Uncertainty looms as Calgary city council, Eau Claire Market owner negotiate in private

WATCH: The city sold Eau Claire to a company more than 15 years ago in hopes of the area being redevelopped, but shovels have yet to hit the ground. Now, the city is in talks with the owner behind closed doors to make something happen. Lisa MacGregor reports.

Redevelopment of the Eau Claire Market and its surrounding land has been talked about for nearly two decades, but so far nothing has been done.

Now, the city is in talks with the owner behind closed doors in hopes of making something happen.

Harvard Developments Inc. bought the Eau Claire Market land in 2007. Its redevelopment was slated for the following year, but according to the company plans were shelved because of the global recession.

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Buying back the land is one of the options the city is considering.

Eau Claire is in Ward 7, under Councillor Druh Farrell’s auspices. She is frustrated the development has been in limbo for so long.

“The reason we sold that property many many years ago is to see development on it. We’ve gone through several booms and have yet to see development start. So that’s part of the discussion — How do we encourage the new owner to fulfill their obligation?,” Farrell said. “The community has been waiting for a grocery store, for decades and it looks like they’ll wait a little longer.”

READ MORE: Calgary city councillor disappointed with continued delays in Eau Claire development

In 2016, Harvard executives said the timing was ideal for the redevelopment of Eau Claire. In 2017, Calgary City Council approved a plan that included several towers, condos and a hotel.

Still, there are no signs of construction.

“We’ve learned a lot since we first sold this property,” Farrell said. “Now with East Village for example, the clauses that we put in, the buy back clauses, are for less than the purchase price. So we have motivation in the contract to build and that’s the whole point of selling city land — for strategic purchases.”

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For some businesses in Eau Claire Market, time doesn’t seem to be on their side.

Nadia Samnani has been working at her family’s business Island Foods in Eau Claire Market since 2008.

Since then, they’ve been in limbo between trying to make a living not knowing when or if the building will be redeveloped.

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“It’s hard, let me just put it that way,” Samnani said. “I can see that everyone’s suffering in one way or another in this market.”

Recently, her landlord changed their rental agreement from a long-term lease to a short-term lease, according to Samnani.

“Mostly everybody — from what I know in here — is on short-term lease but that’s between them and the landlord,” Samnani said.

“It’s been awful, we’ve had a tough year.”

Talks continue behind closed doors between city council and Harvard Developments Inc.

Global News reached out to Harvard Developments Inc. for comment but they did not respond to the request.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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