Once upon a time, the Imico site at Beverley and Stevenson streets in Guelph was a thriving foundry, employing more than 200 people.

During the 1990s, Brothers Walter Tucker and Michael Baldasaro took control of the property and turned it into the headquarters for the Church of the Universe, which claims marijuana as a sacrament has attempted unsuccessfully to gain exemptions from Canada’s laws governing its use.

After the church found itself behind in paying taxes, the City of Guelph took control of the property in 1998.

Since then, city officials estimate they’ve spent $2.7 million on demolition, cleanup and maintenance at the site as it’s turned into one of the city’s most notable brownfields – which Peter Cartwright, the city’s general manager of economic development, says contained “quite a few” contaminants when the city took control.

Monday night, councillors voted to spend $75,000 to retain a real estate consultant to help market the property to interested buyers.

“We’re hopeful that we’re going to get exposure throughout Canada and the United States,” Cartwright says.

While previous efforts by the city to divest itself of the Imico site have fallen flat, Cartwright says that may be because those efforts came with specific uses for the site attached.

“This time around, we’re asking the market to come to us and tell us what the developers think they can do with the property,” he says.

The city is still hoping for a mix of residential and commercial development on the 13-acre site, but Cartwright says officials will be more open to other suggestions.

City crews may also take the lead in continuing to clean up the remaining contaminants left behind from the property’s days of producing iron castings for automakers, railroads and other industrial buyers – the cost of which has been estimated as high as $9 million.