Volume 92, Issue 38

Wednesday, November 11, 1998

thank you


University cashes in on north London developing

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

Over $5 million could find its way into Western's treasury if a couple of real estate deals go according to plan.

The university has entered into deals with Sifton Properties Limited, a London developer. The company has bought two parcels of land from Western and has agreed to buy another large portion, pending zoning approval.

According to records at the land registry at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Sifton purchased two pieces of land from the university. A block of land north of North Centre Road and bordered on the west by Richmond Street, was purchased Feb. 2 for just over $1.9 million, while a piece of property to the east of North Centre Road and bordered on the south by Fanshawe Park Road was sold by Western for close to $930,000.

Jim Hebb, land manager at Sifton, said Sifton and the university also entered into a purchase agreement on the same date whereby the developer will buy a third piece of property, about 32 acres, for $2.5 million if London City Council approves zoning changes to the property.

The land was originally part of the Gibbon's Lodge area, which was acquired by Western as a result of both purchases and endowments and once extended from the north end of the current property down to Fanshawe Park Road, said Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration. "Basically, it was a way of raising revenue."

He added the money which has and will be received from the sales, is put into a capital fund to be used for deferred maintenance around campus.

The majority of the money for the properties has not yet been received and, as part of the deals, will be paid back in cash at certain points during the development of the property. Land registry records indicate the university received $710,876 from Sifton when the two properties were bought.

Orlando Zamprogna, special projects coordinator for physical plant and capital planning services, said Sifton has given the university a deposit on the third property, which the developer has conditionally agreed to buy, but would not disclose how much was given.

"The idea is not for us to hold mortgages," Mercer said. "The idea is for us to hold mortgages until the developments are fully executed."

Hebb said Sifton plans to turn all three pieces of property into a retirement community with a combination of high-rise buildings, up to 15 storeys high, medium density buildings, between five and nine storeys and subdivision housing.

Hebb stressed this is only a plan for the land and is not set in stone. It also requires city council approval before building can begin. "We feel that the application we have in with the city right now is exactly what should be done with this area."

Sifton's plan, however, is not without opposition from the community. Joni Baechler, president of the Stonybrook Heights/Uplands Residents Association, said she was disappointed with Sifton's plan. She said the towers will cause an invasion of privacy, loss of sight lines and possibly an effect on the wetlands on the Gibbon's Lodge property.

She added it is understandable the university needs to generate revenue but did not agree with the process through which it was done. "We would also think that whenever the university negotiates the development or the filling of a property or holding, there needs to be some consultation with the community."

Sifton has developed several other areas in the north end of the city and Hebb said they are prepared for some community opposition. "If we get objections it won't surprise us," he said.

Zamprogna noted the university has also raised its objections with Sifton about the intended use of the land and said the developer's current intentions are not the same as when the land was originally bought. He said Western will be writing a letter to city hall expressing its concerns.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998