Bembridge to develop former police station

Darrell Cole
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Building vacated by August fire

A proposal from Jeff Bembridge, the owner of Duncan’s Pub and Bambino’s Pizzeria, has been accepted by the town to redevelop the former home of the Amherst Police Department. 

AMHERST – The former home of the Amherst Police Department is getting a new lease on life.

Amherst is selling the property vacated the night of the downtown fire in August to JE Bembridge Enterprises for $2. The police department left the building at the height of the Windsor Block fire and moved temporarily to the fire department. It’s now located in the top floor of the Four Fathers Memorial Library.

“I’m looking forward to doing something with the building as soon as we can,” Jeff Bembridge, who owns neighbouring Duncan’s Pub said Wednesday. “Once the agreement is signed you should see activity starting almost immediately.”

Bembridge plans to put a new restaurant in the building. Breakfast at Brittany’s, named for his step-daughter, will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature both affordable breakfast specials as well as menu items like Belgian waffles and eggs benedict.

“There is no restaurant that sells breakfast downtown,” Bembridge said.

Bembridge said he will also have room to expand Duncan’s with added lounge seating and a private room. There will also be a large basement area for rent.

He also recently purchased the former Beaver Lumber building just up the street and is cleaning the property up, although he has not determined its future use.

During a special council meeting on Wednesday, Amherst CAO Greg Herrett said the town was prepared to demolish the former police station. After being approached by interested parties, the town directed staff to call for proposals.

Herrett said the town received four proposals that were considered based on price, value of the proposal, strength, qualifications and experience and the timeframe for development to occur.

The town received a $50,000 offer from Partners Global Corporate Real Estate, but Herrett said the company’s proposal called for development over several years, while Bembridge’s timeframe is 90 to 120 days.

NBT Properties Ltd. and Jomar Holdings were the other companies to submit propsals.

“In evaluating the value of the proporal to the town, the RFP document specifically directed us to the potential of increasing assessment and tax revenue,” Herrett said. “The Bembridge proposal was scored higher in this category due to its protential to provide long-term, sustainable commercial tax revenue to the town.”

Mayor Robert Small welcomed the town’s decision, saying it’s good to see the property be redeveloped.

“It’s going to save us the trouble of demolishing it and the costs associated with demolishing it,” Small said. “We’ve often heard downtown businesses say we have to do something to bring business to the downtown. This is a step in the right direction.”

Coun. Robert Angel said Bembridge has a proven track record and the downtown area will benefit from his plans.

“It’s definitely going to generate more traffic in the downtown,” Angel said.

Organizations: Amherst Police Department, Beaver Lumber, NBT Properties Jomar Holdings

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Recent comments

  • Everybody Loves Monopoly
    January 06, 2013 - 19:01

    Before you read this post, take the following information in to consideration to understand that I write this without bias but with that being said I will not be holding back my opinion either. The Town of Amherst is looking to expand and develop. We are looking to grow by adding new job opportunities, affordable housing , and businesses. These are the words we are frequently told by the individuals who are in empowered in this town. We empowered by voting for them so we must to believe in them. These three aspects that the town is claiming to be focusing on has great overlap. If we do not have housing how are we going to grow our numbers? Will Jeff Bembridge be "renting" out the basement for housing to a new potential resident of our town? I think not. But instead he will be basking in his free land, and building given to him so he could own nothing other than a greater monopoly in the Town of Amherst. Thinking of this game that quite frequently high school students play, try to answer this question. Would you cater to one of the richest players in the game or would you help out the rest of the players who are behind him in status and give them the chance to be an equal in the game so it will last longer? What the town has done is contributed to the end of our towns prosperity. Look at all the businesses and stores that are leaving. Scotsburns,Jungle Jims,several stores in the Amherst Center Mall are a few that are easily named that have decided to close only in the past 2 months. Think of it as jobs leaving. Or if you were playing Monopoly you wouldn't gain 200 dollars every time you pass go. Wouldn't you rather play on a different game board. This is why people are moving away. This burden on our local economy of our town wouldn't have been build a upon if the town decided to help out one of the lest fortunate players and supply them with a businesses so they will continue to play and not give up. But no, once again the man with a Monopoly was able to put on some hotels from taking enough money from each player of the game. Well the reality is each player is each and every citizen of the Town of Amherst. I believe each citizen in the town of Amherst should stop excepting these poor decisions that are being made on our behalf. If you were playing monopoly would you allow one player to tell you that you must pick up a chance card each turn from a deck full of cards forcing you to be paying each player money. Of course not. We need to voice our opinions to get our 200 dollars for passing go back or just move on and find another game board. Let's not allow the individuals with the monopolies ruin our game let's throw away the greed holding this town back and at the same time the instructions to the game.

  • Taxpayer
    November 06, 2012 - 22:44

    I have NO problem with Jeff opening a restaurant that will sell breakfast that sells breakfast till 1pm daily...just have a problem with the price of a toonie. The Duncan's kitchen can prepare the food so it will be very little Xtra cost. But Do u really think a business open from 7am till lunch will be a "big draw" for ppl to come downtown? But if I'm right this FREE building will be used more to develope duncans...a nice big expansion courtesy of the town taxpayers...I bet the fine folks of other restaurants in town who pay taxes and employee ppl wish the town would pay $50000 off of their bank loans??? Am I wrong?? But the one thing I can now agree on is Jeff is for sure a very smart businessman... Smart enough to get basically a $50000 free basket of $$ from the taxpayers... Again all Im saying is why couldn't he pay fair market value like the rest of businesses do??

    • Taxpayer also
      November 07, 2012 - 19:46

      @ Taxpayer you have to be joking with your comments again you need to get the facts straight ... You talk about fair market value who said that building is worth 50,000 just because someone offered that doesn't mean it is worth that... You sound like a person with an axe to grind which is unfortunate ... The building was to be torn down costing the taxpayers money and the town received a large amount of money for the building and one more thing before you make comments about Jeff "using Duncan's kitchen so it would be very low cost" may I suggest you go ask Jeff what he intends on doing because surprise you are wrong again!

  • brad mack
    November 04, 2012 - 04:36

    Amherst just sold it's self respect for a toonie. Bambridge clearly had friends on council that gave him instant equity. I suppose this is why most people from amherst is now living elsewhere. not enough patronage to go around. Imagine...a pathetic diner that makes no money versus a major corporation that would build a nice office / condo complex and attract even more business. It is corrupt leadership that prevents real progress and development for loser town. Not to mention Bambridge is free to sell it to one of those corporations at his leisure and make an enormous profit. sickening

    • sueb
      November 05, 2012 - 10:31

      @Brad Mack: You couldn't possibly sound any more like someone with a grudge if you tried. Your comments are mean-spirited and without any basis whatsoever. Jeff Bembridge got the building because he's a smart and successful businessman who will make a success of this new restaurant and contribute to the tax base and employment of our town for years to come. It's negativity like yours that holds our town back. Fortunately, our council and most of the rest of the community are looking at what is good for our future and supporting Jeff in what will without doubt be yet another successful landmark he creates in our downtown business community.

    • Jack on the Rocks
      November 07, 2012 - 06:19

      Brad Mack..if you would like to see one of Global Reality's NICE condo units,take a drive to Springhill and have a look at Douglas St...It's worse than the Windsor Block building was...

    November 02, 2012 - 16:45

    I think it was great to sell to Jeff and I really wish people would stop knocking the town council for some decisions. The town got paid a nice insurance check for the structure so leave it at that better then seeing it sit empty. Some people really just don't like to see other people succeed in this town. I love what the town has done downtown cleaned it up nice. I am sure the only people knocking duncans are the ones who are probably are collecting our tax dollars rather than contributing.

  • Brittney
    November 02, 2012 - 14:18

    It's unfortunate to see so many negative comments. When opinions are placed on a simple dollar value rather than the actual well-being of a community, that worries me. Anyways, I am very proud of my stepfather and honoured he named "Breakfast at Brittney's" after me. He's a natural entrepreneur and very smart when it comes to business. Can't wait for the restaurant to open (: Congratulations Jeff, you deserve it.

    • Jack on the Rocks
      November 02, 2012 - 17:59

      Brittney,don't you worry one bit about what the naysayers have to say..There is always a few in every croud...just jealous...good on ya Jeff..

  • so glade to see
    November 02, 2012 - 10:47

    Reading these comments I understand that there is some issues with the fact that Jeff bought the building for $2 but look at where the town is going with the downtown aspect. It wants more people downtown, and a breakfast place and expansion into Duncan’s is a good thing, brings a couple more jobs and more people down town to spend money, Instead of having more vacant apartments and buildings for long periods of time. I am tired of see the downtown area so empty. And to the comment that no one goes to Duncan’s because of the prices, get a clue if no one went there then why are they so busy, and have stayed opened for so long. (with out VLT's) Most bars in this town would not survive with out the vlt's and Jeff has, His restaurant Bambino's has been opened and going strong for more then 20 years and Duncan’s for almost 10 years. Jeff is a smart business man and will not create something that would not make money. Good luck Jeff, and i am glade that it was a local man who got the building then some out of town person with no vision or ties to the community.... Cannot wait to eat at breakfast with Brittney....

    • honker
      November 04, 2012 - 09:43

      Some people can't see, even with their eyelids open. Duncans is a great place and a place I go to when in town. told other out of province people about Duncans and they now go to Duncans when they are visiting the area in their seasonal residencies. The restaurant / longe punches way above it's weight in the small town of Amherst. You want to attract business and people to Amherst? The entrepreneurial spirit and "can do" like this is the key.

  • R dub
    November 02, 2012 - 09:24

    To everyone that think the town made a mistake and that no one goes to Duncan's... Go there in the Thursday night, and get your story straight... It's great to keep it local.... This guys business stay around forever, bams is a landmark! He knows what he's doing... Would you rather Walter wells buy the place for 100,000$ and leave staging and scaffolding up for 9 years..?! Give your head a shake...

  • jr
    November 02, 2012 - 07:39

    It is nice to say that you want this to be an "All Day" breakfast and that another company does it, but you have to face reality and think about whether or not there is enough clientelle to support and all day establishment of this type. If there is and the business is steady enough, then I would say right on, lets go with all day. But, if there is not enough business then it would put the place out of business very fast. Something is better than nothing. Start there and see where things go after a while. Good job Jeff.

  • Taxpayer
    November 01, 2012 - 23:39

    Just dont get it...maybe if the other developers had been given the opportunity to have the building for a TOONIE and not have to pay the $50000 they offered the town they too could have gotten the building open sooner!! And to have the town excited to sell it to a business that is gonna be closed at 1pm daily considered a good thing im not so sure was nice of the town to basically give jeff $50 000 of tax payer money to open up shop... its VERY generous of them to say the least...I wonder if any other businessed out there could use a $50 000 cash injection into their business from the Amherst taxpayers.... Im not saying its a bad idea for a restaurant...just think he should have had to pay fair value to the town for the building...and with offers in the $35000 to $50000 range I would say a TOONIE is a just a LITTLE off....just my math

      November 02, 2012 - 16:07

      It really irks me that people have so much negative to say especially if they really don't know what they are talking about ...people should get all facts straight before they mouth off about something...Jeff has been in business for a long time, employs approx. 24 full time staff and has never had a hand out from the government or the town that I'm aware of, he pays his taxes too! He supports our community and the people in it. It's really unfortunate that you feel the way you do and I guess you have the right to but people again get the facts! The other developers could have offered a toonie if they choose to it wasn't only about the price offered for the building but about the over all proposal for developing the property! Hopefully this will help or be a step towards putting some life back into downtown plus create employment opportunities, the building is going to be more than a new breakfast restaurant, man I find this frustrating stop being so closed minded and think of the possibilities. Jeff will invest a lot of his hard earned money into the building, there is a tone of damage to the property it wasn't worth paying more for it. To " know it all" guess you don't know it all, Duncan's is not expensive and it certainly has great service and you have no bases to say a plate of pancakes would cost 25.00 shake your head! Why can't you nay sayers just be happy for a hard working man such as Jeff...Good luck Jeff I'm very happy for you and our community!

    • sueb
      November 04, 2012 - 14:09

      @Taxpayer: Your comment is either clueless or sour grapes. It really doesn't take any more than a bit of intelligent thought to see exactly why the council chose this option. Mr. Bembridge actually plans to do something with the building. His business model will create employment and generate tax dollars for the long term, not to mention adding another attractive storefront to the downtown core. It doesn't make sense to sell the building for $50,000 only to have it remain a vacant eyesore - they've done that before and as a result had to buy back at least one building and had to pay to demolish another. A one time sale of $50,000 cannot remotely compare to years of annual tax income from the viable business an astute and successful businessman like Jeff Bembridge will build.

  • know it all
    November 01, 2012 - 21:34

    It is a joke right - 50,000 turned down for 2.00 - only in Amherst the council will never change - more stupiditly on top of stupidity - no one goes to Duncans because of prices and no service - now a 25.00 a plate pancakes - only in amherst

  • Love Breakfast
    November 01, 2012 - 09:01

    I realize that it's not built yet, but it should be all day breakfast. iHop does extremely well (pancakes with whip cream, eggs and bacon all day long).... Jeff is a smart man, he'll figure it out. Can't wait for it to open.!

    • Amherst Res
      November 02, 2012 - 12:45

      I agree! I'd go for breakfast for supper. Never have time to go out for breakfast but would definitely eat there for dinner and supper. Nothing's better than waffles for supper!!

  • Patrick Currie
    November 01, 2012 - 07:42

    Way to go Jeff, I can't wait to see the finished product....

  • Jason
    November 01, 2012 - 06:46

    mmmmm breakfast with Jeff! I can't wait to get home and try it out!

  • amherstgirl
    October 31, 2012 - 17:24

    So the town was offered $50,000 and they decided to sell it for $2? Time lines aside does this sound like a good idea?

    • honker
      October 31, 2012 - 23:22

      Yes, probably a good idea. The $50K proposal offered no development or guarantees of development. This could simply be a vacant land flip sometime in the undefined future. This is something that halifax does all the time and you know what downtown Halifax looks like.

    • Jack on the Rocks
      November 01, 2012 - 06:18 makes perfect sence..why not have a business downtown instead of another lowrental housing unit...That's all that Global would have put there...

  • Can't Wait
    October 31, 2012 - 16:32

    Yummy---Hopefully there will be a breakfast buffet there. Sure looking forward to stuffing myself!! A great addition to the downtown core. Congratulations Jeff

  • Jack On The Rocks
    October 31, 2012 - 14:58

    Way to go Jeff...congrats and good luck..