A revised city budget that has been rewritten on the fly since last month’s provincial budget includes putting off demolition of the two vacant major buildings on the Exhibition Lands. Instead, the city would spend $1.5 million out of council reserves to keep power and heat at the Northlands Coliseum and at the casino and race track.
A report released Monday evening, just prior to the Tuesday council meeting, recommends paying that money back to the reserve fund over a four-year period.
Council still has not received an answer on the benefits of tearing down both buildings under a single contract, said Coun. Tony Caterina.
“(It) seems reasonable to get a better price on it, but we haven’t had discussions yet on the actual demolition of the coliseum site and certainly no discussion on the casino and race track.”
Caterina said the December meeting of the urban planning committee is where council will get some firm answers.
“We know it’s going to be millions of dollars in demolition costs to the budget or an item in the budget that has to be decided on. I think we’ll be much more clear when we get that report to urban planning and what stage it’s at, at this point.”
Turning a profit on the nearly 200 acres is a priority, Caterina said. The plan is to start in the southwest corner where the race barns were.
“This is set up quite differently than Blatchford. This will be developed by the private sector and our responsibility will be to zone and to sell parcels of land, which we’ll certainly make a profit on. Then it’s up to a developer to come forward with all of the necessary requirements for applications.”
A new LRT station is eventually envisioned at 115 Avenue, Caterina said, “which would tie in extremely well with the residential components that are being proposed, and thought of there, plus an additional station to the north of the existing station to add benefit to that neighbourhood as well, too.”
Council still has to decide if the city will go through the expense of handling the demolition then servicing the land before selling to a developer, or selling at a reduced price and leaving that work to whoever buys it.
“One way or the other if a developer decides to take on demolition it would be a reduced price for the land,” Caterina said.
Three budget-related reports for the Tuesday council meeting were released Monday evening, hours before they were to be debated.
A fourth report, to address a submission to the province’s red tape reduction ministry is still to be released.