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City won't sell Parcel 4 to The Forks

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Winnipeg city council shot down what one councillor called a "downright dangerous" proposal to sell a prime chunk of downtown land near The Forks.

This afternoon, Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) and John Orlikow (River Heights) introduced a motion on the floor of city council that called on the city to sell Parcel 4 to The Forks North Portage for $6 million.

Parcel 4 is located adjacent to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and near The Forks. Earlier this year, city council considered a plan to give an Alberta-based hotel chain $7 million to develop the city-owned site as a 50,000-square-foot water park, hotel and parkade.

The deal eventually fell through after councillors were bombarded with negative feedback from constituents, who said The Forks isn't the place for a water park and worried whether the design would be a good fit for the area. City council asked the company for more detailed site plans, prompting hotelier Canalta to walk away from the deal.

Swandel's motion calls on the city to negotiate the sale of the land to The Forks North Portage as they expressed an interest in acquiring the land during the water park transaction.

Swandel said the Forks North Portage did not approach him about any specific proposal for the land, but he thinks they should be given the opportunity to acquire the land and develop it, rather than having it sit as an "ugly" gravel surface parking lot.

"All we're doing is asking the administration to see if they can go out and negotiate it," Swandel said. "It will still have to come back and be declared surplus and the transaction would have to be approved by council."

The idea prompted backlash from fellow councillors who questioned whether the city learned anything from how the water park proposal was handled.

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) called Swandel's idea "downright dangerous" and mused The Forks could flip the property to another company. Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said Swandel was basically attempting to sole-source the sale, noting Swandel's original motion indicated the sale price would be $6.5 million.

Swandel accused councillors of lacking "political courage" for letting Parcel 4 sit there undeveloped, noting the land would likely return to a "black hole of no decision."

Forks North Portage chief executive officer Jim August could not be immediately reached for comment this afternoon.

Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said it may be a good idea to work with The Forks to develop the land, but the city has got to start following its own processes. She said the land, located in her ward, has not been declared surplus.

"It might be the right thing to do in the end, but we need to start following process around here," Gerbasi said during a city council lunch break. "That's the root of our problems and we just keep continuing to try and fix bad process with more bad process."

 

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Join the Winnipeg Free Press's Jen Skerritt for live coverage from city council today.

Councillors will consider authorizing additional spending to complete construction on four fire halls, and vote on whether to declare the 11-storey tower portion of the Canada Post building surplus.

History

Updated on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 11:15 AM CST: updates with info on motion to sell Parcel 4

1:08 PM: Updates with more info, comments from Gerbasi

1:35 PM: Updated

4:06 PM: updates with result of vote, full writethru

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