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Former library sold to Farhi for $2.4 M


London developer Shmuel Farhi has bought the old central library for $2.4 million.

But the city will net only $1 million on the 65-year-old Queens Avenue building because the cost of removing asbestos insulation, estimated at $1.4 million, will be deducted.

"I'm very excited about it because my heart and soul is in the downtown," Farhi said before council ratified the deal at a special meeting last night.

Farhi's bid includes a promise to preserve the building's facade and foyer atrium, which city council designated as historically significant.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone," Controller Gord Hume said. "And it's going to bring even more people to the downtown and take unproductive, empty buildings and make them productive again."

Controller Bud Polhill called the sale a "great deal for Farhi and the city.

"It gets the building into private hands to be developed, it gets tax dollars coming into the city and it gets the cost of carrying the building off the city's shoulders," Polhill said.

The city will unload a property that, instead of costing $200,000 a year in upkeep, will produce an estimated $100,000 in tax revenue.

For months, the success of Farhi's bid has been in doubt after another group of investors, led by developer Bob Siskind, proposed an office development.

On March 11, city council met in special session to decide between the two bids. But with two members unable to attend the meeting, the vote ended in a tie, sending the issue back to board of control.

But Siskind's group withdrew its offer following the sudden death of partner Peter Lockyer on March 28.

Farhi has suggested several development possibilities for the old library building. They include a highrise residential tower, or developing the existing building into high-priced condominiums. Another plan would also see exclusive condominiums built adjacent to the former library.

Farhi declined to discuss his plans or the timing until council's approval. He couldn't be reached for comment last night.

Council also supported a motion by Coun. Judy Bryant to find a way -- using all or some of the proceeds from the sale -- to recognize the contribution of Elsie Perrin Williams.

Williams, heiress to the Perrin Biscuit Company (later bought out by McCormick), left a $1-million trust fund to the city when she died in 1934.

The money and her 27 1/2 -hectare estate were to be used for a park and museum. But city officials went to court to get the legacy changed and instead used the money to build the library and a new wing at Victoria Hospital.

With five major residential towers with about 1,200 units either open or under construction downtown, observers say it's unlikely Farhi will move fast on a residential development, especially a 175-unit highrise.

"It's very unlikely," said Vic Cote, the city's finance boss.

"I think the market needs a breather to absorb those new units before we'll see another residential highrise."

What is certain is that Farhi will use the library's 100-plus parking spaces to lease or redevelop nearby buildings into office or residential space.

Farhi said he has been unable to lease office space or convert space to residential use because of the lack of parking.

If Farhi can find tenants for other buildings, the city gets additional tax income because vacant buildings are taxed at a significantly reduced rate.

It will take months to remove the asbestos.

Asbestos has been linked to a variety of health problems, especially if it is disturbed or cut.

The fibres can cause scarring of the lungs and make it hard to breathe. It is also linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest lining.





Copyright © The London Free Press
 

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sounds like a tall building, i believe that the cityplace towers were 200 units each, but this tower will have a much smaller footprint because the central library building is smaller than the base of cityplace.
i hope that he puts some thought into the design like mabey some art deco influence to compliment the older building. at least we know that it wont be a tricar slab though
 

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Great news for London and I would rather see a hi-rise condo than an office tower or low-rise expensive condos.
If they need more office space the vacant lot Richmond between Queen and Dundas is an ideal location.
 

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they should fill in all of the parking lots between queens and dufferin, richmond and ridout. but the chances of that happening anytime soon are slim. it feels like a huge whole in the city when you walk past there.
is there any work happening at the site of the new lerners office building or the adjacent condo building?, if not is the sign still up even?
 

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More residential development on the way for downtown! Yay! Probably a lovely building too. Now if they could only get a performing arts centre or do something to keep more 25 to 44 year olds in the city. BTW, I think east of downtown somewhere around Dundas and York, is, I believe, another condo development going on. I saw it yesterday being built with a huge crane in the air.
 

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'It will be grand'

Shmuel Farhi is studying the viability of housing versus office development at the library site.
JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2005-05-19 03:06:01

Shmuel Farhi is still pondering what to do with the old central library.

Farhi gives but one guarantee: "It will be grand."

The London developer, who bought the 65-year-old Queens Avenue building from the city for $2.4 million Tuesday, is considering exclusive offices -- the same concept pushed by a competing bid before it was withdrawn.

"For me, class means a lot and every development is a signature and you have only one opportunity to do the very best," Farhi said yesterday in an interview outside the Art Deco structure.

And no matter what Farhi does with the building, he has promised to preserve the building's facade and foyer atrium, which city council designated as historically significant.

"You're not going to see a cheap building coming here," Farhi said. "You're going to see a grand building."

Other options Farhi is considering include:

- Redeveloping the library building into high-priced condominiums.

- A 25-storey residential tower that carries the Art Deco style to its peak, but with a distinctly modern look, including blue windows similar to One London Place.

- Three or four luxury condominiums on the east portion of the lot facing Queens.

- A single-level underground parking garage.

Farhi takes possession next month.

Farhi is non-committal about his plans, partly because of the uncertainty about removing the asbestos from the former library building and the condition of its interior and mechanical systems.

He also must factor into his plans a glut of new apartment and condominium towers in the core.

"The housing market downtown is so saturated right now, I'm going to have to do a study," Farhi said.

In his deal with the city, the estimated $1.4 million cost of removing the asbestos is deducted from the purchase price. It will take four to six months to remove the asbestos.

"But I am going to move very, very fast, get the asbestos out and anything I do there is going to be first class," Farhi said.

"But it gives us, immediately, parking spaces to support my other heritage properties downtown and that just strengthens Farhi Holdings' commitment to the downtown."

Parking is Farhi's biggest need in the core, where he owns more than 50 buildings. He said he'll expand parking at the site so he can lease or redevelop two near-empty office buildings he owns on Queens Avenue and Dundas Street.

Farhi said he'll almost certainly build a few stand-alone luxury condominiums facing Queens Avenue.

"I think it's a great site to do some residential because this is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city with great character."

It was a group of investors -- led by developer Bob Siskind, along with architect Andy Spriet and lawyer Peter Lockyer -- who proposed transforming the library into exclusive offices. That put Farhi's bid in doubt and split council when it came to a vote March 11. The group withdrew the bid following the March 28 death of Lockyer.

Farhi admits he's intrigued by the office proposal and hopes to discuss the plan with Spriet.

"If the (housing) market won't allow a 175-unit tower, what's the next best use?"

Copyright © The London Free Press
 

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^ I would personally love to see the 25-storey condominium tower as an option to be chosen, so it could add to London's skyline.
 

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Jaybird said:
More residential development on the way for downtown! Yay! Probably a lovely building too. Now if they could only get a performing arts centre or do something to keep more 25 to 44 year olds in the city. BTW, I think east of downtown somewhere around Dundas and York, is, I believe, another condo development going on. I saw it yesterday being built with a huge crane in the air.
the building youre talking about i believe it is going to be affordable housing. it is on Burwell st off dundas near CCH and Beal high schools i have no idea about it except i think that its going to be 90 units or so.
 

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A 25-storey residential tower that carries the Art Deco style to its peak, but with a distinctly modern look, including blue windows similar to One London Place.


sweet
 
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