Four empty and run-down houses in the vicinity of Cottonwood Falls Park will make way for future development once the city develops a plan for Railtown over the next year.
The city bought the houses in 2012 and 2013 for a total of $495,000. They are all still unoccupied and boarded up.
Mayor Deb Kozak was a city councillor at the time of the purchase.
“The opportunity presented itself as we were looking at the future of Railtown and those properties were for sale,” she says. “We decided to hold them in reserve until the community came up with a plan for Railtown. I think it was a wise decision.”
Railtown consists of the area between the CPR station and Cottonwood Falls.
Two of the empty houses are on the 700 block of Railway St., and the other two are in the alley behind Cottonwood Autobody.
According to the city’s chief financial officer, Colin McClure, the money for the purchase came from the city’s land sale reserve fund. He said the province legally requires municipalities to have such a fund.
Whenever a municipality sells real estate, the proceeds have to go into this fund, which must be used to purchase land or other capital assets and may not be used for the day-to-day operation of the city. The city currently has $225,000 in its land sale reserve fund.
The city owns more buildings that one might think.
“We have 38 buildings with a book value over $63 million, but the replacement value is much higher,” McClure said.
Kozak says she sees big potential for housing and commercial development in the neighbourhood of the four empty houses.
“If we have more people living down there, Cottonwood Park will become well used and better used,” she said. “I see another thriving neighbourhood there, with its own character.”
All photos by Bill Metcalfe