The new owners of a range of buildings in downtown Yellowknife say they want to keep profits from northern properties in the North while growing affordable housing options.
Range Lake Developments recently purchased the 50-50 mini mall, Dawn Building, Graham Bromley Building, Gondola Building, and the nearby former day shelter building, all previously owned by the Bromley family.
President Biswanath Chakrabarty said the company wants to decrease Yellowknife’s reliance on southern landlords and first bought its own building before deciding to expand to other properties.
“We are business people and we are paying rent to people from outside and the money is going out,” he said.
“If we don’t acquire [these buildings] it will be acquired by, again, somebody from down south.”
Chakrabarty said the company’s mandate would be to work with Indigenous groups and keep profits in the North “so that we can actually slowly take control of our own destiny.”
He said: “We don’t want to be a down-south company and do the business from there and take the profit from Yellowknife and invest it somewhere else. We will make the profit somewhere else, invest the profit in Yellowknife.”
Several MLAs have recently complained that tenants of many commercial and residential buildings in Yellowknife – including the territorial government – pay rent to southern-based landlords with little connection to the community.
Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson has called on the territorial government to invest in more northern businesses, while Great Slave Lake MLA Katrina Nokleby chastised southern-based landlords for what she characterized as their poor record in responding to residents’ concerns.
Building affordable housing
Chakrabarty said his company is in the process of acquiring more properties in Yellowknife and hopes to build a 60-unit apartment building downtown. He said those units would be affordable, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly.
“People should buy local, people should develop local businesses, people should encourage local businesses,” he said.
Rental rates in Yellowknife are unaffordable for many earners of low wages, Chakrabarty noted, arguing that makes it difficult for the population to grow, which in turn holds back economic development.
The company proposes to build the new apartment units on the site of what is currently the Gondola Building on 50 Street, which formerly housed Harley’s Hardrock Saloon. If that plan goes ahead, Chakrabarty said construction could begin next year.
Chakrabarty said the company has support from Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty and the territory’s deputy minister of housing. The company is working with the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on a funding proposal.