Essex County council approves acquisition of Civic Centre

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

County council has approved a plan which will finally see the Essex County Civic Centre utilized to it’s full potential.
Robert Maisonville, chief administrative officer (CAO) for the County of Essex explained, the Civic Centre, which was built in 1974 and has a total area of 104,000 square feet, has been operated through a joint occupancy agreement, established in 1973. The ownership and shared occupancy was distributed between the County of Essex, Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB), Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB), and Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

In his report, Maisonville stated: “In 1998, upon amalgamation of the school boards within Windsor-Essex, both the Catholic and Public Essex County School boards vacated their office spaces within the Essex County Civic Centre. The sale and/or sub-lease of their respective ownership interests has been an ongoing issue and concern for the school boards and the County. Selling an interest in an institutionally zoned facility with a joint operating agreement and significant shared common space has been a challenge for the school boards. Similarly the lack of physical presence by the school boards and change in priorities with respect to addressing capital deficiencies has been an ongoing challenge for the county.”

Various appraisals were then undertaken to arrive at a fair value of purchase and sale for the Civic Centre space. The County of Essex and the three minority owners came to an agreement on an appraisal value of $26.10 per square foot. The County of Essex is looking to acquire a total of 51,096 square feet between the other three parties, which would cost them $1,335,000.

“The recommendation is to utilize the funds from the rate stabilization reserve to cover the acquisition of the facility,” explained Maisonville.

As part of the purchase agreements, Maisonville outlines in his recommendation it was important for the county to then secure an appropriate rental rate, length of term and commitments “that would provide a stable income for office space and a rate of return covering both operational costs and repayment of debt incurred by the county with respect to the major renovation.”

It has been agreed by all parties the current lease rate will be $15.60 per square foot, through December 31, 2019, with a stable increase of 2.5 per cent thereafter for five years, then a two per cent increase for the next three years for 10 year lease contracts.

“The goal once we acquire this space is completely renovate the upper floor of the public school board space, which will be taken over by our transportation group,” explained Maisonville. “The main floor space of the Catholic school board which needs to be occupied by Essex Power, will be renovated and occupied by EMS and then once those transitions take place, the places they will be vacating will be renovated and occupied by our IT department and HR.”

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya asked Maisonville if there will be any vacancy, to which he explained, based on the tenancy they have at this moment, it will be completely occupied. They do however anticipate a few changes and vacancy in the future.

“We do anticipate down the road that perhaps the school board will vacate the media centre, so there is an opportunity there, as well as the (Windsor-Essex County) Health Unit may or may not be here for a long period of time,” explained Maisonville. “In terms of square footage, the health unit occupies about 5,500 square feet, the media centre is about 4,000 square feet so at some point in time those spaces could come available.”

“It’s just nice to see it finally being filled,” responded Antaya.

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