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Ontario to sell ag ministry headquarters

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ head office in Guelph may soon have a new landlord.

The provincial government on Friday announced the OMAFRA headquarters at 1 Stone Rd. W. will be one of eight buildings it sells to the private sector next year, only to lease back the office space that provincial staff now occupy.

"Ontarians look to their government to provide services, not to be a landlord," the province said in a release. "The private sector can manage office space much better and at a lower cost."

The 16-year-old Stone Road building houses the head office of Agricorp, among other agriculture staff. The property, surrounded by the University of Guelph campus, also includes the province’s Laboratory Services Centre and its Central Milk Testing Laboratory.

Infrastructure Ontario plans to sell and then lease back the eight buildings in the 2013-14 fiscal year through an "open, fair and competitive process," the province said.

Overall, the province said, this initiative could raise "upward of $500 million" in revenue for the province and generate "additional net savings" of almost $300 million over the next 25 to 30 years.

The other seven provincial buildings to be sold and leased back in this process include 222 Jarvis St. in Toronto; 189 Red River Rd. in Thunder Bay; 159 Cedar St. in Sudbury; 200 First Ave. W. in North Bay; the Michael Starr Building at 33 King St. in Oshawa; Robinson Place at 300 Water St. in Peterborough; and Garden City Tower at 301 St. Paul St. in St. Catharines.

Friday’s announcement follows the province’s decision last month to sell the 68-year-old Toronto headquarters of its Crown liquor marketer, LCBO, at 55 Lake Shore Blvd. E. and build a new office elsewhere.

The LCBO property was described at the time as "some of the most valuable, under-developed real estate in Canada."

"By looking at new ways to manage our real estate, we have the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars while protecting jobs and public services," Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli said in Friday’s release.

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