Moving forward on the fire station development

2016-03-07

As many of you may have read or heard, the plans for a 16 story high rise on the site of the former Hampstead fire station have been cancelled and the new plan is for townhouses on the site. I would like to review the history of this dossier and explain why I, and the entire council, now back this new plan when previously we favoured a high rise.

A brief history

Six years ago Hampstead commissioned a report by Libcorp to look at development opportunities for the unused fire station site. Based on the report, council decided that the best use was for a 16 story high rise and this decision was supported by an overwhelming number of residents in a poll conducted by Leger Marketing. We then undertook a rigorous process to select a developer and the Benvento Group won the competition with an excellent proposal and a winning bid of $5.5 million.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, sales were insufficient and the project did not go forward. Wisely, the Town had signed a contract guaranteeing penalties if the project did not proceed. To date, we have received $1.5 million in penalties with another $500,000 due March 31.

Several months ago, the developers approached us with a new plan for townhouses. While this would produce less revenue than a high rise, the developers argued that there was no market for a high rise in Hampstead. To test that argument, I spoke to many top real estate developers and the town commissioned a report from a top real estate consulting firm. The conclusion was that an 8 story condo development might be viable. So council was not prepared to approve the townhouses proposal at that point.

However, the developers then commissioned a more in depth market analysis. This new report explained that for this particular site there was no realistic hope, now or in the foreseeable future, for a high rise development and that there would be an excellent market for townhouses. Once more, I consulted top real estate experts and this time there was a clear consensus agreeing with the conclusions of the new report.

With the new evidence, council decided to accept the plan for townhouses, subject to a quality proposal being presented. As I write this, I have seen detailed plans and what is being proposed is high quality and very attractive. Some issues remain to be resolved but I am confident that they will be. The new development will be a valuable addition to the housing options in the town.

Next steps

The Planning and Architectural Committee must review the detailed plans and make a recommendation to council. There will also be a Demolition Committee meeting to approve the demolition of the fire station. Council will ultimately need to approve the plans.

In addition, the site must be rezoned from the current 8-16 story condo zoning to townhouses. There will be at least one consultation meeting. With legal notice delays and all the steps necessary to do this properly, final approvals are not likely before April, at the earliest, but it is our intention to move as quickly as possible.

Should we have zoned for townhouses originally?

Our goal, and that of the developers, was to maximize revenue. Zoning for a high rise did that and we got at least $2.5 million more for the land than if it had been zoned for townhouses. Further, we will get another $2 million in penalties. The extra $4.5 million covers about 16 years of tax revenue from the townhouses so we are way ahead. However, at this point with the latest information, it is time to move on with the townhouses project.

If you have any comments or questions on this topic or anything related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office (514) 483-6954.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead