The COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat slowed down, but hardly halted the construction of a new mixed residential-commercial development in Sidney that will eventually house the community’s iconic Star Cinema.
Margie Shenduk, director of operations for Casman, said construction of the Cameo development in Sidney continues to move along following its official groundbreaking last month just before the introduction of social distancing rules.
“I know everybody is staying at home, but if they were to walk by, they could see that we are moving along on the foundation of the project. We got re-bar crews there today, and we are fortunate at this stage in the project that we can continue to work because we are in a big, outdoor space, and we can keep the social distancing protocols in place.”
She said they were able to quickly incorporate all the additional protocols, including more frequent handwashing and the screening of workers before they arrive on site. Currently, anywhere between three to four workers at the low end and up to eight workers at the high end are on the site daily.
This said, the situation would be different if the project were to be in a more advanced stage, she added.
“Just by the nature of the site, we can keep a really close eye on where everybody is and ensure that we are social distancing. Our policy is two metres. We have signs everywhere and it is comfortable for us to know that this is happening,” she said. “There are different parts of construction where this is more challenging, because people just have to work close together or they are in a more confined space.”
For example, two electricians working in a nearly finished building might find it more difficult, she added.
Current crews do have to find some creative ways to complete some of the tasks at this stage, said Shenduk. “Instead of two people just picking something heavy up, they have to figure out a tool to use. So it isn’t quite at the same productivity, but we can still the project moving.”
Shenduk said that if she were to guess, the project is moving at a pace of somewhere between 70 and 80 per cent of what would have been normal before the COVID-19 pandemic. This said, the project remains on schedule for a spring 2022 opening.
“We are so early on, that the adjustment is fairly minor at this stage,” she said. Crews can still get to the site and the project has not experienced any supply chain interruptions.
“There is no real concern about the schedule at this point,” she said. “If this project were at the finishing stage, where you’re putting in kitchens and appliances, we would be in a much more difficult situation.”
Shenduk said Casman regularly consults with Condo Group Real Estate, the Cameo’s marketing team.
Social distancing rules to fight COVID-19 have forced a change in the way units currently under construction are advertised and sold.
“We are still able to supply units, we are still able to show units,” she said. “We had to go more virtual. We are currently working on more marketing material that people can see from home, and then we are doing appointments to the sales centre [on Beacon Avenue].
While real estate investors are taking a wait-and-see approach towards buying units, individuals who actually want to live in the project remain interested, she said.
“There are a lot of variables, and the Town of Sidney is still an incredible oceanside town in Canada with incredible weather,” she said.
The project “definitely lost some momentum from a launch perspective,” but that momentum is not gone for good, said Shenduk. “We just need to figure out a way to get it going again in this new world. At this point, there is no reason to change our price structure.”
Shenduk said the fundamentals of the construction market remain strong and she praised the Town of Sidney for helping the project along.
“The Town of Sidney has been really great working with us and not stalling anything,” she said. “I was concerned that with permitting and all of the approvals and inspections… that we might be slowed down by outside parties. But the Town of Sidney has been excellent in working with us. They have been very attentive to us.”
Plans for the Cameo call for 45 residential units on top of two commercial storeys plus the new, old home of the Star Cinema.
It operated out of a temporary space in the 9800-block of Fifth Street for several weeks before closing because of COVID-19. It closed its historic location at the corner of Sidney Avenue and Third Street in early December 2019 after screening films at that location for more than 20 years.
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