Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Developer lists property before city agrees to sale

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Don't feel bad if you can't find your keys: City hall appears to have lost track of a plan to sell an 11,000-square-foot property that sits alongside one of River Heights' busiest streets.

Senior city officials could not agree on Thursday whether the vacant Fire Hall No. 12 -- a Grosvenor Avenue structure built in 1956 -- has or has not been declared surplus by city council.

Fire Hall No. 12 closed earlier this year, following the completion of a new fire-paramedic facility on Taylor Avenue. In July 2010, city council approved a plan to use proceeds from the sale of the old fire hall to help pay for the new one.

"The property at 1710 Grosvenor (Ave.) would become surplus," wrote Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service chief Reid Douglas, then deputy chief, in an appendix to a report to city council.

But council never explicitly declared the property surplus.

This posed no problem until Winnipeg's Shindico Realty -- the city's No. 1-ranked realtor -- listed Fire Hall No. 12 for lease on its website.

Up until earlier this week, Shindico advertised the recently vacated fire-paramedic service facility as a "unique loft-style office location with park setting in southwest Winnipeg."

According to the listing, the fire hall is "a unique opportunity in the heart of River Heights" with "architectural character" and "plenty of room for development, which can include increased parking or a patio" and "great signage opportunities."

City of Winnipeg property officials asked Shindico to remove the listing and initially told CBC Manitoba the hall had yet to be declared surplus.

On Thursday, however, property director Barry Thorgrimson reversed course and said council's approval of the fire-paramedic service report amounted in 2010 to a declaration of surplus.

Nonetheless, he said Shindico should not have listed the fire hall, insisting the city has yet to set a value for the property.

"We have a very aggressive developer moving forward with the best intention, thinking they had the opportunity to put it up for lease," Thorgrimson said in an interview.

Shindico president Sandy Shindleman said via email the listing was a mistake. He said Shindico erred on its own, with no instruction from the city to create the listing.

The Winnipeg firm made a similar mistake in 2009, when the Winnipeg Square parkade was listed for sale before it was declared surplus.

In September, the city's real estate staff will prepare a report for council about the value of the fire hall, Thorgrimson said.

River Heights Coun. John Orlikow, whose ward includes Fire Hall No. 12, said he believes council must vote to declare the property surplus, since the move was not made explicit in 2010.

"There is a public process to go through. If this is being done by the administration ahead of time, without council consultation, then there is a problem," Orlikow said.

He added he's concerned the 2010 report did not mention the old fire hall was part of a swap for land now home to the new Taylor Avenue fire-paramedic station.

"What was the value of land that we swapped? Where are the details? Right now, I have no idea," Orlikow said. "It seems the administration decided this was a great deal without council approval. How are they doing that? This isn't some private fiefdom where they can transfer land around the way they want to."

Thorgrimson, who was named property director this year, conceded he was not familiar with the 2010 Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service report before this week.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2012 B3

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