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Auchmar Mansion isn't up for sale after all

There are several people interested in buying it, and more on the horizon, but Auchmar Mansion isn't going on the real estate market after all. At least for now.
There are several people interested in buying Auchmar Mansion, shown here in 2013. But the city is putting off negotiations for six months to give the public time to come up with a different idea. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

There are several people interested in buying it, and more on the horizon, but Auchmar Mansion isn't going on the real estate market after all. At least for now.

The city has been negotiating with "multiple" bidders who want to buy the historic mansion for about a month, said Ray Kessler, manager of real estate, planning and economic development.

But council voted to kill those negotiations on Wednesday and put the bidders on hold for six months instead.

The recent turn of events dates back to last year, when the city issued a request for proposals for organizations who wanted to use the mansion. That brought two interested bidders — Cobalt Connects and the Friends of Auchmar. City staff deemed both proposals unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the city has been in negotiations for months with a secret potential buyer it refused to disclose, which was Cardus, a Hamilton-based religious think tank.

Just four weeks ago, councillors voted to put the mansion on the market. The motion to do so was seconded by Coun. Terry Whitehead, who represents Ward 8, the Mountain area that includes Auchmar.

But two weeks later, Whitehead started his own process. He gathered a roundtable of people interested in keeping the mansion in city hands. He invited that roundtable — which drew about 30 people for its inaugural meeting last week — to brainstorm ideas to use Auchmar but keep it in public hands. The best ideas will be included in a report to council.

On Wednesday, Whitehead asked councillors to reconsider the Auchmar decision and give his roundtable six months to come up with a plan. Council voted 12-3 to do so in an effort to keep the landmark in public hands.

Kessler said in addition to the current negotiations, there are other parties thinking about coming forward. But everyone involved wants to know what's going on.

"In my experience, the parties interested in acquiring this are keenly interested in clarity of process," he said. "When we begin to muddy waters, they begin to find other interests to exercise their resources and their energies."

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster voted against reopening the decision, saying he preferred to do the roundtable and the real estate negotiations at the same time.

"We've been looking for a long time for a willing buyer, and now we have one," he said.


Who was in favour of taking Auchmar off the market

Aidan Johnson (Ward 1), Jason Farr (2), Matthew Green (3), Sam Merulla (4), Chad Collins (5), Scott Duvall (7), Terry Whitehead (9), Doug Conley (9), Maria Pearson (10), Brenda Johnson (11), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Robert Pasuta (14)

Who was opposed

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, Lloyd Ferguson (12), Judi Partridge (15)

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