Mon | Oct 15, 2018

NHT says redesign of Ruthven apartments may lead to lower prices

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder

The National Housing Trust (NHT), which last September announced plans for the long-awaited Ruthven Towers in Kingston, says that a redesign of the development is under way and is the cause of a delay in construction.

The redesign is likely to affect unit prices but is more directly related to density changes, the NHT told Gleaner Business.

The project was to be done in two phases, the first of which was scheduled to begin construction last November and the other in May 2019.

Under the design by A.G. Lowe Architects, the complex was slated to include 238 apartments, spread across four blocks, each rising six floors, on a 5.71-acre property. It offers one-, two- and three-bedroom units and includes a multipurpose court and tennis court, a meeting room and a jogging trail.

The NHT has not said specifically whether any of those elements of the design would be change, but it signalled that the number of units may be increased.

"The on-site work has been delayed pending changes in the design to increase densities in accordance with the new density standards," the agency said on Thursday.

 

HABITABLE ROOMS

 

In 2016, the National Environment and Planning Agency decided to increase the density for allowable habitable rooms per hectare of land. The policy change allows developers to build an additional 25 habitable rooms per hectare, up from 50 in low-density areas; and up to 175 more rooms per hectare in high-density communities from a former high of 250 habitable rooms per hectare.

The NHT had proposed selling prices for the units at Ruthven Tower between $16 million and $22 million, but there was an outcry about the prices, relating particularly to concerns about the qualifying salaries that would be needed to obtain the units, even though the housing agency had promised 100 per cent financing to qualified buyers.

But the NHT said that the move to redesign the complex was not prompted by the price concerns.

"The main objective of the redesign is to take advantage of the increased densities. However, it is expected that there may be some reduction in the overall cost, resulting from the higher density," the agency said.

The delay in construction will not affect contractors already selected for the project, it added, saying: "The contract for Phase 1 has already been awarded and the contractor mobilised."

As to what the new unit prices might be, the NHT said on Thursday that the cost is to be finalised.

Ruthven Towers has been years in gestation. Back in 2010, the NHT estimated that the development would have cost $1.9 billion. The new cost is $5.3 billion.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com