Update on Brookside

At Monday’s Council meeting, MPP and Minister for the Environment David Piccini updated Council on a wide range of issues. He spoke about increased funding for the hospital and long term care homes as well as other items but the item of most interest was an update on Brookside. David reported that work on decommissioning Brookside has moved quickly and is now in stage three. That means that all equipment has been removed and both the Federal and Provincial Governments have declared they are not interested in taking over the property.  Stage three means that the “municipalities have first right of refusal and can express interest in the property”. The question now is: Who is going to buy it and what should be done with it?


When it was announced that Brookside would be closed as a youth detention centre, Piccini asked for citizen input and received more than 500 emails on the subject. David said that: “although we had a range of great ideas, there were some consistent themes that emerged”.

  • Protecting our heritage: Strathmore House.
  • Preserving greenspace.
  • Mixed-income housing.
  • Performing arts & culture.
  • Mental Health & Addictions. Job creation.

He noted that “arts and culture” included the film sector.

But although the Province is willing to “work with the Town”, they are not offering money except perhaps to help with remediation (such as asbestos removal) and through grant processes.  So it is up to the Town.  As David said: “The ball is firmly in Cobourg’s Court”. It’s clear that the Province will not be taking the lead to use the property for any of the purposes suggested – they intend to unload it.

The Province expects to sell the Property at fair market value – there is no talk of a nominal price, only that “we’ll work with the Town”.  When Councillor Chorley asked what were the Province’s preferences, David listed the themes above although seemed to emphasize affordable housing.

But affordable housing is a County responsibility and they have already identified projects and allocated their budget.

It’s not clear what the next step is – a time frame of 2 years was mentioned – maybe that’s how long the Town and County have to decide?  With an election later this year and the 2022 budget already decided, it seems unlikely that Cobourg Council will decide anything soon and it will likely be an election issue.  It brings to mind the fiasco of the Gillbard school which was closed in 2002 then put on the market.  Presumably the Town had first choice to buy it but despite interest from an Arts group, procrastination meant that it was sold to a developer.


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3 February 2022 5:41 pm

The EngageCobourg web site now has a page for citizens to give their point of view:

3 February 2022 7:07 am

Regardless of what the town decides there are other issues that need to be considered. Whoever gets control of the property has to go through the town permit process which is time consuming and expensive. There is also a shortage of workers and materials. If a developer buys the property at ‘fair market value’ it will take years to actually develop. There are a number of projects in town that have been delayed for these reasons. There is a demand for housing but the supply cannot keep up.

Pete M
Reply to  Kevin
4 February 2022 9:06 am

So true about the years to develop. And during that time the house will begin demolition by neglect. Another Sidbrook for the Town.

It doesn’t have to be if the Planning Dept and and the eventual developer can work together in a timely fashion to develop the lands. This will probably mean the Planning Dept will have to give a little in order for things to happen.

Cobourg taxpayer
2 February 2022 10:17 am

I do not support the town of Cobourg purchasing the Brookside property. They own the Tannery property and held workshops to discuss development options, likely run by a consultant, that I participated in years ago and there it sits, vacant. Let the arts community, the let’s have more parkland groups and affordable housing groups work with the town on actually completing development there. Brookside property and the historical buildings there are beautiful but have been maintained by the province at great expense. This is not economically feasible for a town of 20000 people. Let the town focus on repairing the piers, trying to make some money at the CCC and paying off the mortgage, maintaining Victoria Hall, attempting to increase revenue from parking and I would love to see how the hiring of all these extremely well paid new town employees are going to benefit the taxpayer.

2 February 2022 9:04 am

Piccini is correct. Neither the county nor the town has the money for a piece of property this large. The province must

1. Clear the property of structures, and
2. Sell to a developer.

If a need exists for an arts centre or social housing, any individual or group is welcome to come up with the money to do so.

Deborah OConnor
1 February 2022 11:03 pm

I used to work at Brookside in 1981/82 and know the layout of the residences. They would be almost perfect for people with limited income but a real need for decent housing. Each one has a common kitchen and living room area at one end, leading to a hallway with individual bedrooms on each side.

It would be especially suitable for the young and seniors or pre-seniors. They all have a need for company as well as privacy. This location would work well for either group and it would be easy to assign buildings by age groups.

Of course it should be the County that manages it since they are responsible for housing and have systems in place for efficiency and good management. This is not the Town’s area of expertise, but the County has many years of managing the 344 units across the County under their jurisdiction. (My number might well be wrong because it’s been years since I sat on the Board of what used to be the entity responsible for subsidised housing).

Let’s do it!

Reply to  Deborah OConnor
3 February 2022 3:37 pm

I agree with your presentation, Deborah, but you are also describing the existing Golden Plough Lodge to a great extent: a large complex with common areas and kitchens and individual sleeping areas and semi-private bathrooms, and yet The County is going to tear it down later this year.

It’s already up and running, in good condition for the purpose, and It would be especially suitable for the young and seniors or pre-seniors in need of basic housing and a sense of community, but they’re going to tear it down.

Why not use the money that would be spent to tear down and dispose of the tonnes of material and use the funds instead to convert the whole place to a community for those in need of temporary or long-term basic housing at affordable rates.


Last edited 1 year ago by JimT
ben burd
1 February 2022 6:47 pm

Why should Cobourg taxpayers have to pay a penny for this publicly owned land? There is only one taxpayer and taxpayers before us have paid for it already.

Dave Glover
Reply to  ben burd
1 February 2022 7:41 pm

I totally agree as Taxpayers we already own this Property, why should we have to pay anything.
Our taxes built & maintained the property thru various iterations & it’s Logical that we would be the end users now. Fair Market Value is what we’ve already paid, all we’re asking for now is our Return On Investment.
We need immediate emergency Housing & geared to income housing in the County & there’s no better ready to go Turn Key opportunity’s coming our way.
Council must make the case for Transfer of Ownership with No Strings or fees attached.

Reply to  Dave Glover
1 February 2022 8:30 pm

There is no way the province will agree to that, that’s a pipe dream.

Reply to  Concerned
2 February 2022 7:17 am

Nothing ventured – nothing gained!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben burd
1 February 2022 7:51 pm

Yes, Ben, we own Brookside but Ontario’s net debt is estimated at about $400B. Maybe Brookside should be sold to developers for $40M to reduce our debt to only $399.96B.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 February 2022 7:16 am

Again Ken spouting off with the “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

“There is only one taxpayer!” – Mike Harris. Why should we have to double dip to maintain what we already own? If You want to pay off Ontario’s debt tax those who can afford it!

Reply to  ben
2 February 2022 8:35 am

Whether Mr. Strauss’ estimate is right or not, Infrastructure Ontario will do their own assessment with the help of appraisers to determine market value and I think if the average home price in Cobourg is $600k+….well, the number should be in the tens of millions, no? What our MPP did Monday, was politely just put us on notice that if we don’t act the property will be valued and put up for sale in a process that the Ford government streamlined with new legislation when they took office in 2018. He is merely positioning it all like he is doing us a big favour, like we actually have some input……Divorce lawyers around the Province do the same favours everyday and give notice to surprised spouses that they might have the ‘opportunity’ to buy their marital home for a second time—this time at a new market value. Surprise! …but, hey to show our good faith, your spouse was very efficient and has already moved out with all the furniture! Thats what we were told on Monday….There is no favour from our MPP–he took away the jobs; he offered the land to all other gov’t entities and now we have a window of time to come up with millions we don’t have. I was hoping on Monday he was going to announce a new gov’t project that was bringing 100+ jobs, but, sorry Cobourg. …The good news is that Infrastructure Ontario has over 200 similar properties on their books right now(ie) Bluewater Corrections , Millbrook Corrections etc…Maybe ours will languish on that list for awhile and give us some time…..? If a Developer emerges that wants to pay market value, I think we know how many single family dwellings he/she will need to put on the property to make the math work.(hundreds).… Read more »

Reply to  Dunkirk
2 February 2022 1:28 pm

Took away what jobs? There were people at Brookside running an expensive, empty facility at taxpayer expensive. The province did the right thing. If a facility is redundant is has to be closed

Reply to  Jeffy
3 February 2022 12:15 pm

Jeffy–I do not disagree with the closure of Brookside. A year later, what is the benefit to our community? Our MPP says that now we have an ‘opportunity’?……that is the same opportunity my 12 year old has to buy his parents house right now.
I guess the point is—there was no post-closure plan. Trying to posture, a year later, like we are in receipt of a gift from the Province is a little rich, no?

Reply to  Dunkirk
3 February 2022 7:24 am

Dunkirk, I read this part “Maybe as a Town, we should just try and take the parcel facing King Street E and the Strathmore Building…” after I wrote a comment below. I think this is a reasonable option worth looking into.

Reply to  Kevin
3 February 2022 12:17 pm

Yes, Kevin…agree.

Anne Marie Cummings
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 February 2022 12:55 pm

Brookside is not worth anywhere near $40M

Ken Strauss
1 February 2022 5:43 pm

So what is fair market value? I’ve seen various estimates for the exact size of the Brookside property but Valerie MacDonald (http://www.cobourgnow.com/?p=17876) says 32 acres with some of it being flood plain hazard or perhaps 20 acres buildable with the rest parkland. In the new Cedar Shores development on King Street West, lots without any lake frontage are selling for slightly over $2M/acre ($569K for about 0.27 acres). That means $40M might be a reasonable “fair market value” or about $4,000 for every Cobourg family.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
3 February 2022 7:18 am

Will that $4,000 be payable over 20+ years like a mortgage? That is just the property right? The cost to build something, like housing would add to that. Maybe the property could be split up with the majority going to a private developer and the historical buildings being used for other purposes. This way local taxpayers are not coving all the expenses and we could still get art space if that is what taxpayers want.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Kevin
3 February 2022 8:56 am

Sure, the $40M (or whatever is the right number) could be repaid as a 20+ year loan. However, there would be interest charges so the total to be repaid would be far more than $4000 per family. An “art space” would require extensive and costly renovations to the existing buildings together with additional money every year for staff, heating, cooling and maintenance.

Consider the CCC for comparison. The CCC cost about $27M in 2011 but various government grants reduced the direct cost to Cobourg’s taxpayers. Operating costs are now considerably over $1M every year in excess of fees charged. The CCC mortgage won’t be repaid until the 2030s. There is no reason to think that Brookside would cost less.

1 February 2022 3:38 pm

So…fair market value. What’s everyone willing to pay to have the town own this property? Nice deal on the part of the province. I’m sure they will want several million and do we want to spend that?

1 February 2022 2:27 pm

I once read an NYT article on why politicians resort to gathering an audience & stating the obvious. To paraphrase, they appeal to the obvious as a last ditch effort, after months of uncertainty, where we are further than ever from clarity.
Does everyone feel better about Brookside now?