Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving on With York Hotel Site

Since council directed the city to purchase the York Hotel I've been focused on getting on to the point where we can start to move forward on getting something new built on the site.

We had to move through transitioning the residential and commercial tennants in the building to new homes. We had to go through inspections of the building, removal the hazardous materials it contained, an environmental site assessment (it got a clean bill of health) and finally demolition and removal of the building.

Late last year, just before Christmas, Council held a planning session to figure out what our priorities were with the now vacant land (both the York Hotel site and the Germaine Park site), what our vision is for that area of downtown and what we'd like to achieve with property. Out of that session a report came to our GGS committee yesterday that laid out the next steps in moving forward.

Essentially we've set up an open process where any party can submit their proposal for developing the site. We have not closed the door to anything at this point and we're looking to see what the business community thinks might be feasible. We'll be open to all-comers and looking for proposals far and wide. When they come in council will get together as a group to review the proposals and determine which we'd like to invite to move to the next step which would get in to a greater level of detail and be more formal. Essentially you could say we're looking to "pre-qualify" the proposals.

So everyone is clear, Council has agreed on a set of five broad principles that we'd weigh the proposals against to measure them. The 5 (with my comments in italics)are:

1. The proposal meets the concepts within the Downtown Enhancement Plan and the Municipal Development Plan.
(We've already approved these plans and they've received plenty of public input. Any proposal should support the goals and ideas contained in these documents.)

2. Explain the overall financial benefit to the City
(The city invested nearly $2m to buy the property and clean it up. We want to know what kind of financial return any proposal will generate. This could be just the purchase price someone would offer, but it could also relate to what kind of taxes any new property would generate. For example someone could offer more money up front to buy the property but build only a small building that doesn't generate a lot of property taxes. OR there might be a proposal that puts a low value on the land but builds a larger building that pays more property taxes each year. Keeping in mind that it'll pay property taxes forever that long term value of a proposal like that might be worth more to the city than one with a higher up-front purchase price.)

3. Project timelines
(How soon can you get something built? We want to see something build sooner rather than later. It's no benefit to the community - or our tax base - to have the property sit empty so we want to hear how quickly any proposal would expect to start and finish construction)

4. Developer’s experience in projects of this nature, including ability to complete, and proven financial expertise
(With something like this we want to know if the person we're talking to actually has the expertise to do what they are saying and, just as importantly, do they actually have the money in the bank to do what they say that can. We're looking for serious people who have the proven ability and financial backing to complete a project like this.)

5. Explain the increase in density of the proposal and impact on activity in
the Downtown

(We want to see something that adds activity and life to our city's core. We also believe that the land should be used to it's maximum potential and should be the kind of development which speaks to the future of our downtown. It is just an office building that's closed after 5pm or does it also have commercial/retail space that may be open in to the evening? Does it have any residential? How will it build on the activity generated by the Farmer's Market?)

Hopefully we'll launch the process towards the end of this month and interested parties will be able to pick up a package with details on the site, the process how to submit a proposal. They'll then have 60 days to put together a proposal which will then be reviewed by council using the principles above. Council will have the ability to reject any or all proposals if we don't see anything that comes close. We'll also have the ability to select as many as we see fit and invite them to move on to the next step where they can provide a greater level of detail.

I think this allows us the greatest amount of flexibility and allows developers to enter the process without having to commit a great detail of resources to the first step - after all it costs something to put these kind of proposals together.

I'm looking forward to kicking this off and seeing what kind of innovative proposals come forward.

View City DownTown Property in a larger map

Development Proposals Anticipated In April
Media Release
January 12, 2011

The General Government Services Committee today recommended City Council initiate a Request For Information (RFI) process for developing downtown lands owned by the municipality.

The RFI would be issued for development concepts for the former York Hotel and/or Germain Park lands. City Council will consider the recommendation at its Jan. 24 meeting.

It would be open for 60 days and must address five principles. Proposals must meet the concepts within the Downtown Enhancement and Municipal Development plans. They will also explain the overall financial benefit to the City and include project timelines.

Submissions must also detail the developer’s experience in successfully completing projects of this nature and their proven financial expertise. As well, they will indicate the increase in density associated with the proposal and project its impact on Downtown activity.

“Council has underlined the importance of the development of these lands moving ahead as soon as possible,” says Economic Development Officer Brian Glavin. “We will promote the Request for Information across the country in a variety of media to maximize our opportunity for proposals.”

This strategy results from a visioning session Council had in mid-December.

1 comment:

Todd said...

Sounds good! Excited to see how this can benefit the downtown core and bring safe foot traffic to the streets.

In my opinion, mixed residential and commercial is the way to go. Bring jobs, but keeping people in the area overnight may increase safety (providing that the people living there are people involved in and interested in making the downtown community what it can be).


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