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Council rebuffs Farhi Holdings’ land deal and confirms plan to build new city hall on current property

London City Hall and Reg Cooper Square at 300 Dufferin Ave. in June 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) London City Hall and Reg Cooper Square at 300 Dufferin Ave. in June 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)
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A last ditch effort to investigate constructing a new city hall building in the heart of downtown London was shot down by a majority of city council.

On Tuesday, Coun. Peter Cuddy put forward a motion that would pause the process to renovate and expand on the existing city hall property at 300 Dufferin Ave. so that city staff can evaluate an unsolicited proposal by Farhi Holdings Corporation (FHC). FHC proposed to sell three vacant buildings along the west side of Richmond Street (between Dundas and King Streets) to be renovated into the future home of London’s municipal government.

“This is an opportunity for us to take a moment to allow staff to re-evaluate all of the proposals that would be forthcoming,” Cuddy told colleagues.

Coun. Susan Stevenson suggested bringing hundreds of municipal office workers under one roof at Dundas and Richmond would help with the downtown’s economic recovery.

“Some people have the perception that our downtown is in a death spiral. What are we going to do about that? And could our decisions here possibly have a positive impact on that?” Stevenson asked.

However, City Manager Sandra Datars Bere warned that more review and analysis of the municipality’s future office space needs would take a long time – certainly much longer than the motion’s suggested September deadline.

“Are we willing to delay our Master Accommodation Plan and flip the bill on the taxpayer for that any further? I’m not!” said Coun. David Ferreira. “I think the staff report is really well laid out.”

Coun. Sam Trosow was also unmoved by Cuddy’s suggestion to consider the proposal, “I’ve heard nothing that has changed my mind on this, and believe me, I’m listening very carefully because I understand that this is one of the most important decisions that this council is going to make.”

Council defeated the referral— voting 9 to 5 in favour of the existing plan to expand and renovate on the current city hall property.

A competitive procurement process will be launched seeking a partnership to renovate the current city hall building and potentially expand into Reg Cooper Square.

Staff were also directed to consult with the municipality’s agencies, boards, and commissions to gauge their interest in relocating to the redeveloped site.

The current campus includes 139,000 sq. ft. of office space, an underground parking garage, Reg Cooper Square, and Centennial Hall on 4.11 acres of land.

The city also spends $3 million each year renting 123,000 sq. ft. of office space in 12 private buildings.

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