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Little interest in land deal with Farhi Holdings to move city hall to Richmond Street

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The public may never know exactly why council distanced itself from an unsolicited proposal to relocate city hall to the heart of Downtown London.

On Tuesday, a council committee went behind closed doors to discuss real estate matters related to its Master Accommodation Plan to increase its office space and bring city hall workers under one roof.

When politicians emerged, they carefully avoided making direct references to an offer by Farhi Holdings Corporation (FHC) to sell Market Tower, the adjoining annex building, and former RBC Tower on Richmond Street so they can be renovated into London’s next city hall.

A motion by Coun. Peter Cuddy and Coun. Susan Stevenson sought a one month deferral to engage with the public before a competitive procurement process is launched to find a partner in the redevelopment of 300 Dufferin St., the existing city hall campus.

The delay would have given more time for FHC’s unsolicited proposal to be analyzed and considered by civic administration and council.

 Cuddy’s motion was defeated 5 to 10.

Counc. Hadleigh McAlister did not want to reopen the door to other locations, “Sure we could go down that road, but I think there’s a lot of unknowns in terms of what we’d be paying, renovation costs, maybe even building something from scratch.”

Conceptual drawing of proposed city hall on Richmond Street (Source: Supplied) Instead, the committee supported initiating a competitive procurement process 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 interest in relocating to the redeveloped site.

The current campus includes 139,000 sq. feet 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.

Mayor Josh Morgan said a private development partner could also add residential units to the new city hall campus.

“There’s nothing that doesn’t allow us to contemplate having a partner out there who says we’re going to give you some civic space [and] we’re going to build 30 floors of residential on top of it,” Morgan explained. [300 Dufferin] is a very permissive area in the city for high density that allows us to unlock resources and keep cost down.” 

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