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Owner: Genosha may be done this year

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No visible work has been done on the former Genosha Hotel since the early months of 2016. However, following a meeting with the City of Oshawa, Richard Senechal, the building’s owner, says that work on the site could be finished by the end of the year.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

As the months continue to pass without further movement at the Genosha Hotel, many Oshawa residents have started to question if yet another plan to revive the aging historic building has disintegrated.

However, a new set of plans could see contractors back on the site this spring and the project completed by year’s end, according to a statement from owner Richard Senechal.

“The owner is working to finalize arrangements,” Senechal states in an email to The Oshawa Express. “I look forward to seeing this happen this year.”

While Senechal’s Ontario numbered company is the official owner of the building, a previous agreement passed through council would have seen former construction manager Bowood Properties become a part owner in that company. This agreement was needed in order to fulfill city requirements for Bowood to receive the financial incentives approved by council.

However, according to Senechal, Bowood may no longer be in the picture.

“Bowood had made an offer to purchase the property but never completed the sale,” Senechal states. “I have no agreement with Bowood at the moment.”

Bowood could not be reached for comment prior to The Express press deadline.

Earlier this month, The Express learned of a meeting between Senechal, Mayor John Henry and other members of council and staff to discuss the project. Henry says it was an opportunity for the city to perhaps prod the owners into action.

“We had a conversation with the owner of the building and expressed to him the need to get on with it,” Henry says, adding he “can’t really comment on what’s going to happen,”  but noted progress could be made in the coming weeks.

Senechal also confirmed the Feb. 13 meeting between the two parties, which included Councillor John Aker and Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services, and explained it was a chance for the owners to update the city as to where the project stands. Work has been visibly stalled on the site for months.

“The purpose was to keep the council and senior management updated on the property,” Senechal states. “Both the City of Oshawa and Durham Region have been resolute supporters of this historic building being given new life as a new home for many residents who want to live in the heart of a vibrant downtown urban centre.”

According to the approved plans, the Genosha will be repurposed into 66 apartments – 40 one bedrooms and 26 bachelor units in the top five floors – with the ground floor reserved for commercial tenants. An estimate for the renovations previously pegged the cost at around $8.5 million. When the initial plans were approved in the summer of 2015, a flurry of work began that saw new windows installed and a new roof, along with perhaps the most visible change when the brick was cleaned for the first time in decades.

“A little while ago, you saw a lot of activity around that building, new windows, it had been cleaned. For downtown Oshawa, that is the last piece of the puzzle that all members of council are concerned about,” Henry says. “When you walk by that building and see it vacant and boarded up, it just sends the wrong signals. So we are very concerned about that project moving along and being finished.”

The project has also received strong monetary support in the form of development grants from the city, which are set to be paid out upon the project’s completion. These include a façade improvement loan of $750,000 to be paid out in annual payments of $75,000 over the next 10 years, the money for which will be coming from the city’s Civic Property Development Reserve, and funded through $75,000 in annual budget contributions. The remaining incentive comes in the form of an increased assessment grant to be divvied out over the next 14 years, which allows the city to waive all or some of a building’s property taxes for any given year.

In 2015, the Genosha was assessed at approximately $1.69 million, making the property taxes for a given year approximately $16,800.

Under the city’s program, 100 per cent of the taxes will be waived for the first 10 years under the new owner, with that amount decreasing by 20 percent each year for the remaining four years of the agreement.

However, a further extension to the incentive deadlines will need to be approved in order for the owners to remain in compliance.

Issues over ownership previously stalled work at the site, causing the city to approve an extension of the March 2017 deadline to August of this year. Ralph says he fully expects a further request to come in to extend the deadline again.