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Former Winnipeg mayor Katz says turmoil could kill True North deal

02/05/2015 07:55 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT
Former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz said a call for new proposals to build on a controversial piece of Carlton Street property may not gain traction and could kill an option deal with True North Developments.

​​Winnipeg city council voted for public expressions of interest on the site in January. But Katz said he thinks True North is likely the only developer interested.

“Don't expect a lineup of people wanting to do it. You've got three credible entities wanting to invest a lot of money on two major sites, and I'd be shocked if there is anyone else,” said Katz. “What I am saying is even if they put it out, it will be the same people."

On Wednesday, True North put the option agreement for the property “on a pause” and its executive board chair-person Mark Chipman said he regrets ever having publicly endorsed Brian Bowman for mayor.

"I was uncomfortable publicly endorsing a politician,” said Chipman. “I didn't think it was my place. Let's be honest, the reason I got asked is because of the profile that's come from being in this city in the National Hockey League.”

Bowman said that he was saddened to hear Chipman regrets publicly supporting him ahead of the election.

“I have a lot of respect for Mark Chipman and True North,” said Bowman. “I think both he as an individual and True North have done a lot for our community. And it's obviously unfortunate that he feels that way."

Chipman said he has reservations about whether to move forward with the plan for an office and residential complex called True North Square after being stung by suggestions of a back-room deal from the mayor’s office.

"Unfortunately, and for reasons we did not create, when you propose to develop real estate in this community that has any public involvement, you're presumed to be doing something untoward,” said Chipman. “We can't and won't operate in that kind of environment, no matter how strongly we feel about a project.”

Katz said that transparency is important and Bowman has to do what he feels is right based on the circumstances. But Katz also said he now has doubts about whether any investor other than True North would develop the Carlton Street property.

"I hope they don't ruin it because, you know, in this industry people don't want to take that kind of grief and aggravation and flack. That would be a shame," said Katz.

"I know that council wants to put it out. I'd be shocked if anyone else comes forward, absolutely shocked."

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