Could development delay drive investors out of London?
In a raucous night at city council, three major developments that could bring thousands of jobs to London were given the go-ahead, but one big one was put on hold.
Once the shouting match regarding personal issues was over, the planning issues surrounding the mega projects were finally dealt with.
The smallest of the four projects, a Sifton commercial property planned for Wharncliffe Road near Wonderland Road was the first to be okayed.
The $300-million Fincore development proposal for SoHo to build two highrise towers on the riverfront property between Wellington Street and the former South Street Hospital is also moving forward.
Also moving forward York Developments shopping hub on Wonderland Road north of Wharncliffe Road.
But the PenEquity proposal for a shopping area near Highway 401 has been put on hold until an environmental assessment is done.
London driving away investors?
There are concerns that delaying the $200-million PenEquity development is sending the wrong message about the city to investors.
The Toronto-based developer wants to turn the lot just off Wellington Road and Highway 201 into a shopping centre and says it would create 1,000 jobs.
But the issue with the proposal is that a woodlot deemed environmentally significant would have to be bulldozed.
Still, Councillor Joe Swan says delaying isn’t sending the right message, instead it says “We’re just difficult to work with and city council is unpredictable.”
Given that London has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and a not-so-great business reputation, some on city council say when investment opportunities come along it’s important to answer.
It’s a sentiment London Mayor Joe Fontana echoed Tuesday night when he referenced Sun Life Financial, which planned to build near the same area but pulled out in 2009.
“That signal that you told a major insurance company not to bother, resonated for two to three years, and I think, hurt our community.”
Councillor Harold Usher voted to wait for an environmental impact assessment and says “We want this development, make no mistake about it, but we don’t want it at any cost.”
PenEquity has offered the city six acres of land to build new ice pads on the same lot, but Usher says that’s not good enough.