Funding ratio for convention centre still up in the air
By STEPHEN LLEWELLYN
Published Friday October 12th, 2007
Appeared on page A3
The New Brunswick cabinet was briefed Thursday on the $80-million redevelopment project in the east end of downtown Fredericton, not just the $20-million convention centre.
The project includes a new office tower, a parking garage and the convention centre.
Minister of Supply and Services Roly MacIntyre said a final decision will be made soon.
"It is a document that will be coming forward for approval some time in the next week or so," he said in an interview after the cabinet meeting. "The premier has been briefed."
On Wednesday at the mayor's business breakfast, Premier Shawn Graham said the province was still committed to helping the city fund its new convention centre.
Some observers expected a funding announcement would be made by the premier Wednesday morning.
There were 13 Liberal MLAs in the audience in the council chamber for the premier's speech. The proposal hasn't been presented to cabinet.
The aging Centennial Building on King Street houses most of the government offices in Fredericton.
The city has proposed the provincial government occupy a new office building that would be part of the convention-centre complex.
But no funding arrangements have been finalized or made public.
"I can tell you that the way it is presently structured the province would be involved in their (new office) building and the city would be involved in the convention centre and the parking garage," said MacIntyre.
He said the three buildings are all on the same piece of land adjacent to The Playhouse so it only makes sense to co-ordinate the work.
"We don't want one construction going over here and more construction going (on over there)," he said.
MacIntyre said the next decision is how to pay for the complex.
"Will it be a public-private partnership?" he said. "Will it be financed by government?
"That is what will happen in the next two weeks. We will decide as a provincial government how we will do our portion of the project."
MacIntyre wouldn't comment on what would happen to the project if the federal government doesn't come through with its share of the funding.
"We are very optimistic that the federal government will go through."
Business New Brunswick Minister Greg Byrne -- in whose riding the project is located -- said it's important for the business community to have a new convention centre in the capital's downtown.
"Right now I know from talking to business leaders that there are conventions that cannot be held in the city because we do not have the capacity," he said. "It is a benefit to all the hotels and all the businesses."
"This will give us the capacity to have larger gatherings and certainly the local MLAs support that."
Byrne said he was confident the project would proceed.
"As you can see we have gone beyond the initial concept of the convention centre," he said.
"We are talking of a complex that would include an additional office (building) and a parking garage as well," said Byrne.
Irving says it's planning to restore train station
By STEPHEN LLEWELLYN
Published Friday October 12th, 2007
Appeared on page A1
Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside issued a public plea to the Irving family Thursday to do something about the crumbling York Street Train Station in downtown Fredericton.
And the Irvings responded.
Mary Keith, vice-president of communications for J.D. Irving Ltd., said the company plans to restore the train station.
"Our company has committed in writing its promise to refurbish the train station, including a schedule of repairs to be initiated and completed after review and approval by the City of Fredericton Heritage Preservation Review Board and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada,'' Keith said Thursday night.
"However, restoring the train station could cost up to $2 million and requires a viable commercial development to underwrite the repairs. Our efforts to find a viable commercial development still continue.''
In the meantime, Keith said, the company is reviewing the condition of the railway station to determine what winterization can occur safely and efficiently.
Woodside said Thursday the public has been talking about this issue and asking questions for a long time.
"The City of Fredericton and the council would dearly like to have this situation resolved."
The train station property is on a list of Canada's 10 most threatened heritage sites.
"It looks bad," said Woodside. "It is unacceptable in this community or in any other community.
"We are really hoping that the landowners will address it. That would please a lot of people. That is all we are asking."
An online petition calling for action by government on the train station was recently posted by the group Fredericton Friends of the Railway.
The mayor said the train station doesn't fall under the city's jurisdiction, and council cannot order the Irvings to clean it up.
The property is registered under the name Fredericton Railway Company, he said.
According to a recent legal opinion received by council, technically the property is treated like a Crown corporation, he said.
"If the city was of a mind to enforce its unsightly premises bylaw, in this particular case we have no jurisdiction.''
The mayor said the situation is complex.
"I can tell you that if the city did have jurisdictional rights, if the city could do something, the city would do something," he said.
"I just wanted to make sure that we made that clear to the public."
Woodside said city representatives spoke to Irving staff 10 days ago, and there may be some kind of deal in the works for the property.
"We have not been able to get confirmation," he said.
"We are crossing our fingers. We still want some movement on the property."
It's Woodside's understanding that except for the roof, the building is still structurally sound.
But he said the roof is deteriorating and should be looked after quickly.
"What we would like to have happen is that the rightful owners of the property at the very least inform the people of Fredericton exactly what is the status of the negotiations and if indeed there is some light at the end of the tunnel," said the mayor of Fredericton.