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Banff close to reaching commercial build-out

Approval of new hotel pushes Banff closer to reaching federal commercial development cap.
The Inns of Banff Swiss Village is going to be demolished and replaced with a new 175-room hotel.

BANFF – Although Banff is bustling with development activity, the national park townsite is close to reaching its federally legislated commercial development cap.

A new 175-room hotel at 600 Banff Ave. to replace Banff Caribou Properties’ aging Swiss Village Hotel once it’s demolished was approved last week, and is arguably the last new hotel that will be built in Banff.

In addition, there are currently several construction projects underway that are using commercial development allotments, including the Homestead Inn on Lynx Street, a new restaurant on Bear Street and another at the former Timber’s restaurant site on Wolf Street.

“This summer Banff has been crazy with construction and I think there’s a lot of angst about what happened to commercial build-out,” said Darren Enns, the

Town of Banff’s director of planning and development. “But you’re looking at the last major projects that are making use of commercial development allotments.”

In 1998, the federal government capped commercial development at an additional 350,000 square-feet on top of what then existed amid concerns rampant development was ecologically harming Banff National Park – Canada’s flagship national park.

Since then, development rights have been handed out through a random lottery system.

As of 2013, all commercial floor area had been allocated, and as predicted, most went to hotels, with the rest primarily being used for retail and restaurants.

Under the land use bylaw, commercial development allotments are split into three categories: small, which are up to 46 m2; medium, which are between 46 m2 and 465 m2; and large, which are more than 465 m2.

Dave Michaels, the Town of Banff’s manager of development services, said redevelopment of the Swiss Village Hotel is the last remaining commercial development allotment from the large category.

“There are a limited number of commercial development allotments that were allocated through the lottery process and that have not yet been constructed,” he said.

“These are across four sites within Banff, including the Train Station, locations at the industrial compound and on Bear Street. These remaining allotments all fall into the ‘medium’ category.”

While these are the last of the commercial development allotments, and once build-out is reached, Banff will likely continue to see redevelopment over the years.

“It is anticipated that over time we will see the redevelopment of sites in Banff that utilize existing commercial floor area in new and exciting ways that maximize the commercial potential of properties in Banff,” said Michaels.

Meanwhile, Liricon Capital’s plans for the train station lands are coming down the pipeline. Before proceeding with significant development, an area redevelopment plan will set out what type of businesses and activities should be allowed for the lands.

The lands, leased by Liricon Capital, have a medium commercial development allotment, but it does not expire until 2020 because of a partial allotment that went to that property in 2015.

“The proposal is for a visitor arrival centre, which is focused around transportation uses as well as supporting visitor amenities,” Enns said.
“I would expect eating and drinking, and retail, to be the focus of hospitality-related uses to meet the bulk of what’s proposed in the area redevelopment plan.”

Banff Caribou Properties received its final commercial development allotments in 2013, which in combination with commercial space credits from demolished buildings, now has Town approval to build a 175-room hotel to replace Swiss Village and its adjacent cabins.

Gordon Lozeman, president and CEO of Banff Caribou Properties, said development of the new hotel likely would not start within the next two years until a major facelift of the Inns of Banff nears completion.

“It will arguably be Banff’s last new hotel, as it will use the last major allocation of Banff’s commercial cap space,” he said.

“There’s a few small unused allocations still out there, but this project for all intents and purposes, will get Banff to build-out. The commercial cap will be reached.”

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