City believes Connolly project still on, even as related Etobicoke one is in trouble

Hamiltons 30-storey Connolly condo tower is still happening, city officials say, even though a related Etobicoke one has gone into receivership and more than 200 stand to lose their condo units.

More than 200 people stand to lose their condo units at On the Go Mimico

The develop of The Connolly says he's getting all the needed permits to start construction. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

People anxiously awaiting The Connolly condo tower are a little more nervous now that the developer's other high-profile project has gone into receivership. But city officials say for now, the Hamilton project is still a go.

I don't know if I would label it fear, and I wouldn't isolate any one development, although this one certainly stands out.- Coun. Jason Farr

On the Go Mimico, an Etobicoke high-rise project, was still only about 15 per cent complete when it went into receivership in February. Now 208 people stand to lose their pre-sold condos.

That company, Terrasan 327 Royal York, is the sister company of Stanton Renaissance, owned by Louie Santaguida. In 2014, Santaguida demolished two-thirds of the historic James Street Baptist Church from 1878 to build the 30-storey Connolly tower.

The Connolly project is delayed, said Glen Norton, the city's director of economic development. But he says it's still happening.

Pedestrians stroll by the old James Street Baptist Church on Sept. 27, 2013. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

"At this point in time, we have no reason to believe the Connolly project is in trouble," Norton said. "We spoke to Louie this week and he intends to get started this year."

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, has been nervous the project wouldn't happen. He looked for reassurance this month too.

"I don't know if I would label it fear, and I wouldn't isolate any one development, although this one certainly stands out," he said.

Like the Mimico project, The Connolly is about 75 per cent sold. In the Etobicoke case, the buyers will get a combined $6.3 million back for their deposits. But many bought those condos in 2011. The units will likely be sold off at current market values, which will be much higher than six years ago.

Louie Santaguida, left, is president of Stanton Renaissance, the Toronto-based development company that bought James Street Baptist Church. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The Mimico project had been mired in financial and legal troubles. In 2012, for example, Metrolinx backed away from a partnership deal. A year later, crews walked off the job, claiming the developer wasn't paying them.

Court documents say Santaguida started defaulting on payments months after being loaned $21 million in construction money last year.

Some of Santaguida's other business ventures show a history of bankruptcy. In 2011, two of Terrasan's divisions filed for bankruptcy. Terrasan Environmental Solutions had assets of $27, and owed $9.5 million. Terrasan Metal Fabricators owed $5.5 million and had $12 in assets.

That bankruptcy caused problems for the city of Brantford, where Terrasan was supposed to remediate a 20-hectare industrial site for a housing, commercial and parkland development. Terrasan had also been planning to build 200 residential units and commercial space in the Town of Blue Mountains.

In Hamilton, Santaguida has until November to "get started in a serious way," Norton said. That's the deadline to still be in line for an incremental tax grant approved two years ago.

An artist rendering shows plans for The Connolly, a proposed 30-storey condo tower on at 98 James St. S. (Stanton Renaissance)
Sales people had displays for The Connolly set up at Supercrawl last September. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Significant work would include excavation and pouring concrete — work "that isn't just moving stones around on the site," Norton said.

Santaguida couldn't be reached this week, but he said last year that a record of site condition delayed him by months. He also had to rework the tower's substructure after discovering an old stream underneath.

"There has been a delay, no question," he said then. But, he says, "hopefully we'll be able to recoup those time frames" during the construction phase.

A land registry document shows the land belonged to James Street Baptist Church from 1895, and mostly stayed in Baptist hands until it was sold for $610,000 to a numbered company, and transferred to Mary Lou Santaguida, in June 2013. 

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC

With files from John Lancaster


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