Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
THUNDER BAY -- The city is on the hunt for parking spots in the downtown North core for a proposed event centre.
While city officials stress no deals have been closed, they did confirm that at least five offers have been sent to business and homeowners between Tupper, Camelot, Cumberland and Court Streets.
Meanwhile, tbnewswatch.com has learned that more letters have been sent out beyond that block, all looking for interested land owners o either sell their property or enter into lease agreements. The efforts to acquire the land could give the area's parking about 300 new spaces.
Although offers have been made, not all property owners have been enthusiastic toward the city's proposals.
Some area business owners say the offers have come in too low to even be considered.
On Deck owner Sandy Sellers said he was asked last year to sell his 66-space parking lot on the corner of Camelot and Cumberland last year for $90,000. Two decades ago the lot was purchased for $165,000.
"The offer of $90,000 seemed a little modest," Sellers said.
Earlier this year the city came back asking to partner with Sellers. The business owner wasn't interested in that proposal either.
"I don't want to lose control of the parking lot because I want to make sure On Deck customers have somewhere to park and somewhere they can park for free," he said.
Shoreline Hotel owner Kevin McDowell said he last spoke to the city about his building and parking lot across the street about six months ago.
No offer was made, but like Sellers, McDowell said everything is for sale at the right price.
Not far from the Shoreline, Tony and Lucy Andreacchi turned their retirement dream into a reality three years ago when they set up the Circle of Friends Quilt Shoppe on Tupper Street in a 102-year-old house.
The city sent them a letter last year asking if they were interested in selling the property.
"I love the idea that it's downtown near the waterfront," Lucy Andreacchi said. "I didn't want to be looking anywhere else for another shop."
The couple responded to the letter, confirming to the city that they had no interest in selling.
City of Thunder Bay realty services manager Joel DePeuter said some of the offers are contingent on an event centre being built while others would help with parking overall in the area.
It's part of an overall strategy but he couldn't get into specifics.
"The direction we get is from council in closed session," he said.
Buying surface parking could be a cheaper option than the original $6 million parking structure for the event centre.
Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds said sometimes the city buys property when it serves the best interest of the community. The councillor believes large events like Canada Day, Bluesfest and Festival of India have shown parking isn't in a crisis downtown, but admits more parking could help people with accessibility needs.
"There are people that have mobility issues and I don't want to create a facility, whatever it may be, that hinders their access," he said.
Foulds said when the city buys property it can be for anything from strategy to parking to simply widening roads. The area does have houses and rentals, something the city is in short supply of.
That does factor into decision making, but Foulds is confident the city can strike a balance.
"We're not in the business of going in and destroying neighbourhoods," he said. "You have to balance the interests."
If the city were to move forward with land purchases in north core, the money would likely come from the land development account, part of capital funding.
That's separate from the recent shortfalls the city has seen in its operation budget, Foulds said.
As for why the city would purchase property for a project that hasn't even been approved, Foulds said it's all about the city doing its due diligence.
"I really don't like making decisions that are reactionary, largely because you often make mistakes and often because they're more costly," he said.
Despite the city's claim though, Graham Post said he recently sold a home on Camelot Street to the city.