting in some new carpets and kitchen cabinetry.

The Albert Street building requires more work, said Mr. Zaret, as the property needs to be rezoned before it can reopen. He anticipated some “pretty significant” changes to get approval, such as completing some old work orders the company inherited and changing the number of entrances.

One-bedrooms will rent for about $1,200 a month, said Mr. Zaret, while two-bedrooms will go up to $1,750.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the vacancy rate for one-bedroom apartments grew in April 2012 to two per cent, up from 1.7 per cent a year earlier. The vacancy rate for two-bedroom apartments was 2.4 per cent, 60 basis points higher than a year earlier, according to the national housing agency.

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