Local entrepreneur criticizes York House deal

The sale of the historic York House in downtown Fredericton came under some criticism Thursday.

The sale of the historic York House in downtown Fredericton came under some criticism Thursday.

On Wednesday, the city announced it had sold the property to residential development firm ADI Capital Inc. for half of what the city paid for it five years ago and said that it was the best deal available.

Gary Stairs, a Fredericton entrepreneur who specializes in electronic learning systems, told CBC News he had briefed council on a concept for a downtown technology incubation centre.

Stairs thought York House would be an ideal location.

"Let's say we had twenty technology start-ups in that building with four people each and perhaps even ADI as the mentor of all and the technology anchor that we would value so much," he said.

The chair of the York House working group, Coun. Stephen Chase, said Stairs did not put that into a formal proposal for York House.

But Stairs said the city should have realized the potential.

"My concept was well tabled and transparently tabled at a very high level, civically," he said. "And I don't feel it's incumbent on me to chase city councillors around looking for their opinion or feedback on stuff that we've given voluntarily to the city. I'm sorry. I'm not a developer."

The sale is also getting some positive public feedback.

The Fredericton Heritage Trust said it's pleased that York House will be designated under the city's Heritage Preservation Bylaw, and that the exterior will be restored to the original design, including a small spire on top of the tower.

In 2007, the city bought the historic downtown property for $1 million, saving it from demolition.

The city sold the building to development firm ADI for $500,000.

Chase said it was too expensive to turn the property into office space and that the city has been paying $40,000 per year for renovations and maintenance.

Chase points out the loss will be made up by tax revenue once York House is occupied.