Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Land is developer's dream: Gerbasi

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WHEN city officials sell the merits of a three-for-one land swap, they're quick to note council already approved the sale of old fire halls in River Heights and St. James.

All but forgotten is the final of piece of property in the proposed deal: a 1.16-acre slice of a 4.2-acre city property in Fort Rouge on Mulvey Avenue East, near both the Red River and the new Osborne bus-rapid-transit station.

The city bought the land in 1995 and planned to move Osborne Village's No. 4 fire-paramedic station to the site. But riverbank-stabilization issues rendered that plan untenable, said Winnipeg Fire-Paramedic Chief Reid Douglas.

The property is assessed at $1.054 million. Even a piece of it could fetch more, said Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, theorizing the cost of riverbank stabilization could be absorbed by a large multi-family housing project.

"It has to be very valuable for lots of potential developers," she said, complaining the land was not made available to other potential buyers. "This land swap was a surprise to me."

Under normal circumstances, area councillors are notified when the city is contemplating the idea of declaring a given property surplus. Gerbasi said that did not happen.

Douglas said the Mulvey land was placed on the land-swap table because the old Grosvenor Avenue and Berry Street fire halls did not match the appraised value of the other side of the proposed exchange -- Shindico Realty's Taylor Avenue land.

Douglas said the city did not take the proximity of the Southwest Transitway into account when it appraised the Mulvey property, noting plans for the Osborne BRT station were not yet public.

The first design for a Southwest Transitway that included an Osborne station were made public in 2009, the same year the city issued a request for proposals to build new fire-paramedic stations. As well, prospective buyers who've inquired about Mulvey Avenue East property say the city repeatedly told them it's not for sale.

Wayne Kitchur, owner of Riverbend Movers on Mulvey Avenue East, said he called the city 10 times about the property since 2006. "I've asked a number of times over the years and they told me it's a park, it's not for sale."

Another potential buyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, also inquired about the Mulvey land but was told it is needed by the police river patrol.

 

-- Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 A3

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