Glad to see a building going in the downtown!
'Dollar lot' sold... with a price tag
After sitting empty for 30 years, the vacant city-owned lot at 603 First Street has been sold to a developer.
On Monday, council agreed to sell the property to River Street Development Corporation, the very same developer that pulled out of a deal two years ago, citing sluggish economic conditions. At that time, council had agreed to sell the lot to River Street for the price of $1 -- a move that ignited a furor of controversy within the community.
Apparently not willing to make the same mistake twice, this time council has settled on a selling price of $381,000.
"First of all, it's not for $1 this time. That's a major point," Mayor Norm Boucher told the News. "Second, our partnership as far as building it and how we understand it is much better than it was two years ago."
While River Street's proposal is quite similar to what it was two years ago a multi-purpose commercial/residential project consisting of two four-to-eight story towers and underground parking
the city's role this time around will be much greater.
Not only will the city assume costs related to off-site levies and lane paving for the development, it has also agreed to negotiate the purchase of two floors of commercial office space for its own use as well as all of the underground parking spaces. While negotiations have not been concluded, River Street is proposing to sell the two floors to the city for $4.5 million, and the 80 parking stalls for $3.2 million ($40,000 per stall).
It is that price tag that drew objections from Ald. Wayne Craven, the only council member to vote against the deal on Monday.
"I, like any other member of council around this table, would like to see this site developed," Craven said. "But not at any cost."
He was over-ruled by his fellow aldermen, many of whom stated their belief that the development -- will be a shot in the arm for Medicine Hat's downtown.
"This proposed development will be classy, state-of-the-art, and it will be a wonderful complement to our downtown core," said Ald. Robert Dumanowski, city council's representative on the City Centre Development Agency (CCDA).
Ald. Ted Clugston said he viewed the project as an example of a P3 (public-private partnership), while Ald. John Hamill pointed out that even though the city advertised the property on the open market after the original River Street deal fell through, there have been no other serious proposals.
"It's just terrible that a valuable piece of land has sat empty all those years," Hamill said.
Boucher said the city will likely bring in between $85,000 and $100,000 in property taxes per year once the project is completed. However, while he said he believes this is the right move for the city, he acknowledged that council is taking a risk.
"All of us have probably laid in bed at night and wondered, 'Are we involved too deep in this?' " he said. "But this is, in my opinion, something that's very solid for our community."
That sentiment was echoed by Ald. Phil Turnbull, who said he had initial reservations but has decided going ahead with the project is the only option.
"I don't have a crystal ball, I can't guarantee to any of our citizens that this will pay off," Turnbull said. "But the world is built by people who take chances."