Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Shindico 'good at what we do'

Council unhappy with process, not firm's work, exec says

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Shindico Realty's development manager says his firm has become "collateral damage" in a council crusade against the way the city procures real estate services.

Shindico was in the midst of negotiating the sale of the Dominion Bridge industrial site on behalf of the city when council's property committee decided Tuesday to stop the Winnipeg firm from marketing the land, Bob Downs said.

The sale of the Dublin Avenue site can still proceed because the land was already listed, but Downs contends the committee had no just cause to sever Shindico's marketing relationship with Dominion Bridge or strip the firm of a management contract for the former Canada Post tower on Graham Avenue.

"I think we're collateral damage. I really do. The councillors appear to be very unhappy and we're getting flak from it," Downs said, referring to the contention a 2010 city search for real estate services was unfair because it did not specify property management as one of those services.

"The real issue is we're hired to do a job. We do it and we do it really well. We're good at what we do and we get fired. It's a real interesting process."

Downs said his firm has spent four years working on the Dominion Bridge site, which the city acquired in a tax sale in 2008. The site is partly contaminated with metal tailings and two previous sale offers fell through before Manitoba Conservation agreed to help the city clean it up.

The latest Dominion Bridge sale offer, which is close to completion, may earn the city $4 million, according to a city hall source.

Council's property committee was not informed of the pending sale when it decided Shindico should stop marketing the land and asked city real estate staff to prepare a report about the four-year sale effort.

"I'd be celebrating with champagne the day we can sell this one," city property director Barry Thorgrimson said during the Tuesday meeting.

On Thursday, Thorgrimson said he had not been made aware of the pending sale and if he had, he would have told the committee.

"I'm going to be taking steps to ensure this sort of stuff doesn't happen again," he said, praising Shindico for assisting the city's efforts to clean up and sell the property.

Shindico has also spent four years working on the former Canada Post tower, acquired by the city in 2009 with the rest of the former Canada Post building, which is being converted into Winnipeg's new police headquarters.

On Tuesday, council's property committee voted to strip Shindico of the contract to manage the property, whose tenants include the federal government and Canada Post. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation made the contract public after $300,000 in management fees were included in a freedom-of-information request for services rendered as a result of a 2010 city search for real estate services.

Shindico has been given 90 days' notice of the Canada Post tower contract's termination. Meanwhile, the city will tender a search for a new property manager.

Downs questioned the wisdom of both moves, saying Shindico already knows the building and its tenants. The city plans to sell the tower in 2014, when the Winnipeg Police Service moves into the warehouse portion of the former Canada Post building.

"So for a 13-month period, less a notice period, they're going to engage someone else to manage the building. It doesn't make any sense to me. There isn't a logical reason for doing that," Downs said.

"The termination of our contract at Canada Post has nothing to do with the quality of work we're doing. It has to do with the process councillors perceive (allowed) us to do our job."

Council also is poised to declare the tower surplus next week. Downs advised against selling the structure any time soon, as major government tenants are departing and the building would be worth more with new tenants.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2012 B1

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