Mrdjenovich’s Nova Hotel, last summer
Two long-empty lots at the bottom of Twin Pine Hill may be seeing some action in the near future as controversial Yellowknife developer Mike Mrdjenovich gears up for yet another hotel and residential complex.
Over the past few days, a team has been drilling holes in Mrdjenovich’s Bartam Court property, the mostly empty meadow near the end of School Draw Ave. that was once a trailer park and has been ringed with a makeshift white fence since a tussle between the City and Mrdjenovich more than a decade ago.
He doesn’t have a development permit yet for the site, and some residents in the area fear he’s planning to blast before getting approval from the City. That said, Mrdjenovich told EDGE on Friday afternoon he’s simply testing to see the depth of the bedrock.
His plans for the site are still unclear. Last summer, he told EDGE he was hoping to build 100 apartment units, either in a single building or in several buildings, on the site; that may increase to 200, depending on funding, zoning and what the market can accommodate.
When EDGE spoke to him this afternoon, he seemed even less sure: “We’re still debating [what to do with the site]. The residents are touchy. If they give me a hard time I might just sell back to the City.”
What seems more certain is the development of a relatively small 20-room hotel – “more like a B&B” – in the empty swathe of land between the Arnica Inn and Bartam Court.
The small hotel’s construction will begin, “this summer probably,” says Mrdjenovich, while his crew is in Yellowknife putting the finishing touches on the 146-room Nova Hotel next to Niven Lake and working on the adjacent 70-room, four-storey, Nova Apartments, which was approved by the City in October.
All this building activity, especially around the foot of Twin Pine Hill is causing some concern among local residents and environmental advocates who are leery about Mrdjenovich’s cut-and-blast reputation.
People in the neighbourhood “don’t seem to have any sense what’s going on…[but] his name is a bit of lightening rod,” says Craig Scott of Ecology North. “So people are concerned about what he’s going to do and if he’s going to follow the rules.”
Scott, for his part, hopes that if the Bartam Court development goes ahead, Mrdjenovich will put some money towards the trail system being built around Twin Pine Hills, as Det’on Cho and their partners did for the new development on the top of the hill.
“He should be putting some money into the trails because it’s going to improve his lot as well,” says Scott.