The decision by Bob and Colleen Forrest to sell the Clock Tower and the adjacent historic commercial properties should come as no surprise. Bob put the properties on the market years ago but, for whatever reason, he didn’t sell. Or couldn’t get any buyers.
Now we must assume he is serious. His heritage properties are in a disgraceful condition having been boarded up and neglected for years. Rotting from the inside out is demolition by neglect.
Colleen says the sums don’t add up and they cannot do anything with the properties other than get rid of them. But who is to say the Forrests will find a buyer at the price (whatever it may be) that they are prepared to accept?
The Town’s Committee of the Whole will be considering its next moves on the Clock Tower on 29 April 2019. It is an important meeting and a lot will turn on the decisions made. So, what should happen next? And what questions need to be answered?
1. Invite Bob and Colleen Forrest to the meeting to give a presentation and take questions. They can explain why they have taken the decision to sell and bring us up to speed on Colleen’s promise of 4 May 2018 that they would be bringing forward an “exciting new concept for this beautiful heritage space, a concept that will bring economic stimulus to downtown Newmarket”. What progress, if any, did they make on developing their concept?
2. If the Forrests sell what responsibilities and obligations arising from the Town’s agreement with MSCI on 2 May 2018 will fall to the new owner? The lawyers will want to weigh in on this one. The land exchanges have been completed but what happens if the Forrests can’t sell - or won’t accept a lower offer - and they are still the owners on 15 December 2019 when, under the terms of the agreement, work is scheduled to begin on the old buildings with shovels in the ground.
3. Will we now have a report on the interiors of the buildings which have reportedly been allowed to decay into a truly horrible state? What heritage features from the interiors are worth saving? The fact that the buildings have been allowed to deteriorate so dramatically is not an excuse for demolition as some have mooted. Look at Bogart House which is to be brought back from the dead after an alleged heritage expert recommended it be demolished.
4. What are the Forrests planning to do with the interiors? They appear to be gutting the interiors. Is there an inventory of heritage features that should be left in-situ? Do they have all the necessary permissions from the Town?
5. When do they intend to submit grant applications to the Newmarket Downtown Development Committee? Do they intend to ask for grant money for the interiors as well as for the facades of the heritage commercial buildings?
6. What works do the Forrests intend to carry out to make the properties ready for sale?
7. On 4 May 2018, Colleen talked about the problems with getting a servicing allocation to hook up the buildings to the sewage and wastewater system. She told the press: “...the planned Clock Tower condominium building would be unlikely to receive servicing allocation until 2026-27”. Understood. But are there any servicing constraints on any new development on Forrest’s land which is now, once again, part and parcel of the Downtown Heritage Conservation District?
We shall find out soon enough.