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Student housing not viable at Ospika site, developer says

The proposed student housing project at 4500 Ospika Blvd. isn’t economically viable, a spokesperson for The Hub Collection says.
The site of a proposed student housing complex at 4500 Ospika Blvd. is seen from the intersection of Tyner and Ospika Boulevards. Citizen photo by Arthur Williams

The planned student housing project on former city-owned land at 4500 Ospika Blvd. isn’t economically viable, according to a spokesperson for Vancouver-based developer The Hub Collection Ltd.

The City of Prince George sold the land to The Hub Collection in July 2020 for $500,000, on the condition the developer would build a 256-unit student housing complex on the 5.6-hectare lot within 24 months. On Feb. 6, 2023 city council denied a request by the developer to modify the Section 219 restrictive covenant on the property to allow development of a 118-unit seniors housing complex instead.

“It’s a bit up in the air,” The Hub Collection spokesperson Mike Witherly said. “There isn’t the demand for it, and the cost went up so much. The costs, they just don’t work.”

The Hub Collection plans to continue discussions with the city about what would a good fit for the site, while still being a viable investment, he said.

“It’s going to require city approval, so it’s got to be in the interest of the community,” Witherly said.

Witherly acknowledged there has “been a bit of controversy about the initial sale” of the land by the city. BC Assessment valued the land at $682,000 in 2019 and 2020, and that value has increased to nearly $3.55 million in 2023 – after city council approved an OCP amendment and rezoning to facilitate development on the site.

However, the primary negotiation between The Hub Collection and the city took place in October 2019, Witherly said, based on the 2018 assessed value of $412,000.

Under the letter of intent signed in 2019, The Hub Collection undertook a $60,000 geotechnical study of the land, Witherly said. Had the developer not liked what the study showed, “they had the option to kiss the money goodbye” and not purchase the site.

“It made it seem like it was quite a deal on the property,” he said. “(But) it was negotiated on the 2018 assessed value.”