Land deals Western $10 million windfall
By Brendan Howe
By 2001, Western will receive over $10 million from several real estate deals information which the university has not revealed to too many people.
A large portion of land on the northeast corner of Richmond Street and Fanshawe Park Road was formerly owned by the university, but after entering into a joint venture agreement with Sifton Properties Limited, the land was divided up and sold. A Loblaws Supermarkets Limited store, the Richmond North Centre and residential and commercial developments have since been built.
Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer said if Sifton receives zoning approval for property which they have conditionally agreed to buy, the university will receive just over $10 million by April of 2001. He added so far Western has received $4.7 million from selling land in that area which has been put into a segregated capital fund, eventually to be used to offset some of Western's $100 million deferred maintenance problem.
Property in the Fanshawe Park Road and Richmond Street area was sold over the last year and a half with the most recent deal with Sifton taking place on Feb. 2.
Joni Baechler, president of the Stonybrook Heights/Uplands Residents Association, said she was not aware of how much money the university is receiving for the land. "We were not told of any kind of land transactions we were always told it was confidential."
Mercer said everyone knew about the development occuring but the amount of money coming into the university was not publicized because the land was sold in steps and was part of a larger joint-development project to develop all of the land. He added the university does not really have any kind of practice for these types of dealings.
"Certainly the public was made aware of the sale of the commercial blocks," he said.
Jim Hebb, land manager at Sifton, said Sifton has held public consultation meetings about what they plan to do with the property they own. "We've never tried to hide anything on the way through."
Records at the land registry at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations indicate the land on which the new Loblaws was just built was purchased in July 1997 by Loblaws Properties Limited for just under $4 million, while what is now the Richmond North Centre was purchased at the same time for a little more than $4 million. Middleton Village Incorporated and Northgate Village Incorporated both purchased properties farther to the north for close to $1.3 million each.
Mercer insisted the university does not receive what is stated as the selling prices for the properties because there are various costs associated with preparing the land for sale. If all deals go through, the total sale of all the properties would equal over $16 million, while the university would receive just over $10 million, including interest on several mortgages which have been granted to development companies.
"This is news to me," said Ian Armour, president of the University Students' Council. He added he believes this information should be public knowledge.
"There should be transparency here. Other schools have transparency which Western doesn't provide," he said.