Two Amherstburg midtown developments opening this year February 2 2024

Amherstburg’s midtown is developing quickly with two major residential developments coming on stream this year. The first is St. John’s Apartments on the site of the old St. Jean Baptiste school at the corner of Brock and Richmond streets, and right beside St. John the Baptist church. The next is the St. Anthony Lofts, the former St. Anthony School but better known as the House of Shalom, bookmarking the other side. Fifteen lofts will be for sale there. The first floor of St. John’s Apartments will be available for move in April 1st, says Jones Realty property manager Mackie Jones. A well-attended open house took place last Sunday and another is coming up this Sunday. The four storey 75 unit building features high end finishes for the two bedroom, two bathroom units. A sample 1,040 sq. ft. apartment is listed at $2,365/mo. Jones said the building, being completed by Rosati Construction, features a classic gray stone exterior. “We had it match the Lofts so it complements the House of Shalom building,” she said. The market is retired people and those moving into the area because of the boom in the local economy exemplified by the EV battery plant and spinoff industries. The Lofts are more focussed on young professionals. They take advantage of the building’s old-world charm “complete with the original exposed brick and stonework and soaring windows,” according to a sales brochure. A two bedroom, two bath has just under 1200 sq. ft. The school was originally built in 1910 with an addition in 1930. An advertised unit price is $739,888. Jones said her Amherstburg based firm is planning another condo building behind the Lofts, construction expected to start before the end of the year.

Iconic Detroit hospital and infamous Detroit ruin set for transformations January 19 2024

Windsorites may be familiar with two iconic and historic Detroit buildings as they navigate their way around the Motor City. Both have been there for a century, in various states of use or disrepair, and are undergoing major transformations. The first is Henry Ford Hospital. The three block long red brick stately hospital building -

where multitudes of Canadian nurses have worked – will be “reimagined” in a new hospital complex that will start being built this spring. A new 20-storey patient tower and base containing ER and OR facilities (photo) will be built immediately across West Grand Blvd. This will front a medical research campus incorporating support buildings, a new energy hub, parking structure and green space to create a “campus like” feel, said Henry Ford vice president Jerry Darby. This will continue east on the other side of the Lodge Freeway where the hospital will expand joint operations with Michigan State University and the Detroit Pistons, including a new seven story research facility and a commercial and residential complex spearheaded by the Pistons. The hospital and NBA team already operate the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center. “They are certainly integrated into the community and part of what they’re doing is to continue that goal,” Darby said of the Pistons. As for the old hospital, opened in 1915, it will continue to play a major role but as an ambulatory and in-patient center, as opposed to acute. Meanwhile, at the of I-75 and I-94 interchange, the hulking ruin of the old Fisher Body plant, decades dormant, will soon be transformed into Fisher 21 Lofts, a reimagined residential and retail building. Proposed uses include a ground-level market and food hall, café, second-floor co-working space, internal courtyard and atrium, fitness center and rooftop terrace. The building was originally opened in 1919.

Photos: Henry Ford Health, City of Detroit

Solcz withdraws app to convert building January 5 2024

The applicant for a high-profile office building at 1500 Ouellette Ave. is requesting withdrawal of an application to convert the corner address to a residential and condo complex. The application originally was made to the city’s development committee last summer. No reasons are given for the withdrawal. The four-storey building at the corner of Ouellette Ave. and Shepherd St. has housed lawyer offices, including that of former Windsor Mayor Michael Hurst. The applicant, the Ryan Michael Solcz Prof. Corp. (Solcz Law is also located in the building) wanted to convert the early 1990s structure to 10 condos on the top two floors, two commercial units on floors below – same as current layout - along with maintaining more than 50 surface and underground parking spaces. The owner is an Ontario numbered company in care of Michael Cervi. City planning staff were recommending the change subject to a laundry list of conditions including parking, accessibility, and signage. The police had identified several “safety and security deficiencies” including more secure garage doors, shortening the time doors stay open to prevent “unauthorized individuals” gaining access and securing the east side along Dufferin Place which “exhibits signs of trespassing and loitering.” A parking sign was “covered in graffiti” indicating “disorder that reduces feelings of safety.” Handicapped accessibility also needed to be upgraded with at least two barrier-free entrances including power doors and ramps.

Photo: Google Street View

MacLeod joins Realty ONE Group and brings brokerage into downtown Dec 8 2023

The chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association has a new real estate brokerage and, naturally enough, moved his office into downtown Windsor. “We are huge downtown supporters, and we want to be part of the revitalization of our downtown core,” Chris MacLeod says. “We really believe that as a business we can make a difference in our community beyond our business operations by where we choose to locate our office.” MacLeod and partner Rob Mathers in fact are part of the group that redeveloped the former Don Cherry’s property at 531 Pelissier St. into one of the core’s first contemporary luxury apartment buildings, the 24-unit The Hive. And that’s where the realtors have established their new office after joining the international Realty ONE Group. MacLeod has been selling real estate since 2009, first with RE/MAX before opening a boutique brokerage with Mathers in 2017 called Distinctive Homes & Real Estate Ltd. in Tecumseh. They grew the business from two to 10 agents and then started to look to the future. Choosing Realty ONE Group fit to a T. “We recognized that if we wanted to grow we could either spend ten million dollars and 10 years to develop all the tools, technology, branding and training that agents need or we could look for a partner who brought this to the table,” MacLeod said. Essentially Realty ONE Group aligned with their values such as “community involvement and charity, a commission structure that recognizes the value of every team member, a belief that everyone matters, and everyone has a voice.” Indeed, a look at Realty ONE Group’s website finds the celebration of an upbeat, familial, indeed “cool” culture with an outlook to community and giving back. For example, “We value being together and having fun,” “We value our communities and vow to make an impact across the globe.” All within a professional growth culture using latest technology, marketing and proprietary education.

Local vacay rental company specializes in higher end north shore properties Nov 19 2023

Essex County-based Dream BNB Hospitality is a high-end vacation home property management company that specializes in renting "boutique" or higher end homes, largely along the Lake Erie shore. The company, owned by Paul Medeiros and Rui Arruda, has about 50 properties mainly in the Kingsville, Colchester and Leamington areas as well in Muskoka. They have 30 properties along Pt. Pelee Drive alone. Medeiros says the company sells vacation “experiences” – properties that are “not just another house on the market.” Most of the homes are owned by others who don’t live in them but have invested for short term rental properties. “Most of our clients are just investors so they are completely hands off so most of our homes are as if they were our own,” Medeiros says. Medeiros and Arruda’s company takes care of everything, from listings, photos and social media promotion to cleaning and property maintenance. They also sell “experiences” not connected to housing like canoeing, water crafts and winery tours. But based on their inventory “in Essex County we have more rooms for rent than any hotel,” Medeiros says. They also are connected to numerous platforms like Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonboy, VRBO and the Expedia Partner group. “So, we’re probably your largest partnered revenue channel management company in the area, maybe even southwestern Ontario,” Medeiros says. For the right property the return on investment can be lucrative. Medeiros said one client made $30,000 per month over the summer. This was for a Ruthven property with pool, hot tub with a Lake Erie view. Anyone can contact the company if they want to list their house and the firm will do a property evaluation before deciding if it meets listing criteria. Medeiros says most people renting the homes are from the GTA and Michigan and during birding season “we get people from all over the world.”

Former tourist centre could be home to four storey residential complex Nov 3 2023

The former Ontario tourist bureau on Huron Church Rd., now a local taxi company depot, could see an additional use as a combined residential and commercial plaza. Joe Passa Associates, a long time Windsor architectural firm whose projects include The Great Canadian Flag on the riverfront, Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop and the Greenwood Centre business park along EC Row, is proposing a four storey 37-unit residential building, a single story building as a repair garage and 51 parking spaces, 14 spaces for commercial use and two loading spaces. The current commercial use will remain. The lot area is almost 45,000 sq. ft. The property is across the street from University of Windsor Alumni Field and Assumption College Catholic High School along with Catholic school board offices. Other residential and commercial uses are nearby. The proposal goes before the city’s development and planning committee next week. A city report says the proposal will “create a diverse neighbourhood that represents an environmentally sustainable development and that will provide housing that is in demand.” Additional residential will “create a pedestrian orientated cluster of residential, commercial and employment uses.” Besides immediate access to Huron Church Rd. and proximity it the Ambassador Bridge Transit Windsor’s route 3 has several stops within 400 metres.

Photo: Google Street View

Meet Windsor's first "sustainable" hood October 18 2023

Get ready for Windsor’s first sustainable neighbhourhood. The city’s newest acquired lands in Sandwich South (actually acquired 2002) including future home of the new regional hospital and just east of Windsor airport, are earmarked to be a “net zero neighbourhood.” It’s part of the city’s so-called Community Energy Plan with a goal to reduce greenhouse emissions and per capita energy consumption by 40 per cent of 2014 levels by 2041. Net zero neighbourhoods “create as much energy in a typical year as they consume,” a City of Windsor pamphlet about the SNAP (Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan) says. The Sandwich South 2600 hectares (6400 acres) “represents the largest greenfield development area in the City” and with a ”blank slate there is high potential and opportunity for development of Net-Zero (or near-zero) neighbourhoods.” The city is studying the matter with hired consultants and is currently conducting an online survey on how people feel about this and what they would suggest to get to net zero. Among targets: energy and emissions, water, wastewater and stormwater management, waste management, economic development, 25 per cent active (non-motorized) transportation and “increased affordable housing units for indigenous peoples (and) mitigation of energy poverty.” The findings should also “help inform” the city’s overall official plan. The land runs east of the airport and is bordered on the north by County Rd. 42 and south by Hwy. 401. But a “core focus area” is smaller and borders Rd. 42. Katrina Richters, who heads the city’s Environmental Sustainability & Climate Change office, declined further comment as she doesn’t “want to influence the results of the public survey and our upcoming stakeholder workshop.”

Image: City of Windsor

New ‘shared equity’ companies can help with that tough house downpayment October 3 2023

As house prices get more expensive and younger Canadians fear they won’t be able to enter the housing market alternative financing models are starting to pop up. These go by names like co-ownership and shared-equity mortgages. Toronto-based Ourboro, for example, offers to share the cost of a downpayment. But there’s a catch. The provider would also get the same percentage of proceeds from the eventual resale value of the home. For example, if Ourboro pays 60 per cent it will get 60 per cent upon the sale’s increased sale value. As well, the homeowner, who put down 40 per cent, will now have to pay the remaining amount through a mortgage. The homebuyer would also have to pay taxes, closing costs and the regular maintenance that comes with ownership. Ourboro just makes the upfront payment and stays hands off for the remainder of the mortgage or until resale. Another company, Lotly, provides at least 15 per cent of a house's down payment and the homeowner as little as five per cent plus other purchasing costs. The homeowner can then buy the company out through sale or refinancing. “Lotly gets back our initial contribution plus our share of the home’s appreciation,” the company says. “We only make money if you do, i.e., when the home has increased in value.” Jason Heath, managing director of Objective Financial Partners, told Financial Post that prospective buyers should proceed slowly. “If you’re paying 100 per cent of the renovations to your home, but you’re sharing some of the appreciation and the home value with somebody else, I think that’s something that I would be cautious of." Meanwhile Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) has a similar downpayment plan, offering to purchase five to 10 per cent. But few people have taken the Crown agency up on it – only 20,000 in the last four years when CMHC had projected 100,000 in the first three. Analyst Robert Mclister said all these programs haven’t taken off because few people know about them and there are few prime lenders who’ve bought into the concept. But that could change as the market becomes more competitive and providers take a smaller percentage of gains.

Apts snapped up in no time for first major Aburg rental complex in decades Sept. 20 2023

It’s a testament to Amherstburg’s aging population and underserviced rental market that apartments at Piroli Group Development’s River’s Edge apartments have almost leased out in no time. Construction began on the first 114 unit building on Front Rd. just north of the main town site in June of last year. Only months later more than half had been signed for. Today 92 per cent of apartments have been rented. “We had a really strong interest from the local community and units have rented exceptionally quickly, we're down to our last nine units which puts us at 92% rented,” sales manager Danielle Grenier said. And this summer ground was broken on the second building, immediately north, “a near identical replica,” Grenier said. Who are the renters? “Tenants are primarily retirees who are local to the area, or who are moving back to the area,” she said. The first building opens Oct. 1 and the second is scheduled for Oct. 1 next year. Rents range from $1400 to $3100 depending on apartment size and views. “As you can expect units with river views garner higher rental prices,” Grenier said. The development also dramatically changes the entrance to the town, located across the street from the Detroit River. It's also near to what at one time was the General Chemical plant. An environmental assessment was completed for a buffer between the two sites, the second now owned by Amherstburg Land Holdings; the plant has long been demolished and site cleaned up. For River’s Edge tenants all utilities are included as well as washers and dryers and granite countertops. There’s even a golf simulator room. The buildings are also across the road from the Amherstburg Yacht Club. Owner Rob Piroli told WON last year the investment adds a “much needed” niche to Amherstburg’s housing stock. Grenier said the quick rentals show the town “needed additional rental units to serve its population.”

Riverside Dr. residential tower would conform to next door Ford power plant Sept. 5 2023

A 12-storey, 84-unit residential building would both fill a log vacant space (photo) on Riverside Dr. E. and represent a transition between industry on the west (the Ford power and East Windsor Cogeneration plants) and high rise residential to the east. The one-third acre site is an irregular shape between Belleview Ave. and Pratt Place. Called Riverside Horizons it’s being developed by Wing On Li. Interestingly, the “design aesthetic,” according to a report, is drawn from the Ford Powerhouse – red brick, fenestration (windows) and other architectural details. “The intent is to incorporate a similar brick style which is complimentary to The Ford Powerhouse, a neighbouring heritage building to the west,” says the developer’s consultant, Dillon. The tower would have 77 apartments and there would also be five two-storey townhomes on the ground floor along Riverside Dr. and two one-storey similar homes on Pratt Place, also complementing nearby existing houses. There would also be three floors of parking behind the townhomes with nine storeys of residences above. Driveways would be from Belleview and Pratt Place. Apartments would primarily face north and “limited” south facing windows and no balconies “which protects the privacy for adjacent” residential properties. The black “mullions” (window divisions) of the power plant will also be used. City planner Jim Abbs says the building helps create housing that is “in demand” and encourages a “pedestrian orientated cluster of residential, commercial and employment uses.” The project still needs development committee and city council approval.

Photo: Google Street View

Detroit's Northland Mall being converted into a "city within a city" August 17 2023

It was the first regional shopping center in the world when it opened in 1954. Northland Center in Southfield, one of Detroit’s first suburbs on its northwest border, became a magnate for retail experts who flew in from all over the world to marvel as this new type of shopping complex. Developed by JL Hudson Co., which until that time had operated the third biggest department store in the world in downtown Detroit, it was a first attempt to corral the growing suburban shopper in post-war America. “There was really nothing like it, it was worldwide news when it opened,” Detroit architect and author Bruce Kopytek said. The outdoor shopping center, anchored by Hudson’s, was eventually enclosed into a mall and went bankrupt and became derelict, closing in 2015. Now the 160 acre site is being revitalized into Northland City Center, a “city within a city” that will feature 14 five-story apartment buildings and the conversion of the former three storey Hudson’s building into an upscale “marketplace” featuring boutiques and food vendors. Kopytek, with Contour Companies - and author of a 550-page book on the history of Hudson's - is the project's lead architect. As many as 1500 apartments will be built and some 2500 people are expected to live in the village, with pocket parks, walking trails and a town square atmosphere with upscale restos and a multiplex cinema. Interestingly, the concept will return Northland to what was original architect Victor Gruen’s “original vision back in place,” Kopytek said. A boutique hotel may open on top of the signature red brick clad Hudson’s building, which replaced the Norman Brick in the mammoth 25-storey downtown store. “The aesthetic goal is to make the (one time) shopping center area look very much like it did in 1954,” Kopytek said. “The only thing we've toned down is anything that was not original to Gruen's vision,” Kopytek said.

Two south Windsor projects add pizzazz August 3 2023

Two interesting developments appear to be coming to Howard Avenue in south Windsor, one a striking four-storey mixed use building at the corner of Howard and Cabana, the other dozens of townhouse-style contemporary homes north off of Howard. Dior Homes is proposing the 18
-unit residential complex with a business office with 20 parking spaces. The southwest corner is surrounded by commercial, residential and institutional buildings including Roseland public school. Immediately across the street is Windsor Beauty Supply and diagonally across is a Rexall pharmacy. The lot has long been vacant. Businesses immediately south, including Nails & Co., will remain. City staff endorsed the project because it promotes “efficient use” of the space. And though residential buildings in the neighbourhood historically has been one or two storeys, this proposal is compatible with a four-storey mixed use being built just north on Howard. The project would “further promote a mix in housing types/options” in the area, says staff. Meanwhile, further north along Howard, on its west side, another project would see 14 buildings of two-storey adjoined housing at three addresses (10 with four units and three with eight) for a total of 64 homes. Vehicle access from one driveway off busy Howard, which raised no flags – “no anticipated traffic concerns” - would lead to the site. The proponent is Vitti Construction Ltd. The surrounding area is residential but the Cabana-Howard commercial intersection is south and Devonshire Mall and related commercial to the north. The city says the project supports “intensification and expands the range of dwelling types” in the area and “addresses the need for the city to provide ‘missing middle’ residential development.” Senior planner Adam Szymczak said the city’s development committee approved the project (as it did the Dior one) with a proviso during site plan review to “consider improving pedestrian connectivity within the development.” City Council will ultimately approve.

Images: City of Windsor

Another Detroit rebirth: Michigan Central's once desolate Roosevelt Park July 24 2023

Windsorites are familiar with the great hulking – and one time rotting - 18 storey building that greeted them as they cross the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit. The old Michigan Central Station, one of Detroit’s most iconic example of “ruin porn,” was purchased by Ford Motor Co. in 2018 and is about to reopen as a massive $90 million renovated automobility research hub. Immediately in front of it was another large equally underutilized space, Roosevelt Park. For decades motorists would drive-by, all but ignoring yet another empty and almost forbidding public area. Not anymore. The park has just undergone a $6 million makeover, transforming it from a passive no-man’s-land to an activity hub. The City of Detroit, using federal funding, has rebuilt and enlarged the park from 9.5 to 13 acres, removing roads that crisscrossed and divided it and realigning one street around it. The park also links to the city’s Southwest Trail, which in turn links to the city’s 3.5 mile Riverwalk. The park now features an area for live musical events, a barbecue pit section, park and wall benches and swing benches. There are also “European-style” gardens. Jeff Klein, Detroit’s deputy chief of landscape architecture, said the rebuild fits nicely into “the greater picture of what’s going on up and down Michigan Avenue.” This includes two new residential developments - The Corner on the site of the former Tiger Stadium, and the Perennial Apartments, now under construction. And a couple of blocks further east is the new upscale The Godfrey hotel, opening this summer. Roosevelt Park also helps stitch together the city’s historic Corktown neighborhood to the east and Mexicantown to the west. “There’s a ton of walkways and a lot of connectivity,” Klein said. Besides horticultural gardens the city has planted numerous cherry trees. “I hope that we can create a cultural event at the park much like what you see in DC with their blossoms on the mall,” he said.

Image: City of Detroit

City asked to fund retro sign evoking the historic image of Drouillard Road July 10 2023

What’s the cost of a sign? More than $10,000 for a special type that will recreate a certain historic look for a new restaurant in Ford City aka Drouillard Rd. City of Windsor planning staff is recommending awarding half the cost of the retro “projecting wall sign” of the type that was commonly “supplied between 1920 to 1950,” a report says. The four-by-four feet double-sided aluminum metal neon sign would be added to the new Sawyer’s Craft Barbecue at the corner of Drouillard Rd. and Whelpton St. The applicant is well known designer and Ford City entrepreneur Shane Potvin and the money would come from the city’s civic improvements grants programs. The city can cover 50 per cent of costs up to $30,000 for façade and storefront improvements. Potvin would also receive more than $3000 to assist in city applications for street encroachment and a “sign bylaw variance” or slightly larger than permitted sign ($2395) on the building’s northwest side. Funding is not provided until all work is completed and inspected. City staff say the sign will also “help to draw interest to the intersection of Whelpton Street and Drouillard Rd. which is identified as a Neighbourhood Gateway area in the Ford City CIP (Community Improvement Plan).” Potvin would altogether receive just over $8600 in grants. A waiver is also recommended for 20 years for an ongoing encroachment fee amounting to $1860. “Owners are reluctant to pay for the installation of this type of sign,” city staff say. (The sign encroaches 0.6 metres into the street’s right-of-way.) Potvin, creative director of Potvin Design Co., is also chair of the Ford City BIA.

Image: City of Windsor

Two huge side-by-side central commercial sites up for sale June 26 2023

It’s not exactly a fire sale, instead just the opposite. Two very healthy blocks along Erie Street East are for sale in what is being considered rare property listings. One is 300 Erie St. E. where the “entire block” is for sale. That’s 8.6 acres and almost 120,000 sq. ft. of industrial and commercial space. The seller locally is Re/Max Capital Diamond Realty partnered with Toronto’s Ellington Real Estate to lure GTA buyers, who have been scooping up loads of commercial properties in Windsor over the last few years. The block offers leasing income of $933,000. Businesses include First Stop Services, document shredding company, Philip Fernandes Designs Inc., a home design firm, and the large Mental Health Connections (MHC) in a one-time Windsor Utilities building. Asking price: $13.9 million. The next big parcel for sale is right across the street to the east at 400 Erie St. This is a kind of half block, also handled by the same brokers. It’s less than one acre with 25,000 sq. ft of industrial, office and restaurant with potential investment income almost $300,000 from nine leases. Businesses include law shop Colautti Landry and Bodega Wine Bar & Cellar. Asking: $2.76 million. Local broker Tammy Williams says 300 Erie is the biggest property’s she sold. “Selling an entire block is pretty cool I think,” she said. “I’ve never done anything like this in my real estate career.” She says potential investors locally and in the GTA are kicking the tires.

Photo: Re/Max Capital Diamond Realty

Glassed-in French style cafe will bring Parisian elan to Ouellette Avenue June 12 2023

A unique 100-year-old tudor style building on the edge of downtown Windsor is being converted in part to house a “European style” glassed-in café with a patio deck. The building at 691 Ouellette Ave. was likely originally a farmhouse, according to a city report, and used to house a law office but has been vacant several years. The proponent is a numbered company associated with realtor Rhys Trenhaile. The three-storey building is distinguished by steep gabled roofs, half-timbering, a part stucco façade, arched entryway and a bay window. The conversion will have residential and “live-work” spaces. Trenhaile says the café should be a new look for Windsor but is very common overseas – think of a Parisian boulevard café. He said the café would serve a number of purposes – take up the “massive dead space” in front of the building and serve as an entryway. It would also lead to a couple of artist studios which would create ”synergy” with the café. “You can see a summer day with the big tree providing shade,” he said. “Everybody’s having a coffee, the artists can bring the artwork out.” The conversion would also create foot traffic for neighbouring bars and restaurants including one of the city’s most venerable restos next door. The building used to be home to one of Windsor’s most prominent criminal defense lawyers, Andrew Bradie, who retired a few years ago. In summer the patio will have tables and chairs but in winter the space will provide “a walk” into the glassed-in café. Trenhaile said he wouldn’t be opposed to alcohol being served in the evening with an earlier closing hour. Now he’s in the process of obtaining a building permit, after which he thinks construction will be completed in six months. “It won’t take us too long.” He declined to give a reno dollar figure.

Image: Lassaline Planning Consultants Inc.

Condos proposed in part for longtime Ouellette Ave. executive building June 29 2023

A developer is proposing to convert a longstanding executive-style office building to a combination of residences and business. The four-storey building at the corner of Ouellette Ave. and Shepherd St. used to house lawyer offices, including that of former Mayor Michael Hurst. The Ryan Michael Solcz Prof. Corp. wants to convert the early 1990s edifice to 10 condos on the top two floors, two commercial units on floors below – same as now - along with keeping more than 50 surface and underground parking spaces. The owner is an Ontario numbered company in care of Michael Cervi. City staff are recommending the change subject to a laundry list of conditions including to parking, accessibility and signage. The police have identified several “safety and security deficiencies” including more secure garage doors, shortening the time doors stay open to prevent “unauthorized individuals” gaining access and securing the east side along Dufferin Place which “exhibits signs of trespassing and loitering.” A parking sign is “covered in graffiti” indicating “disorder that reduces feelings of safety.” Moreover accessibility needs to be upgraded with at least two barrier free entrances including power doors and ramps.

Photo: Google Streetview

Aqua City inflatable waterpark would have been first in southwestern Ontario May 12 2023

The Town of Essex recently turned thumbs down a proposal for a novel waterpark off Colchester Beach, the first of its kind in southwestern Ontario. By a vote of 5-2, on third reading, council sunk the plan because of resident concerns about parking, crowds and even the scenic view. Councillors who voted in favour said it often was a simple case of NIMBY among very local residents. The proposal by budding entrepreneur Samantha Tudorica, an accounting student at St. Clair College, for “Aqua City”, would have seen a 100 by 100 sq. ft. inflatable island built between 100 and 150 feet offshore of Colchester Beach. (Photo shows a similar park elsewhere.) Customers would have swam out to the island, where there would have been a series of obstacle courses, swings, slides and trampolines. There would also have been a 10 by 10 sq. ft. pop-up tent on the shore where customers would pay, sign a waiver, and pick up their life jackets. Customers would have had to have been over five years of age and those five to 10 would have needed to be accompanied by an adult. About half the distance to the inflatable island would have been walkable. The town administration had approved the idea and there would have been no liability to the town, with Aqua City holding insurance. There would also have been no cost to Essex, and the town would have received 10 per cent of Aqua City’s proceeds. Asked about safety, also a Council concern, Tudorica said, “we have highly certified staff, multiple lifeguards.” The customer charge would have been $25 for an hour-and-a-half. Tudorica is now moving on and working with the town of Erieau on a similar idea. She said she has been “obsessed” with such an aquatic feature since travelling to one in Barrie a few years ago.

Two long vacant or underutilized properties slated for development April 25 2023

Two major blocks of land, long underdeveloped or not developed at all, are being proposed for redevelopment. One is the dormant former C. G. DeSantis School (photo) and in later years the home of Canada South Science City. Redevelopment ideas for the late 1960s era two floor building have been kicked around for some time but have not come to fruition. At one time Westroy Assets Management had pitched the building for a new long term care facility. Now King Holdings, which owns Central Park Athletics at Grand Marais and Central Ave., wants to convert the 1.5-acre site, located on the near east side between downtown and Walkerville, for residential use, according to city planning documents. Meanwhile, on the far east side in Forest Glade, at the northwest corner of Forest Glade Dr. and Meadowbrook Lane, just east of Lauzon Pkwy. and next door to the Princess Auto store, a nine storey, 172-unit tower is being proposed for the almost three-acre site. The land, which prior to 2006 was used for agriculture, has since been a landscaped grass lot. The tower would front Forest Glade Drive with surface parking for 215 cars in the rear. City Council this week passed a zoning amendment to allow multi-storey residential use on the property. The applicant is Mike Sassine of FG Residences Inc.

Photo: Google Street View

I-696 bridge, an Herb Gray Parkway design influencer, getting a makeover April 14 2023

When the $1.5 billion Herb Gray Parkway, (photo near left) built between 2011 and 2015, was being planned, a lot of concepts went into it – chief among them elongated tunnels which carry not just streets but nature trails and green spaces. One of the expressways cited as an influence was right across the river – Interstate 696 in suburban Detroit, the Walter Reuther. And three sets of bridges in particular. These are in Oak Park, originally designed some 40 years ago, and specifically widened to serve a religious community. Oak Park is the primary home of metro Detroit’s Orthodox Jews. The highway running east and west north of 8 Mile Road bisects it. Religious law prevents operating motor vehicle on the Sabbath or holy days so transportation is by foot. But synagogues, schools, kosher food stories and other venues were scattered on both sides of the highway. So a decision was made to connect them by creating the Victoria Park Plaza (photo far left) overpass - 700 ft. wide. On top of the overpass are parkettes, a playground and parking lot. Now, as a result of drainage seeping between the overpass beams, the bridge will be entirely rebuilt in 2025 at a cost of $43 US million. Instead of box girders with just inches of separation allowing water to seep through and cause dangerous icicles to form in winter hanging from the tunnel roof, new slimmer I beams will be separated six feet apart, Aaron Mattis, MDOT bridge engineer says. “So, you’re not going to see the phenomenon with the icicles forming,” caused by the freeze-thaw cycle. There could be more amenities on top of the four feet soil overlay as well, such as sidewalks and a pavilion.

Photos: Google Satellite View and the Windsor Essex Mobility Group

Next step ahead for massive four tower, 640-unit Huron Church complex March 24 2023

A massive residential complex that will fill in a long vacant field between University Shopping Centre and Assumption College high school would see four towers, one mixed-use building and possibly another two buildings. The initial four 10-storey buildings would create 640 rental apartments and eight commercial spaces. Vehicle access would be in two places from Huron Church Rd. and one from Tecumseh Rd. W. The developer is University Residential Land Corp., a company of London-based Westdell Development Corp., which has been buying up and developing existing and long dormant properties at the nexus of Huron Church Rd. and Tecumseh Rd W. This includes the existing Ambassador Shopping Centre and the new West Gate Shopping Centre immediately across the street where the new Giant Tiger store is located. News of the development was originally broken by Windsor Business newsmagazine. Westdell purchased the properties in 2020 with the aim of developing or enhancing the four intersection corners. Westdell also plans to open up University Shopping Centre to the small mall it used to be. City staff are recommending approval in a report going to the city’s development committee in early April. The two buildings furthest from Huron Churh would be constructed first. Baird Architecture & Engineering says the buildings would be “weighted towards the middle of the site” to reduce shadowing adjacent properties and to create a common park. The two buildings closest to Huron Church would be set back 30 metres from the busy street to reduce sound for tenants. The buildings would also be oriented on an east-west axis to minimize sound and “focus views away from the road traffic.”

Image: City of Windsor

EC Row Avenue closure for NextStar battery plant draws area business ire March 11 2023

The city’s development committee is recommending the closure of most of EC Row Ave East because of the construction of the NextStar EV battery plant, despite pointed complaints from area businesses. The road portion leads from Anchor Dr. to Banwell Rd., about 900 metres, and is one of two ways accessing the Twin Oaks business park, immediately west of NextStar, the other being Lauzon Pkwy. on the west. The road bisects the plant’s footprint, immediately south of the expressway (photo), on land “essential” for the plant’s construction, says a city report. The plant, a blockbuster economic development for the city, would create 2500 jobs and put Windsor at the forefront of EV battery manufacturing in North America. The road would also interfere with a future interchange proposed for Banwell at EC Row Expressway. The road has been temporarily closed since last summer. The decision also ends Transit Windsor’s Lauzon 10 bus service through the business park, which had a “low ridership.” Jamieson Laboratories said the closure would “detour our trucks significantly” and increased accidents at Lauzon could disrupt just-in-time delivery. And there is “significant” traffic backups during peak hours turning from Lauzon Pkwy. Victory Reproductive Care said NextStar construction vehicles “barrel down the road at dangerous speeds” and the Lauzon exit is “very dangerous” partly due to a hill. Trillium Machine said there is also a “cluster” of rush hour traffic at the west intersection and called the service road closure “ridiculous.” The city replied that the Lauzon intersection has less than one accident per month and there have never been blocked intersections and says it is considering extending nearby Twin Oaks Dr. with a new truck entrance. It also says its engineering department “has taken necessary steps” to limit construction truck speed and dirt.

Image: City of Windsor

City says it’s well on the way to fulfilling province’s homes request February 25 2023

The City of Windsor will indeed pledge to build 13,000 homes, as per the government of Ontario’s request. Ontario housing minster Steve Clark has asked the city to set this target as part of the province’s goal of creating 1.5 million new units in the next decade. The province has made the request to 29 “large and fast-growing” communities. No prob, says a city report. “Windsor is currently seeing a record increase in development and is working to process applications as efficiently as possible to help manage new growth and support the provincial goal of increasing housing,” it says. “Homes” in this case is everything from traditional detached, semi-detached and townhouses to additional dwellings units (ADU’s) like granny flats attached to a house or garage, as well as higher density multi-unit apartment buildings. The city says many of the province’s suggested methods to encourage housing are “already in place” such as “expediting housing in priority areas, streamlining municipal approval processes, or promoting gentle intensification.” One example is the city adding 1000 hectares for new housing in commercial areas “where it was not previously permitted.” It also waived the requirement for parking for ADU’s in older core areas. Including new buildings, adaptive re-use and upper storey conversions Windsor has already approved 457 units in downtown alone. There’s also a development charge exemption for units in older core areas. The planning department now has a digital application process for building permits and site plan control which “benefits customers.” There also is brownfield development – “potentially” 2104 units - and four Community Improvement Plan (CIP) tax incentives areas totallying 51 new units to date. And the new Sandwich South lands near the airoprt add 730 hectares for residential.

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'Pallet housing' antidote to crisis

Could “pallet housing” be the answer to the region’s homelessness woes? A community on Canada’s east coast is moving ahead with Pallet Shelter Villages, tiny houses which keep the homeless warm and dry. They can be 16 ft. by 16 ft. One in Cape Breton “will contain 30 individual shelters, washroom and laundry facilities, communal buildings (for eating and programming), and outdoor space,” according to a news release. They also can be built quickly with the first village opening by March. – 5/2/24

Detroit sets home appreciation record

Detroit residents have seen a boon in the appreciation of their homes over the past year. Properties increased a record $1.7 billion in wealth, says the City of Detroit. Every neighbourhood saw an increase with the average being 23 per cent, the largest single increase on record. Earlier this month, it was reported nationally that Detroit has surpassed Miami as the city with the highest appreciation of home values, based on an annual study by CoreLogic. “The increased home value in every neighborhood is significant as it provides greater stability not only for neighborhoods but also for the city’s financial outlook,” Chief Financial Officer Jay Rising says. – 22/1/24

Former Green Shield bldg to be converted

A three-storey modern building that was once the home of Green Shield Canada is being converted to a mixed commercial and residential complex. The building at the corner of Giles E. and McDougall St. is owned by Matt Baird of Bullet Investments Inc. A parking lot across the street is also part of the makeover for off-site parking. According to the city, Baird plans to “convert and expand” the building. The developer’s request for a CIP tax incentive goes to council this month. – 8/1/24

Photo: Google Street View

Open bidding is now an option in Ontario

As of last week people selling houses have the option of disclosing the amounts submitted by other potential buyers, or what’s called open bidding. Previously they were banned in Ontario from doing this. Some politicians have suggested open bidding is a way to reduce rampant overbidding which has been driving up house prices. But the Real Estate Council of Ontario says there is little evidence open bidding draws up prices and says in Australia there is indication it does the opposite. Sellers too can suffer. “Keep in mind that in every transaction, there’s a buyer and a seller, and that whatever you mandate for one, might be, and probably is at the detriment of the other,” registrar Joseph Richer said. - 6/12/23

Best to choose fixed over variable rate mortgages

Variable rate mortgages may look good. But a study found those who took them out in July 2021 at 1.25% paid 63 per cent more in cumulative interest as of this past September. That's compared to someone who took out a five year fixed rate mortgage at 1.99% also in July 2021. That’s a $13,200 difference, according to RatesDotCa. And monthly payments on a $500,000 loan increased by $1,199, from $1,941 in March 2022 to $2,921 this past March, a 51 per cent jump. – 20/11/23

Fraudsters "list" on facebook Marketplace

If you’re looking for real estate be aware of facebook Marketplace scams. The Daily Mail reports that fraudsters are using false identities to lure would be tenants, asking for deposits or partial payments and then disappearing. “More than 5,400 hopeful tenants have been scammed out of deposits for non-existent rental properties in the past year, according to Action Fraud.” One man paid more than $2000 CAD as a deposit then learned further “verification” was required and asked to pay an additional $3000. Marketplace has zoomed in popularity because it’s easier for owners to connect with potential tenants. That’s also made it more open to fraudsters. – 9/11/23

Reverse garbage collection? Forget it

City of Windsor staff says it would be self-defeating to reverse regular garbage and recycling days. Garbage in Windsor is collected Monday to Thursday and recycling Tuesday to Friday. Responding to a question by councillor Gary Kaschak, who though it could “get more goods into the recycle stream,” staff said it would disrupt the private collector’s contract and “consequently a significant increase in cost.” And as of August 2024 the city will no longer be responsible for recycling as producers – those who create the materials – take over. – 25/10/23

Two well known developers eye grand Belle Vue makeover

Amherstburg’s Belle Vue Estate, a white early 19th century “Palladian” mansion along the Detroit River and long dormant – but often discussed as a tourist or other attraction – may finally be redeveloped. A proposal before today’s town council meeting would see it remade into a combination hotel, spa, restaurant. gallery and event space. There would be a new 24-unit hotel and 52 semi-detached homes. The dual proponents are Amico, which has developed Boblo Island, and Kingsville’s Loop family of hospitality fame. - 10/10/23

Photo: Google Street View

Area 'megaprojects' totallying $20 billion over next 15 years

A campaign to attract skilled and unskilled trades to Windsor-Essex lists 12 “megaprojects” totalling some $20 billion over the next decade and a half. Besides the Gordie Howe bridge, NextStar Energy battery plant an acute care hospital these include the 200,000 sq. ft. Amazon Fulfillment Centre, City of Windsor Infrastructure renewal ($5 billion), LG Chem Cathode Manufacturing Plant ($2.5 billion), Highway 3 continued widening, Lakeshore wastewater plant and LaSalle’s Creekside Condominiums. – 29/9/23

Windsor announces property tax write-offs and tax relief

The city is writing off more than $117,000 in taxes, which will be refunded, because properties have declined in value or no longer exist due to events like fire or demolition. Meanwhile it is offering tax relief of more than $11,000 to five property owners. One of them is approved for relief for a second and final time. The main criteria for relief are the inability to pay taxes due to sickness or extreme poverty. There were 20 applications. – 12/9/23

More than 1000 "buy back" their former Detroit houses

More than 1000 people have “bought back” their homes through the Detroit Land Bank Authority. The program allows residents to get a deed for a house they may have grown up in, rented or are the victims of real estate or rental fraud. They pay $1000 and spend a year learning about home ownership and saving for their first tax bill. 135 people “graduated” from the program this summer, the City of Detroit says. There are 48 new participants who will graduate next year. The land bank restores blighted and vacant properties to productive use. – 29/8/23

Photo: NPR

Huge rebates on heat pumps, company says

Based on consumer research they’re becoming more popular for efficiency and environmental reasons. And now you can get as much as a $7100 government rebate if you purchase a heat pump. Heat pumps – which can look like a traditional outside AC unit or a rectangular boxes with fans on outside of houses or apartments - literally “pump” or move heat around. Heat naturally moves from a higher temperature to a lower one. Pumps captures the heat and moves it in an opposite direction. Heat pumps run on electricity. And, says Reliance Home Comfort, “since a heat pump is more efficient than a furnace at milder temperatures, it may help you reduce your energy bills too.” – 14/8/23

Two ways to save for home down payment

One way to secure a home down payment is through the First Home Savings Account (FHSA). If started at age 18 owners can contribute up to $8000 a year up to $40,000. Invested at five per cent that could max out to more than $75,000 by age 33, the average age for a typical first-time home buyer, according to BMO Nesbitt Burns. Combined with the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP), which allows up to $35,000 to be withdrawn from an RRSP, and multiplied by two people (the couple), more than $220,000 would be available for a down payment. – 25/7/23

Windsor - yet again - is forgotten in national rental statistics

We’ve always heard that Windsor, at the end of the 401, is the forgotten city. Here’s the latest example., which purports to provide rental information for major cities across the country, has simply skipped Canada’s auto capital and most important cross-border trade link. In its June survey of rents, smaller cities like Guelph, Kelowna, Kingston and Red Deer and Grande Prairie all rate in the top 35 urban area analyzed. But nowhere is Wibdsor found. But another website Zumper does provide a price: $1300 for a one bedroom. If we were part of the analysis that would make the city the 28th most expensive after Calgary ($1632) and Winnipeg ($1298) – barely. – 10/7/23

Former Windsor Star print plant now sold

The former Windsor Star plant near EC Row Expressway has been sold. CBRE’s senior VP Brook Handysides confirmed the “property is now unconditionally sold.” He could not provide more information “at this point.” The plant was put up for sale after the last edition of the hometown newspaper was published there March 3. The building was constructed in the mid-1990s as the Star’s then new suburban plant after printing was moved out of the newspaper’s former historic address at 167 Ferry St., before moving to 300 Ouellette Ave. in 2013. The Star closed that office in January. The newspaper is now printed in the GTA and trucked back to Windsor. Parent Postmedia has implemented major cuts across its news properties as legacy media outlets have seen declining revenue in the digital age. – 26/6/23

Photo: Google Street View

Interest rate rise may trigger forced sales

Last week’s unexpected quarter per cent rise in the interest rate may squeeze more homeowners yet again, with some no longer being able to afford mortgage payments. A forced sale may be the only option, says RatesDotCa. If so, determine the amount you’ll need from the sale to cover sales costs and pay off the current mortgage. Be sure to include approximately 5% of the sales price for the buying and listing agent fees, $2,000-$3,000 in legal fees and any pre-payment penalties. For fixed-rate mortgages with pre-payment penalties based on the interest rate differential, this can often cost thousands. Research prices of similar homes that have sold recently in your area to get an idea of what price you might expect. If the expected sales price is below your minimum sales price, speak to a mortgage broker to assess options. – 12/6/23

Check floodplain if buying a home

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is urging homeowners to check if they’re on a floodplain. It estimates one in 10 homes are in danger of flooding, due to “climate change,” and some “at risk of repeated flooding and more severe flood damage over the next 20 years.” Those seeking to buy in flat areas that are otherwise agricultural or lakeside should check online resources such As “floodplain maps” at “Understanding the existing environmental risks of a home, such as flood and fire, is key to understanding which insurance products are needed in place to offset those risks,” says (Map shows Essex County floodplains.) 29/5/23

Dying Boomers will create housing boom

Looking for lots of new housing? You might have to wait for Baby Boomers to start dying off. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph there will be a “total rebalancing” of the housing market with the demise of the immediate post-war generation. Boomers have tended to keep their homes longer than preceding generations. And Boomers tend to own more than one property – either a vacation cottage and/or investment rental property. In the US, the number of owner-occupiers who will relinquish properties between 2026 and 2036 will be between 13.1m and 14.6m, say researchers Dowell Myers and Patrick Simmons. “The beginning of a mass exodus looms on the horizon,” warn the economists. - 15/5/23

Tower along Detroit river first in 40 years

What in Tarnation is being built on the old Joe Louis Arena site on the Detroit riverfront? Why, it’s soon to be all glass The Residences at Water Square, being built by Detroit-based Sterling Group. The 25-storey tower is expected to be completed early in 2024. The high rise will be the first along the river since the three building triangular-shaped Riverfront Towers, just west of it, opened some 40 years ago. Sterling is also in talks with Detroit convention officials about building a 600-800 room hotel that would be connected to the Huntington Place convention centre, immediately east. – 27/4/23

Neighbourhood victim of "devastating" city planning policies

The McDougall Street Corridor Walking Tour, launched today, is a real/virtual walk down memory lane focusing on a once thriving Black Windsor district broken up by the “devastating impacts of city planning and urban renewal policies.” The tour, available at, offers videos, images, maps and documents that depict the “once vibrant, bustling” neighbourhood, just east of downtown, “traces” of which still survive. “The physical destruction of Black spaces within the McDougall Street area broke many social and familial bonds and resulted in the loss of Black land ownership and community organizing power.” – 13/4/23

Former A'burg Anderdon tavern property could be redeveloped

The long vacant property once occupied by the fondly remembered Anderdon Harbour Light Tavern in Amherstburg could finally be redeveloped. Nor-Built Construction is proposing a five-storey 28-unit condominium on the 2.3-hectare Front Rd. N., site, a couple of kilometres north of the main town itself. There could also be several semi-detached and single houses. A public meeting March 13 saw several area residents oppose the development because of concerns about traffic and residential density in an otherwise semi-rural single family home area. The tavern was demolished close to two decades ago. – 24/3/23

Greatest peak-to-trough housing price drop in 40 years

The current Canadian real estate market downturn is the largest “peak to trough” in 40 years. RBC’s latest housing report says the decline since the market began its decline a year ago has been 17 per cent (MLS average price of homes sold). This compares to minus 11 per cent in 2017-18, minus 10.8 per cent during the Great Recession of 2008-09, minus 8.1 per cent in the 1990-91 recession and minus 9.8 percent in the recession of 1981. RBC says the "sharp deterioration" in affordability since 2021 "won’t unwind quickly." – 13/3/23

Dramatic towers to transform city southern gateway

Work is progressing on three long planned residential towers at the corner of Walker Rd. and Ducharme St. in south Windsor just west of Provincial Rd. and the city’s southern gateway off Hwy. 401. The developer is Steve Habib. One of the three buildings is well under construction. The mixed-use complex will dramatically change that section of Walker Rd. with all three buildings already receiving site plan approval. There will be 224 units and seven commercial spaces in the six storey buildings. - 27/2/23

Image: City of Windsor

Foreign ban may have so-so effect locally

Windsor and Essex County may be partly affected by a little known new federal law that bans foreign ownership of real estate for two years in a bid to help solve the housing crisis. The law applies to census metropolitan areas which include Windsor and immediate municipalities but not all of Essex County or for purchases of properties like vacation homes. Exemptions include buyers with Canadian spouses and foreigners buying more than three units. – 13/2/12