Friday, 11 November 2011

"Put Real Estate Interests First" Coalition, part two: ZAS, Hick and Lloyd get into the act

Prior to this past summer, Brendan Moher was known to the Peterborough public as a nominee for the federal Liberal candidacy for the 2008 election, a position which had also been sought by none other than Lakefield real estate agent and KPR Chair Diane Lloyd, but which was won by Trent University researcher Betsy McGregor.

While the rest of us were enjoying the cottage this past summer, ZAS Architects were raking in $27,000 of your tax dollars to estimate what it would cost to relocate the Board offices to the TASSS site, a proposal that never rang true from the moment it was made.

Hick, as reported by the Examiner, had shaken his head at the May 12 meeting at PCVS when the idea was brought up and said that the Board had no plans to move its offices. At the June 23rd Board meeting, Hick stated again that the Board was “not trying to move” its offices from Fisher Drive.  Indeed, the case for retaining TASSS had supposedly been on the basis of its facilities for educational purposes, not administrative, and the location of TASSS at the opposite end of the city from the current Fisher Drive office made no sense, given that Fisher Drive had been chosen for its quick accessibility to the highways in and out of town, accommodating staff who are obliged to administrate the entirety of the KPR jurisdiction.

ZAS is a high-profile, upscale, internationally-based architectural firm known for having designed the massive towers and waterfront complex in Dubai. Check their sumptuous website here.

They also designed the Hershey Centre sports complex in Mississauga, the Honda Canada headquarters in Markham, and the Bill Crothers School for Athletics in Unionville, Ontario, a bedroom community north of Markham awash with money.


 The Crothers facility was built at a cost of $36 million by none other than Hick’s former employer, the York Region School Board, and named after a former Board chair. The glossy, 87-page report regarding renovating TASSS for office use is posted on KPR’s website. You can read it here.

Feel free to skip down to the end of the document to see the final numbers. What you’ll see is an estimate of about $2 million in basic upgrades and asbestos removal and another $10 million in direct renovation costs. Together with other expenses, the total reaches beyond $15 million.

Let’s put these numbers in perspective. Since school building costs in general are estimated between $120 and $150 per square foot, and the Ministry of Education’s funding formulas call for 120 square feet per student, a brand new school for about 1000 students could be built for about $15 million. The value of the current Board office at 1994 Fisher Drive, by comparison, is about $5 million, as acknowledged in the KPR press release regarding the ZAS study on September 16, which was issued by Diane Lloyd herself.

Hick stated in the release that the estimates were “far from what we reasonably or conservatively thought we might expect.”  Hick and Lloyd gave the impression that they had no idea that engaging one of the highest-profile architectural firms in Toronto accustomed to cutting-edge projects with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars would result in a sky-high estimate.

Both Hick and Lloyd state in the press release that they wanted to “share this information with the community.”

But the information wouldn’t be “shared” until a Friday just 13 days prior to the Sept. 29 Board meeting at which they would be pressuring Trustees to make a decision regarding the proposed school closure. Delivered on a Friday, this meant that concerned citizens had exactly one business day to digest the news before the deadline for registering to address the Board at that meeting.

Lloyd was reported by the Examiner to have called the report “a game changer,” conveying surprise at the news, and repeating that “we wanted to get the message out as quickly as possible,” making it seem that KPR was presenting the information in a timely fashion, when in reality the study had dragged on for months and was finally being released with almost no time for anyone to respond.

Surely Diane Lloyd's careers in industrial accounting and real estate sales would have provided her with enough knowledge of building costs to make it obvious to her that:

a) using ZAS would produce a ridiculously high estimate,

b) the Fisher Drive location was far more suitable for Board offices than the TASSS site, and that

c) three new office buildings could be constructed for the price ZAS estimated for the TASSS renovation.

So why did Lloyd play along all summer, then express surprise in September?

And what about the $2 million worth of property along Armour Road, almost right beside Moher’s holdings, that she has listed on her real estate website for sale on behalf of the Peterborough Christian Fellowship?

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