AMHERST – Amherst’s former police station on Victoria Street may not meet the wrecking ball.
After having received a number of unsolicited, but credible expressions of interest on the building that was heavily damaged by a fire last month, the town has decided to solicit proposals for the sale and development of the property until Oct. 4.
“This option allows the town to evaluate the quality of proposals made and select one that is in the best interests of the town,” CAO Greg Herrett told members of town council last night. “It also provides a clear path for continuing with demolition should no acceptable proposals be received. It has the potential to allow the town to avoid the costs of demolition of the property.”
Soon after the police department evacuated the building on the night of the fire, the town was approached by its insurer about a $550,000 settlement offer. The town accepted the offer at an emergency meeting earlier this month and plans have been proceeding toward demolishing the building.
“When the decision was made to pursue demolition of the facility, our estimate of demolition costs was in the amount of $45,000. We are still carrying that amount, based on a quotation from a firm experienced in doing that type of work,” Herrett said.
The town has declared the building surplus to municipal use and will proceed with demolition if there are no acceptable offers.
Herrett said there are concerns with accepting expressions of interest. He said proposals must include well-defined timelines for a council decision on selling the property and the redevelopment of the property by a new owner.
“If council decides to offer the property for sale, then there should be a very tight window for the submission of proposals and if no proposal is deemed in the town’s best interest we should continue the process leading to demolition as soon as possible,” Herrett told council. “Council must be cognizant of the risk of selling the property and then having it sit idle and undeveloped – becoming an eyesore and a potential hazard. Therefore the timeline for development must be an important part of the evaluation of any proposals submitted.”
Herrett said offering the property for sale will not impact the insurance settlement.
The town has set the minimum price of the property at $1.
Deputy Mayor Dale Fawthrop welcomed the news.
“It’s a surprising and welcome turn of events,” Fawthrop told council. “It was a very devastating fire for this community. But, if the person who purchases it renovates the building it’s far better than have a vacant lot sitting there for a few years. It will help regenerate that part of town.”
Fawthrop suggested the town include a performance bond that will ensure the property is developed within a year.