Peterborough’s Ugly Gateway

After almost 8 years, the land at The Parkway and Crawford Drive remains in development limbo

Roshan Holdings has been trying to develop the land at The Parkway and Crawford Drive since 2005 (photo: Pat Trudeau)
Roshan Holdings has been trying to develop the land at The Parkway and Crawford Drive since 2005 (photo: Pat Trudeau)

This week, Peterborough City Councillor Keith Riel brought forth his concerns with Peterborough’s ugly “gateway”.

The land in question is located at The Parkway and Crawford Drive.

It’s one of the first things visitors to our city see when entering from The Parkway and Councillor Riel’s opinion is that it’s a bloody mess.

I agree wholeheartedly with Councillor Riel on this one — and the transactions surrounding the property have been a fumble since the beginning.

In November 2005, the City of Peterborough entered into an agreement with Roshan Holdings (a Dubai-based developer) that would give Roshan 10 acres of land. The agreement states that, in return for the property, Roshan would be responsible for two phases of development.

The first phase would be to build the visitor centre, two restaurants, and a gas bar with a convenience store, and would be expected to be completed by June 30, 2007; the visitor centre would then be leased back to the city for a 20-year term. The second phase would be the development of a 100-room hotel, a convention centre with a capacity for at least 500 people, and full-service restaurant to be completed no later than December 31, 2008.

Here we are in July of 2013, well beyond those dates, and of the seven buildings that should have been completed five years ago, there are two.

Accompanying the beautiful visitor centre is a Tim Hortons — and lots of dirt.

The agreement clearly stated that if the development had not been completed in time, Roshan would have to provide reasonable evidence as to why. If the city reviewed that evidence and felt it acceptable, an extension on the development would be given.

So it’s been almost eight years, development is not complete and there’s been no activity on the site since the Tim Hortons was built. My question to city council is: where’s the reasonable evidence?

In eight years, only two of seven buildings have been completed; one is the Visitor Centre (photo: Pat Trudeau)
In eight years, only two of seven buildings have been completed; one is the Visitor Centre (photo: Pat Trudeau)

In 2011, Jordan Struk (Director of Development for Roshan) said that it’s been incredibly difficult to find tenants because of “market conditions”. What’s Roshan’s definition of “market conditions”? Everywhere I drive I see new developments going up: Lindsay, Belleville, Kingston, Bomanville, Cobourg, Welland, and others have these type of developments built and filled within months.

Probably the most audacious move by Roshan was requesting the purchase of more land in the area to develop a Lowes home improvement store while this land sat empty. Thankfully, that sale went south.

The original land deal was completed during a very different time, when Peterborough was going through an economic boom. Unemployment was low. New homes were popping up left, right and centre. Gas was below a dollar a litre. So on the surface, this deal seemed like a pretty good thing. Now, almost eight years later, it’s a giant visual symbol of the economic struggle our city is now going through.

But don’t you worry, Peterborough taxpayers, council has a plan! They hope that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation will choose Peterborough as a site for a casino and that, if they decide on Peterborough, that they’ll also decide on building near that land. Once all these hypothetical puzzle pieces fall into place, it “might” spark a hotel development. So our city’s plan is essentially a Hail Mary pass.

While we invest millions in plastic football fields — tearing up the Rotary Trail so that the water that these plastic football fields can’t soak up can be dumped into the river — and watch repairs to our roads move at a snail’s pace, we need a boost.

The announcement of Lifestyle Windows and Doors moving to town from Ajax is not enough. It’s certainly a start, but it’s not enough. I was happy to hear they were moving to town but even their move was spin. “100 new jobs! 100 new jobs!” should have been “There is technically a potential for 100 new jobs because we have to allow our existing employees the opportunity to transfer to the new facility, but at this point we don’t really know how many are coming, so it may be only 50 new jobs”.

Our city has become a joke. Our politicians can spin it any which way they want, but the truth is our city is in a free fall. The economy is not strong regardless of what our mayor claims. Job growth is questionable, since the number of jobs we’re losing is greater than the ones being created. The number of people on the streets suffering from mental illness or substance addictions is growing and, if you don’t believe me, poll any downtown business owner.

I regularly speak to people not from here who know Peterborough for two reasons: our MP and his ramblings on The Hill, and our unemployment rate. It’s time that we change both of those things.

If the people in our city’s leadership roles can’t do it, it’s about time we change that too.