City hall in the mall?

·2 min read

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is delving into future possibilities related to the Downtown Chatham Centre.

In a unanimous vote at the June 28 meeting, council approved a motion from Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor for administration to examine a variety of options related the relocation and redevelopment of municipal assets, which could potentially see services shift to the DCC.

Staff is to being asked to report back to council at the July 12 meeting.

As reported in The Chatham Voice, a group of local entrepreneurs, with strong ties to the community, have purchased the mall and are actively welcoming ideas as to how the building can best be utilized.

McGregor’s motion for a same night on the matter needed two-thirds approval to waive the traditional two-week waiting period.

The motion to waive passed 12 to 5, with several councillors at odds with rushing the report.

East Kent Coun. Steve Pinsonneault disagreed with the push.

“I don’t know what the rush is,” Pinsonneault told council. “This should be held over to the next meeting and then voted on.”

McGregor responded by saying that speeding up the report is part of an opportunity to build on the momentum of the redevelopment of downtown Chatham.

McGregor pointed out the municipality will have no financial obligation or commitments tied to the report.

The idea, he said, is to compile the data as quickly as possible “in the spirit of transparency and due diligence.

“As we know the investment group has already reached out with interest,” McGregor explained, adding the tighter timeline allows greater opportunity for input with the municipality.

It’s not the first time Chatham-Kent has considered utilizing the nearly vacant mall. The idea was floated under Mayor Randy Hope back in 2017.

At the time, administration prepared a report detailing several options, including fixing the current Civic Centre.

The building needs millions of dollars worth of work in lifecycle upgrades including a costly new HVAC system.

The mall fell into the possession of BDO Canada last fall due to bankruptcy, with its assets valued at $19.1-million.

Last December, it was reported the municipal civic centre is in need of serious renovations that would cost taxpayers in the neighbourhood of $18-million. The HVAC system alone will cost $9 million.

Ideas for the Downtown Chatham Centre are also being accepted on the letstalkchatham-kent.ca webpage.

Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice

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