BACKGROUND / DISCUSSION
The opening of the Benson Centre as a replacement for the Si Miller and Bob Turner arenas sets up a circumstance to deal with demolition of those facilities and redevelopment of the sites they occupy.
The Si Miller site is a highly visible site, in a central location, with good redevelopment potential. It has not been identified as having any future municipal park, recreation or other municipal use. As a result, staff have been developing plans to demolish the arena, and the former Glen building that also exists on the site, and then move to sale of the site for redevelopment. To support redevelopment and consider the options and influences to redevelopment, a background report titled "The Si Miller Arena Redevelopment Study" has been prepared and attached to this report. It considers all the influences and issues related to redevelopment in far greater detail than in this covering report.
Council should review that report in concert with this report and, in particular, the development diagrams. In addition, a separate attachment identifying the component parcels (A, B, C) is identified.
The Bob Turner site is quite different, and even with the arena removed, will continue to serve an important function in the provision of recreation facilities, field play, and park space. It is in a community area generally deficient in park space, serves an important field play function. The removal of the arena provides opportunity to redevelop the site and rectify various fields and site deficiencies. If it were redeveloped to other uses, the recreation uses would have to be relocated to another site at considerably greater expense than redeveloping that site.
Council is considering demolition of the Bob Turner Memorial Centre in 2012 as a result of reports to the Budget Steering Committee.
The balance of this report will deal with the Si Miller site.
The key outcome of the demolition will be to have the building(s) removed, and move quickly to see the site redeveloped. The building has no functional value for conversion and must be removed. To not remove it would place the building at risk for vandalism, further deterioration and even fire events. It would be inappropriate to leave the building on the site as it is highly visible, and leaving a derelict building would contribute to urban blight. The same would apply to the Glen building. It is not operational and has been mothballed for in excess of a year already.
In an effort to be pro-active, staff have already been preparing a demolition tender for the building. In many ways anticipating that a subsequent sale will be easier and attract a higher price if it is available as a cleared redevelopment site. Having the building removed also permits full environment investigation, including under the building footprint. It is recommended that we continue to finalize the normal demolition tender document and budget accordingly.
Some members of Council have raised the issue of selling the site "as is" and having a potential purchaser demolish the building. There are risks with that approach, and there is no doubt the purchase price will be lower, but demolition costs might be avoided.
After consideration, the sell "as is" approach is worth proceeding with for a short period to see what interest, if any, there would be. To make this option effective, the option for purchase "as is" should only be open for a limited period and have conditions to demolish the building by a set date, as well as keeping the sprinkler system active until demolition, and to place the site in an acceptable and secure condition after demolition. A condition should also be provided for the City to reassume the site if it is not cleared of the building and secured by mid summer. In that way, the City would still have part of the 2011 construction season to continue with traditional approach to us (the owner) to demolish.
Although this approach is worth attempting, it is noteworthy that some earlier attempts to sell sites "as is" have not usually resulted in good outcomes. This was attempted with the former "Pancake House" downtown and in the end the City as the owner had to demolish. Certain other sites like the former Bell building and Lafayette/Aardvark building have been sold on an "as is" basis for redevelopment, but have yet to proceed. There is certainly no guarantee of any response to such a sale or a positive outcome.
Environmental Issues and Reports
With any demolition and redevelopment, appropriate attention has to be given to environmental issues both in the demolition and redevelopment.
There is known to be a coal tar issue related to a former coal gasification plant located on part of the west parking lot. It was closed in 1929. The matter was investigated by MOE at the same time as investigation of a number of former coal gasification plants across Ontario, coal tar was found on the Si Miller site.
According to a late 1980's report, the material is stable and not causing "impacts on human or environmental health and safety at the present time". The area is under the part labelled Parcel "C".
The deposit would need to be addressed in a suitable fashion for redevelopment at least for that portion of the site.
In preparation for the demolition of the arena and Glen building, staff have initiated a Phase I ESA for all the site. This is intended to analyze past uses and any current environmental information that exists. For a site like this, a Phase II ESA (actual detailed on site testing) would follow a Phase 1. The Phase 1 reports are expected in early March.
If we continued to be the owner, we would conduct that Phase II work, most likely, after the demolition of buildings. In that way, areas under the building would also be tested.
If we are to sell "as is", the Phase I ESA information would be critical to provide as part of the sale package. The new owner would have to be required to conduct the Phase II ESA. Completion of that work is critical to be able to prepare a Record of Site Condition (RSC).
As a result of MOE regulations, that Record of Site Condition is central to development and zoning approvals in Ontario now.
The other environmental matters that are important are having "designated substance" reports for the buildings to be demolished. The City undertook those for the arenas so that information is available for a demolition contractor or if we proceed to sell "as is", to the purchaser, and to their demolition contractor. To complete the information a designated substance report was ordered for the Glen building.
The designated substance reports outline if and where products that require special handling are located. An example may be a construction material that contains asbestos, for example. There are some matters that will need to be addressed in the arenas. The tests for the Glen building have just been conducted and do not raise any concerns.
The issue of coal tar is likely to be the most significant environmental issue encountered, and as a result of that, and a parking matter raised later in this report, that parcel should not be part of any proposal to sell at this point.
One matter to consider in the sale of this property is that the City has a long standing lease arrangement (since 1984) for the provision of 76 parking spaces on the Si Miller site in support of the Federal Building. The area identified is behind the building, although some parking is know to occur at the front.
Given the coal tar issue, it is recommended that the lease be amended to place the parking on the west side lot (Parcel "C"), and the City hold and not attempt, to sell that portion for both the environmental and parking reasons.
The lot can only accommodate 50± spaces, as a result, the lease may have to be reduced to that number, or the additional spaces be provided at the Civic Complex.
As a precursor to demolition of the arenas, the ammonia contained in the compressors and the brine within the distribution system needs to be removed and safely disposed of, meeting all environmental regulations.
The cost to do so is approximately $55,000 per arena. In the circumstance that the City was conducting the demolition, we would let out that contract to a suitable contractor and have the work completed. There are several hundred pounds of ammonia in each system. It should be removed and recovered. The brine also has been tested and has concentrations of heavy metals. The brine cannot be drained to a sewer and would need to be disposed of as a waste in accordance with MOE regulations.
Removing the ammonia also reinforces the notion that we would not want the Si Miller to be resurrected as an ice surface.
We could require a condition in the offer of sale "as is" that a purchaser remove the ammonia, etc. In the end, however, it is better for the City to control this aspect and we establish a contract for removed at the Si Miller and BTMC.
In removing the BTMC demolition from the 2011 budget and postponing the demolition to 2012, funds were retained to complete this work at the BTMC in 2011.
As discussed earlier in this report, a companion report dealing with redevelopment is attached.
It outlines graphically, in some detail, the opportunities for redevelopment potential for the site. The best development potential exists for the main site fronting on Water Street (Parcel "A"). The site could support commercial, medium density residential, or a mixed use development.
The rear of the site (Parcel "B:) towards First Street could support a medium density residential development. The municipal services on First Street in the area are limited so that may limit total unit count, unless a purchaser improved those services to support higher intensity development.
Parcel "C", the west parking lot is best retained for future consideration for sale and redevelopment. Because of the coal tar issue and the parking lease, it is best left to serve that function in the interim. In the longer term, it has better opportunity for redevelopment if consolidated with the former Curling Club site and the warehouse north of that.
The Si Miller site is zoned "Open Space" which permits public recreation facilities and was appropriate given the longstanding use. The same zoning applies to the Curling Club, and interestingly to the warehouse north of the Curling Club.
The zoning needs to be amended to better support redevelopment of the site. The most appropriate zoning strategy would be to rezone the main portion of the site to Central Business District (CBD) to be able to support a wide range of uses. The rear portion should be rezoned to Res 30 (medium density residential). That is the same zoning on portions of the block to the east, and north of the site.
The rezoning of the site is a public process subject to public notice and PAC decision.
The rezoning would follow the environmental investigation.
If we sell "as is", it would be the developer's responsibility to carry this forward after the Phase II ESA.
If we proceeded to demolish, it would be a direct City initiative to rezone the site.
The timing to follow either of the above courses would follow demolition, and be introduced to PAC at the appropriate time.
Given all of the above, it is appropriate that staff prepare an Offer to Sell "as is", subject to time and demolition conditions to secure the City's interests, and that staff continue to develop a standard demolition tender and budget accordingly while the process of consideration of sale "as is" is being issued and any responses considered.
Sale of Part "C" should not be considered at this time.