Industrial Park's future “a long term play”

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Added: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:16pm
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Allyson Beauregard

LITCHFIELD – In the December 6 edition, the Journal reported on the transfer of the Pontiac Industrial Park from Green Investment Group Inc., which no longer exists in Canada, to new owners Wakefield Properties, based out of Seattle.
In a press release issued December 1, the Municipality of Litchfield said the sale is a positive step, given that little activity has occurred on the property since it was first purchased by GIGI in 2010, other than the dismantling of the former Smurfit-Stone facility and the sale of millions of dollars in scrap metal.  
“The impact of this decision has already had a positive effect on the municipality due to the fact that Wakefield Properties paid the tax arrears Green Investment Group defaulted on. We look forward to discussing their vision on the development of the site,” stated Litchfield mayor, Colleen Larivière.
Future plans
Established in 1996, Wakefield Properties specializes in residential and commercial development. The Litchfield property is currently their only acquisition in Canada. Shortly after his resignation in December 2015, Remi Bertrand, former MRC Pontiac Director General, joined the group as a Management Consultant. According to Bertrand, he heard about the position from “a contact of a
contact” when the company was looking to further their presence on the East Coast.
Since the sale was only finalized this past summer, Bertrand said the next six to eight months will involve acquiring knowledge about the property, developing a concrete vision for its future, conducting work so it is market ready, surveying, assessing the potential for subdivision,  and determining what its assets are. Because of the land's industrial zoning, residential development is not an option; industrial projects are the focus.
“We are never in a rush to develop. We have properties we've been
sitting on for around 15 years,” said Bertrand. “When markets get hot, that's when we recuperate profit ... it's a long-term play,” he added, noting the business operates on an international scale.
After this initial phase, the company will focus on showcasing and marketing the property. Bertrand said the site's many “hard-to-find” assets will prove to be advantageous: it is located in a socially and politically stable country; it's in close proximity to water and large metropolitan areas; and has access to cheap, renewable power.
Wakefield's involvement after a sale is determined by the needs of those interested. Some may only want to purchase a parcel of land, while others may want
utilities brought to it, buildings constructed, asphalt parking lots created, etc. Wakefield is already in talks with interested people, Bertrand said, but deals take a while. “It could be quick, or it could take ten years,” he told the Journal, noting Wakefield has already started obtaining quotes for bringing
high-speed fibre internet to the site.
“I think good things will happen here,” he said in conclusion.
 Clean-up imminent
Cleaning up the mess at the site, including large piles of rotting wood chips, is on the company's initial to-do list for getting the property market ready. 
One of the largest investments required will be putting in a new electrical
distribution system after the former was severely vandalized. According to Bertrand, about $200,000 in copper was stolen from the system in the last year or so, representing between 5 to 8 million dollars in damage to the equipment. Wakefield discovered the theft when conducting an inspection of the electrical room. The Sûreté du Québec is involved and an investigation continues.
Neighbouring activities
After purchasing the site, GIGI sold two parcels of land: one to UTEau, a septic and waste water treatment facility, and the Pontiac Sorting Center, which sorts and salvages construction waste; both remain in operation. Another lot was leased to the Trebio pellet mill, which, after receiving $14 million from the Quebec and Federal governments, plus a large loan from the Pontiac SADC, claimed bankruptcy in 2016.