By Ryan McGreal
Published January 15, 2008
The Hamilton Spectator carried a brief teaser in last Saturday's edition on a meeting between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and representatives from LIUNA to revive the collapsed negotiations over the Lister Block.
City Counci panicked last week and backed out of its deal with LIUNA after hearing that the restoration of the Lister Block would cost $37 per square foot, much higher than the original estimate.
After several days of confusion over where the $37 price had come from (it actually came from Hi Rise, LIUNA's partner), why Council didn't wait to see an independent review of the proposal, and whether the city would still be entitled to the $7 million in provincial development money (it would not), Eisenberger called the emergency meeting with LIUNA to try and salvage the deal.
I contacted the Mayor to find out more about the meeting and what comes next. He responded that the intention of the meeting was not to produce specific details.
Rather, the purpose was to reconfirm that all the parties are committed to producing a workable agreement and to identify timelines and action items required to meet the provincial deadline of March 10 to finalize the deal and qualify for the $7 million.
The developers committed to flushing out and pricing the various options and presenting them in a proposal form to the city. Staff will then evaluate the options and present them to Council.
If Council agrees to a plan, the city will go ahead and ask the province to conduct a peer review to ensure building standards are met and pricing is reasonable.
The meeting also produced a general agreement that $37 per square foot, a number provided last week by Hi Rise, is not realistic, and "was not a number LIUNA believes is rational either."
In an attempt to forestall future misunderstanding and miscommunication, the meeting confirmed that Eisenberger will speak publicly on behalf of the city and Joe Mancinelli will speak on behalf of the developers.
According to Eisenberger, Hi Rise was aware of the meeting but did not attend.
I asked the Mayor for his personal preference for a final plan. He demurred that he just wants "to have something happen that's positive" but that "it has to be affordable." He is open to rehabilitation and added that LIUNA seems committed to this route.
One possible option would involve LIUNA and Hi Rise rehabilitating the Lister and selling it outright to the city instead of renting it. This would be contingent on its affordability and agreement from Council.
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