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Newmarket council advised to sell Hollingsworth land to developer

Town staff ask council to agree in principle to sell the land, to consider it part of a redevelopment proposal that could include a seniors residence, community space

A staff report recommends that Newmarket council agree in principle to sell the town-owned land upon which the aging and set-to-close Hollingsworth Arena sits to developer Briarwood Development Group.

The developer owns two Davis Drive properties adjacent to the nearly half-a-century old Patterson Street arena, in Newmarket’s Huron Heights neighbourhood.

And while Briarwood hasn’t yet put forward a formal development application to the town, it led a public information meeting itself in February 2019 to get community feedback on two concept designs, one of which would involve a takeover of the Hollingsworth land.

Council will discuss the potential sale of the land at its upcoming April 29 committee of the whole meeting.

Council voted unanimously April 15 to decommission the Hollingsworth Arena at the end of the 2019/2020 season, expected to be in April 2020. Over the course of the next year, town staff have undertaken to work with Newmarket’s 10 community user groups to accommodate their ice pad needs at the town’s remaining six arenas, which could include a new outdoor rink at a location not yet decided upon.

Meanwhile, the recommendation to consider the redevelopment of all three properties together on the developer-owned 693 and 713 Davis parcels, along with the town’s current Hollingsworth property at 35 Patterson St., comes after an expression of interest from Briarwood to purchase the arena land, the report states.

Town planning staff also noted a large-scale redevelopment of the kind that Briarwood is proposing within Newmarket’s targeted area for intensification would “increase the tax base and efficiently use existing infrastructure, land and resources”.

The proposed residential/commercial development concept that gets the nod from staff could include, if Briarwood acquired the town land, the addition of a six-storey building that would create a 120-unit seniors residence, a main-floor space for community use, and a park along the Irwin Street frontage.

This would be in addition to the proposed two 15-storey towers with townhouse units at the base of the buildings, bringing a total of 289 new residential units, along with about 1,260 square metres of main-floor commercial space, complete with underground parking. A small urban park fronting Davis rounds out the proposal, which would add, in total, 409 residential units.

“As council is aware, a planning opinion of any kind is typically reserved until such time as a formal planning application has been submitted by a developer and reviewed by staff,” the report states. “However, this is a unique situation involving the potential sale of town-owned land (the Hollingsworth arena property) and, therefore, a preliminary opinion is required to determine to what extent the redevelopment scenarios align with the approved planning vision for the subject properties. This preliminary opinion and accompanying information will assist council in making an informed decision regarding this potential sale.”

The Town of Newmarket has for at least the past three years considered selling the Hollingsworth Arena property because the single NHL-sized ice pad facility is nearing the end of its lifecycle. It has also explored public-private partnerships to keep the property for community use with little success.