Moncton’s old Highfield Square mall is still standing but behind the scenes, the city is still pushing forward with plans to purchase property with the intention of replacing the empty building with a new $105-million downtown sports and entertainment complex.
Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc said the vacated mall will not be facing a wrecking ball in the near future as the city carried out several final steps, including how much of the building will be torn down.
LeBlanc said the city has not officially purchased the Highfield Square property yet.
The city is also preparing requests for proposals for the two companies interested in designing and building the downtown sports and entertainment centre.
When the project moves forward, there is now a chance some of the mall may be left standing and incorporated into the proposed centre, according to the mayor.
"The discussion from at least one councillor anyway was that the façade of the old Eaton's building is a heritage type of building that we should try to save some of that for the new downtown centre,” he said.
Moncton voted to approve the purchase of the former Highfield Square property in June.
'I think most taxpayers should be left wondering what the costs are going to be and then what is the impact going to be on the bottom line for the services that people really want.' - Kevin Lacey, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
The city paid $6 million for the land and it will also have to pay between $2.5 million and $6 million to demolish the former mall and clean up any hazardous waste on the site.
One watchdog organization is keeping a close eye on the project’s finances.
Kevin Lacey, the Atlantic director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said he hopes the city proceeds with the project carefully.
"I think most taxpayers should be left wondering what the costs are going to be and then what is the impact going to be on the bottom line for the services that people really want,” he said.
One Moncton councillor had been asking questions about the affordability of the project and raised the idea of renovating the existing Moncton Coliseum, which would cost much less than the new facility.
A city-sponsored economic analysis said a downtown sports and entertainment complex would serve as an economic anchor in Moncton.
Moncton has already been turned down once for federal funding from P3 Canada. The city was seeking $25-million toward the downtown complex.
Search for developer continues
LeBlanc said city politicians are still looking for provincial and federal funding for the centre.
Before a final price tag is put on the project, the city needs to pick a developer.
Moncton is working on forming a group to help prepare requests for proposals for the two companies interested in designing and building the project.
"It is an invitation to the two group of companies that have been shortlisted to provide us with proposals now that sounds pretty simple but it'll be a fairly complicated task and all of the work that will go into it and we would hope to have those proposals received and finalized by March,” LeBlanc said.
Bird Construction Inc. and Ellis Don Corporation have been shortlisted as the potential developers.
The companies were evaluated on experience, understanding of the project and methodology, which included experience working with a public authority.
A city official said in June it will take 18 months to determine which of the two companies will get the contract to build the downtown event centre.