Usage can trump price

Jun 17 • Feature Story, Local NewsNo Comments on Usage can trump price

Nearly six acres of prime land is for sale by the municipality along Grand Avenue. It includes a park. But if the right developer with the right plan doesn’t come along, staff say the land won’t be sold.

Nearly six acres of prime land is for sale by the municipality along Grand Avenue. It includes a park. But if the right developer with the right plan doesn’t come along, staff say the land won’t be sold.

The municipality has received a few offers so far on nearly six acres of prime real estate on Grand Avenue East in Chatham, but it’s looking for the right deal.

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The land, 300 Grand Ave. East, is 5.82 acres, and contains the old horticultural greenhouses, as well as Wm. McKenzie Ross Park. It is sandwiched between Grand Avenue and the Thames River.

Gord Quinton, director of financial services with the municipality, said the Chatham PUC once owned the property back when water was taken from the Thames River. It was deemed surplus last August, and council directed Quinton to put the property up for sale.

He said until a deal can be worked out with a buyer it will remain as parkland.

Kristen Nead, the realtor who handles all municipal property sales, said the list price is $499,000. She and deputy director of economic development, Stuart McFadden, stressed someone coming in with the highest price won’t necessarily get the land.

As part of the sale process, the municipality is asking potential purchasers to submit proposed development plans with their offers.

“We want the winning bid to not necessarily be the highest price, but what is the best use of the land for the community,” McFadden said.

Nead agreed.

“A really good investment would be looked at better than just the highest price,” she said, adding that increasing the municipality’s tax base is part of the consideration process.

McFadden said he has no idea what the land will ultimately be used for.

“People have an opportunity to submit their thoughts, ideas and price on that,” he said. “What do you do with the property? I don’t know. We don’t know what the next use might be. That’s why we put the question out to developers.

Nead said she listed the property April 22, and people have three months – until July 22 – to put forth proposals and offers. She said there has been some interest in the land already.

McFadden thinks the location will draw interest.

“It’s on a busy road and has lots of exposure. We have no intention on developing it, so we’ll leave it up to the developers to tell us what should be done with it,” he said.

Nead anticipates it will be a complicated sale, as part of the property is a park, but there are also a number of easements and utilities that traverse the land.

She said the public would have to be consulted as the municipality would have to ask to close the park in order for the land sale to go through. She said there are also restrictions on the property that would have to be agreed to as well.

“There will be lots of conditions,” she said.

McFadden said the land may ultimately remain in municipal hands, however.

“At the end of the day, what might end up happening is nothing. If it doesn’t meet what we want to do, it won’t happen,” he said of any proposal.

Quinton said if the municipality finds the right fit, then the next stage would be to hold a public meeting to allow the surrounding property owners and the public the opportunity to provide input to council.

Council would ultimately have to approve of the sale before it could be completed, he added.

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