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New city hall on Richmond Street? Farhi Holdings pitches land deal

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As council considers a renovation and expansion to London’s existing city hall campus, the downtown’s largest property owner is offering to sell three of his buildings to create a brand new city hall.

An unsolicited proposal by Farhi Holdings Corporation (FHC) offers to sell Market Tower, the attached Annex Building and the former RBC Tower to the city so the west side of Richmond between Dundas Place and King Street can be renovated into London’s next city hall.

Market Tower would be upgraded and connected to the former RBC building by a newly constructed four-storey building erected between them, forming a continuous and seamless office space.

“The buildings are being offered by the owner to the city for sale at fair market value,” explaieds John Fleming of City Planning Solutions who is working with FHC on the proposal.

Fleming adds that the fair market value would be determined by an independent real estate appraisal approved by the city.

Through a unique financing offer, FHC would accept 60 per cent of the purchase price in the form of Development Charge (DC) credits to be paid only when the developer builds housing in other locations within London.

The remaining 40 per cent could be paid by the city over two years with zero interest.

Existing buildings offered for sale by Farhi Holdings. (Source: Supplied)FHC is also offering to demolish the Annex building at no cost to the city if necessary for the renovation.

Fleming says the opportunity would bring civic employees under one roof and create a connection between previous municipal investments in Dundas Place, Covent Garden Market, and Budweiser Gardens.

“City hall brings somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people to work on a daily basis. What better place to bring those people than to the centre of your downtown?” he said.

Currently vacant, the three buildings constitute about 337,000 sq. ft. of unused office and commercial space in the centre of Downtown London.

However, civic administration is already developing a plan to meet its long-term office space needs on the existing city hall campus at 300 Dufferin St. across from Victoria Park.

On Tuesday, council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) will consider hiring a consultant to design the upgrade and expansion — Fleming is asking council to defer that decision.

(Source: Supplied)“Hit the pause button,” he urged. “Just momentarily so [civic administration] has the opportunity to review the proposal that we’re bringing forward, understand it more fully, and assess whether it is the opportunity that we think it is.”

Fleming added that relocating city hall into the heart of Downtown London would free up the property at 300 Dufferin for conversion into a residential development.

“There’s room for new construction, but also room for repurposing the existing city hall building and we think that you could probably get somewhere in the order of 130 units in there,” Fleming estimated. 

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