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Historic Clock Tower sale 'a win' for Newmarket community: Mayor

Yorkregion.com
April 24, 2019
Teresa Latchford

The sale of Newmarket’s historic clock tower means its redevelopment could be hastened.

The Forrest Group has confirmed the red-brick circa 1914-15 landmark located at 180 Main St. S. in the town’s core, along with the storefronts from 184 to 194 Main St. S., will hit the real estate market in the future. But as far as Newmarket Mayor John Taylor is concerned, it’s a good news story.

“I’m very confident there will be interest and it will be developed because the downtown is on fire right now,” he said.

Main Street Clock Inc., a group of stakeholders including The Forrest Group, announced a redevelopment of the building that included condominiums which was changed to a 165-unit, seven-storey rental apartment complex with underground parking and five ground-floor retail commercial units at the corner of Main Street and Park Avenue.

The town felt the height was too much for the streetscape and also stated sewer and water servicing for a development so large would not be available until 2026 or later.

The proposal was met with opposition and, before heading to the Ontario Municipal Board, the developer dropped the proposal and presented a slightly amended design which included a land swap between the developer and town.

The town didn’t support this site plan either, stating concerns about density, height and building over a portion of Market Square.

“Everything is going up for sale. We have been at this for quite some time,” The Forrest Group spokesperson Colleen Forrest said. “There comes a point where a developer just can’t hold on to a project any longer.”

While Forrest didn’t want to speculate when exactly the buildings will be going up for sale, she did confirm the company has an application at the town for a heritage restoration permit for works it has committed to completing before the properties hit the market.

Instead of wiping their hands clean and selling the properties as is, the developer will take on minor interior renovations and a roof cleaning at the Clock Tower and will strip the interiors of the other buildings, bringing the mechanical and electrical up to code and make improvements to the exterior facades.

The town is holding $100,000 in a reserve for this type of work, which is available for use by the developer. It was a chunk of change that was set aside as part of a settlement between the developer and the town instead of heading to a full OMB hearing.

“Every business in Newmarket has the same opportunity to apply for a grant to improve their fa├žade and this $100,000 isn’t taking away from any of that,” Taylor said. “The developer has to put up cash for the improvements as well, more than the grant we are handing out.”

While some may protest the giving of $100,000 to a developer to complete work on buildings he or she intends to sell, Taylor said the improvements are also a win for the community.

“We avoided the legal costs of a full OMB battle for $100,000 and really any improvements will increase interest in the properties and improve the look of downtown,” he added. “It’s a small price to pay for what we will get out of it: an improved look, greater tax revenue due to improved look and increased interest from potential buyers.”

Bottom line, according to Taylor, is the project was at a standstill and these improvements followed by the sale of the property could move things forward and have something unique to contribute and to further revitalize the downtown core.