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Construction began on Ospika student housing project in 2022, city emails show

The HUB Collection began pouring a foundation for a 256-unit student housing project in April 2022, before stopping work the following month.

Vancouver-based developer The HUB Collection (1268628 BC Ltd) began construction of a proposed 256-unit student housing project at the corner of Tyner and Ospika Boulevards in April 2022, before stopping work roughly a month later, documents obtained by the Citizen through a Freedom of Information request show.

In a story published on April 22, the Citizen reported that no sign of a concrete foundation at 4500 Ospika Blvd. was visible from the street as of April 19. The Citizen was reporting on information obtained through a Freedom of Information request, which was provided by the City of Prince George on April 13. However, due to an oversight by City of Prince George staff, the Citizen was not provided with key documents related to the project until the evening of April 26.

In an email to city supervisor of real estate services Brenda Sieben, dated April 26, 2022, HUB Collection managing partner Kevin Price provided photos of concrete footings being poured at 4500 Ospika Blvd.

“As per our last conversation, here are the first pictures from the site with regards to concrete footings going in. Please let me know what else you need to remove the covenant,” Price wrote, in the email only made available to the Citizen by the city on April 26.

The attached photos show workers pouring concrete at 4500 Ospika Blvd. The extent of work completed before Price informed the city on May 26, 2022, that work on the site had stopped was unclear.

Price was responding to an email from Sieben in March.

“I’ve asked for the covenant to be released, however, it stipulates that it is to be released upon pouring the foundation. My Director wants to see the cement being poured first before executing,” Sieben wrote to Price on March 18, 2022. “I’ve been keeping watch, but I don’t see that it’s been poured yet. Do you know when they might begin pouring?”

The City of Prince George sold the land to the developer in July 2020, on the condition the developer would build a 256-unit student housing complex on the 5.6-hectare lot within 24 months. Under the agreement, the City of Prince George had the right to purchase the land back for $485,000, if The Hub Collection didn’t meet its obligations under a Section 219 covenant registered on the land.

In response to Price on April 27, 2022, Sieben said she would seek city director of planning and development Deanna Wasnik’s approval to discharge the city’s right to purchase the land in a meeting the following Tuesday. Sieben later provided Price a copy of a document signed by Wasnik, discharging the city’s right to buy back the land on May 3, 2022.

On Oct. 12, 2021, city administration approved a change to the conditions of the Section 219 covenant on the land from “The Covenantor will comment construction on the proposed student housing project upon the Property and will have completed framing on or before 24 months following completion of purchase of the lands,” to “The Covenantor will commence construction of the Development on the Property and will have commenced pouring the foundation on or before the date that is twenty-four (24) months following the completion of the Property.”

In response to questions from the Citizen around who decided to change the conditions of the Section 219 covenant without getting city council’s approval, and if the city was satisfied that The Hub Collection had met its obligations under the revised covenant, the city provided the following statement:

“City of Prince George Officer Positions and Delegation of Authority Bylaw No. 8340, 2011 (“Delegation of Authority Bylaw”) delegates certain powers, duties and responsibilities to certain roles within Administration. The Director of Planning and Development is one of these roles and under the Delegation of Authority Bylaw is permitted to “negotiate, approve and execute on behalf of the City all contracts and other documents necessary or desirable to complete such approved property transactions”. The list of documents is outlined in the bylaw and includes Section 219 Covenants.”

The issue is expected to be back before city council on May 8, after city council postponed a decision on further changes to the Section 219 covenant to allow development of a 118-unit seniors housing project instead of the 256-unit student housing complex stipulated in the covenant as a condition of sale.

The HUB Collection managing partner Ashley de Grey Osborn declined to comment, except to say that the company has had issues with people trespassing on the site.