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City of Chilliwack spending millions on real estate downtown

The back side of properties from 9282 Young Road to 46170 Yale Road. The City of Chilliwack wants to acquire this entire block as part of a policy of land assembly to present to a potential developer. The city spent $600,000 on the Irwin Block in 2012, $900,000 on five properties in 2013 and needs to purchase five more with an assessed value close to $2.2 million. - Paul J. Henderson
The back side of properties from 9282 Young Road to 46170 Yale Road. The City of Chilliwack wants to acquire this entire block as part of a policy of land assembly to present to a potential developer. The city spent $600,000 on the Irwin Block in 2012, $900,000 on five properties in 2013 and needs to purchase five more with an assessed value close to $2.2 million.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

City hall’s plan to purchase all the properties on the Yale Road block east of Five Corners meant the municipality spent close to $900,000 last year on real estate.

The final price tag to buy the block of properties needed for the city’s ambitious land assembly plan will likely be at least $4 million, by the Times’ calculations.

And that does not include the old Empress property or other pieces of land owned by the city on Princess Avenue.

The plan for the block follows on a recommendation from the city’s Downtown Task Force Report, namely: “That the City use appropriate methods to acquire and assemble land in a key block of properties within the Downtown Core and demolish buildings and remediate property as necessary to become ‘development ready.’”

The idea is to make an attractive package for developers who will, hopefully, bring forth city hall’s vision for a development with commercial, residential and park space at the prominent corner.

In 2013, to that end, city hall spent $895,500, 120 per cent of assessed value, for five of the properties on the block in question between 46110 and 46170 Yale Rd.

In addition to that money, the city purchased the Irwin Block for $600,000 on Dec. 27, 2012.

Add to that an estimated $2.6 million to purchase the remaining properties the city does not own, and the price tag hits at least $4 million.

The Times made the rough calculations after former mayor and former Chilliwack MLA John Les asked on Facebook: “What’s the bill so far for all the property purchases? Who’s picking up the tab? Will the money ever be recouped? What’s the plan? Budget?”

The highest price above assessed value went to one of two properties set for “deconstruction” along with the Irwin Block.

The former owner sold 46116 Yale Rd. on Oct. 15, 2013 to the city for $210,000, more than 50 per cent above the assessed value of $137,000.

The property owner next door at 46110 Yale Rd. told the Times a year ago “I am not going to sell it to them period.”

Krzysztof Grosicki eventually did sell to the municipality on Aug. 30, 2013 for $240,000, according to city hall. The assessed value of that property was $231,300.

Other properties purchased by the city in 2013 include: 46122 Yale Rd. on May 15 for $94,500; 46126 Yale Rd. on Oct. 31 for $84,000; and 46158 Yale Rd. on Sept. 25 for $232,000.

To complete the plan to acquire all the properties on the block, the city still has five to purchase, all from local businessman Alex Marks. The total assessed value of the five properties owned by Marks or his holding company is $2,189,900. If the city paid an average of 120 per cent above assessed value, that will be more than $2.6 million.

When asked to answer former mayor Les’s question about who is picking up the tab, a city hall spokesperson said the buildings were bought by the city and not the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO). As for whether the money will be recouped, that would be speculation.

City council voted on Feb. 18 to begin “deconstruction” of the Irwin Block and the two buildings next door. Interior garbage removal began this week with heavy demolition scheduled too begin March 13.

The bill to demolish the buildings is $141,400.

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