Brampton Quiets The Controversy Over Downtown Development
Brampton: In the past few months, Brampton’s downtown development plans have under increasing scrutiny with rumours of wrong-doing doing the rounds, especially since a complaint was filed with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) by a private citizen. The City of Brampton this week replied to the order by complying with the order to release commercially confidential information about the City Hall expansion and downtown revitalization. This project is known as the Southwest Quadrant Renewal Plan.
Under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, municipalities are required to hold certain information confidential. A private citizen requested information about the square footage of the City Hall expansion. Dominus Construction Group, who owns this information, requested that the City keep it confidential. The City Clerk could only disclose the information with permission from Dominus.
The IPC is not bound by the same legal obligations as the City. The IPC felt releasing the square footage information would not harm business for Dominus or the City.
“The square footage construction cost is an unfortunate distraction. In fact, it does not affect property taxes because it is Dominus who is paying for the entire cost of construction – not the City,” said Mayor Susan Fennell. “In August 2011, Council approved staff’s recommendation of Dominus as the City’s best partner for the Southwest Quadrant Renewal Plan.”
The city says that the Dominus deal bring the following benefits:
· construction costs paid by Dominus
· no new property taxes that will directly fund the Southwest Quadrant Renewal Plan
· no lease payments by the City until 2014
· fixed-lease payments by the City for 25 years, after which the City will own the building
The Dominus solution offers an extension of the City’s landmark civic facility in the downtown; integration of the southwest quadrant on both sides of George Street; a new north “grand lobby” entrance to City Hall, and an animated, pedestrian-friendly streetscape with mixed-use, private retail on the ground floor.
Council’s vision is to create a pedestrian-friendly space throughout all four quadrants of the downtown to facilitate community events and activities. It will complement the City’s growing transit system, increased downtown residential presence, and the heritage, entertainment and arts facilities in the heart of Brampton.
Explaining the imperatives that lead to the contract, a city press release states: “In 2009, Brampton City Council faced two pressing needs: a more centralized space for staff, and a commitment to revitalize Brampton’s downtown.
Council seized an opportunity to meet both needs. Council directed staff to:
· remove a “build-to-own” option as a way to deliver the project (thereby eliminating traditional procurement, financing and delivery methods)
· encourage a creative private sector solution
· maximize private sector investment
· ensure an appropriate balance between public and private sector risk
It was for these reasons that Council approved a Competitive Dialogue process. This process was the best way to allow both the City and bidders to have a series of discussions to find a creative solution that offered the best value for money.
Further, Council approved:
· provisions in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the protection of commercial confidentiality
· the formation of a staff committee to manage the RFP submissions
· reports to Council from the committee at key milestones (11 public Council meetings)
· consent for the committee to evaluate RFP submissions, enter into competitive dialogue with bidders, and make a final recommendation to Council of a development partner
The City of Brampton is the first Canadian jurisdiction to take advantage of Competitive Dialogue to support its Southwest Quadrant Renewal Plan with a public-private partnership model. Competitive Dialogue has been successfully used in international jurisdictions (Europe and the United Kingdom) for large infrastructure projects.”
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