Jane Livingston and Michael Flanagan are transforming the old general store on Victoria. What was a commercial building for more than 100 years, will now be five modern rental apartment units.

The change reflects the reality that there is strong demand in Knowlton for high-end rental accommodation and falling demand for commercial properties.

“The building is no longer viable as a commercial space,” says Ms. Livingston who ran the building as Flanagan’s General Store with her husband Michael from 2001 to 2008. They kept the ownership of the building, and the Home Hardware franchise, then run by the Barnes family until May of last year, when they moved to the centre of the village.

The building was put up for sale, but there were only lowball bids.

“The only merchants who were interested in renting wanted small spaces, so we did a re-think and decided to re-do it into five apartments,” says Ms. Livingston.

There were already two existing apartments in the building, and they are being updated as part of the work. The current tenants will stay put.

An architect was hired, and the design calls for three additional apartments, all built to a high standard.

“We knew there was demand for rental housing when we were downsizing and looking for somewhere to live in the village,” says Ms. Livingston. “People like the convenience of being able to walk everywhere.”

This is the second major renovation of a downtown commercial building into rental living space. Jack Walker re-did the former Brouillette building across the street from the Bank of Montreal in 2016.

How long will it be until other abandoned storefronts are turned into downtown rental housing or condos?