York head­quar­ters priced at $212M

Ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ing’s cost di­vides res­i­dents, with some say­ing num­bers don’t add up

Toronto Star - - GREATER TORONTO - NOOR JAVED STAFF RE­PORTER

Af­ter years of plan­ning, York Re­gion is mov­ing ahead with plans for a new $212-mil­lion head­quar­ters — a price tag some res­i­dents are call­ing “enor­mous.”

The eight-storey, 422,000-square­foot build­ing will con­nect with the cur­rent re­gional govern­ment head­quar­ters in New­mar­ket. When it opens in 2020, it will of­fer a range of ser­vices, in­clud­ing On­tario Works, hous­ing ser­vices and pro­vin­cial courts, ac­cord­ing to Dino Basso, the com­mis­sioner of cor­po­rate ser­vices.

“The main build­ing, which we call the an­nex, is a pub­lic fac­ing com­mu­nity health and ser­vices build­ing,” Basso said. “It is con­sol­i­dat­ing a num­ber of pro­grams that are cur­rently be­ing de­liv­ered in other lo­ca­tions in the area.”

Last month, coun­cil awarded a $172-mil­lion con­struc­tion con­tract to El­lisDon Corp., one of the last steps in a plan­ning process that be­gan a decade ago.

Ac­cord­ing to a busi­ness case pre­sented to coun­cil in 2013, staff said the build­ing was needed for the ex­pan­sion of the pro­vin­cial courts, a need to “cen­tral­ize” ser­vices and give the ad­min­is­tra­tion room to grow. The cur­rent build­ing, con­structed in 1994, houses more than 1,000 staff, more than it was meant for. Staff also found that by get­ting out of cur­rent leases of build­ings where the ser­vices are be­ing of­fered, the re­gion could save be­tween $26 mil­lion and $60 mil­lion over a 30-year pe­riod.

But the num­bers don’t add up, say some York re­gion res­i­dents.

“The costs of this are enor­mous,” said Mad­die di Muc­cio, a for­mer New­mar­ket coun­cil­lor and the pres­i­dent of the York Re­gion Tax­pay­ers Coali­tion. “Spend­ing $212 mil­lion in hopes of sav­ing $20 mil­lion in rents over 20 years doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Durham Re­gion opened up a new ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­tre in 2005 and spent about half as much, $67.7-mil­lion, for a 334,000-square-foot build­ing. They spent an ad­di­tional $14.5-mil­lion to build a park­ing struc­ture nearby.

Other res­i­dents say it’s un­clear how the build­ing will serve the needs of the ma­jor­ity of res­i­dents who live in the south­ern part of York Re­gion.

“I think it is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to have the re­gional of­fices so far away from the ma­jor­ity of the res­i­dents of the re­gion,” Markham res­i­dent Mar­i­lyn Gins­burg said, adding that it would take a res­i­dent in south­ern York Re­gion about 30 min­utes to drive to the an­nex.

In a staff re­port last year, the re­gion ac­knowl­edged this is­sue and said it was leas­ing a build­ing in Rich­mond Hill to pro­vide some of the same ser­vices the new build­ing will of­fer. The re­gion also said it would look for op­tions for ad­di­tional ser­vice cen­tres in Markham.

“We need fa­cil­i­ties in all parts of York Re­gion to meet ser­vice de­liv­ery needs of our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion,” the re­port said.

Basso said that “no­body can deny that these are large num­bers,” but “we are a grow­ing com­mu­nity . . . that needs roads, sew­ers and com­mu­nity health ser­vices . . . and that’s what we be­lieve we are do­ing in this case.”

Basso said the build­ing is an “in­vest­ment in the fu­ture.”

Con­struc­tion is sched­uled to last about three years. It is ex­pected to start in early 2017.

RE­GIONAL MU­NIC­I­PAL­ITY OF YORK

Con­struc­tion on York Re­gion’s new build­ing is sched­uled to start next year and take about three years.

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