Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Abandon land swap: top broker

Urges tendering for sales

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A prominent broker with one of Winnipeg's largest commercial real estate firms is calling on the city to scrap the controversial land-swap proposal under review at city hall.

CBRE broker Peter Kaufmann, a former city councillor and two-time Winnipeg mayoral candidate, said the city should abandon its plan to trade two old fire halls and a parcel of Fort Rouge land for the the Shindico Realty-owned site of the new fire-paramedic Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue.

The proposed deal would see the city obtain the Taylor property in exchange for the old Station No. 12 on Grosvenor Avenue, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Station No. 11 on Berry Street and a 0.4-hectare slice of a vacant property on Mulvey Avenue East. If council decides against the swap this fall, the city would acquire the Taylor property from Shindico for $990,000, according to Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Reid Douglas, who negotiated the deal with the assistance of the city's real estate division.

Facing criticism from councillors angry about being left in the dark, officials have defended the proposed deal, with chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl declaring he is "100 per cent comfortable procedure was followed."

In a letter to the Free Press, Kaufmann stated the city has not followed the "proper course of events" to make the transaction "transparent and fair and totally above board" in the commercial real estate sphere.

"All the spin doctors in the universe will not be able to properly explain the course of events to date," said Kaufmann, who said the city should use an independent appraiser to determine the value of the Taylor land and then pay out Shindico accordingly. He also called for the city to issue new requests for proposals to develop the two old fire halls and the Mulvey land or put all three parcels up for sale with a firm other than Shindico.

"The city properties in question should be tendered for sale and the city could then choose between the various commercial real estate companies," he said, listing off Avison Young, CBRE, Colliers International, DTZ Barnicke, Cushman Wakefield, Sutton or RE/Max, "any of which would be pleased and capable to complete the work." This course of action would make the deal "clean, clear and transparent, as it should be," he writes.

In a subsequent interview, Kaufmann said he does not care if his own firm gets the business. He said he wrote out of concern for the city.

A Shindico executive did not respond to an interview request.

Criticism of the proposed deal has already led Mayor Sam Katz to order Sheegl and chief financial officer Mike Ruta to review the plan. Katz said Wednesday it makes him uncomfortable to place city officials under the microscope but said he has no choice but to ensure taxpayers are getting a good deal.

The mayor also said he will not join Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi's call for a formal audit of the deal because "the process has not been completed" and audits are done after the fact. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation asked Katz to reconsider. "It's quite clear that even if the city's processes were followed, they were flawed," said CTF Manitoba director Colin Craig. "Why wouldn't anyone support an audit?"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2012 B1


Updated on Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:08 PM CDT: Adds map.

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