One time futuristic Dearborn hotel linked to colourful Canadian figure July 16 2024

It was much heralded when it opened in the 1970s with a monorail connecting it to a shopping mall. But the futuristic and since renamed Dearborn Hyatt hotel in Dearborn, adjacent to Fairlane Town Center, has long been dormant. Its recent tangled history has a strong Canadian connection. The Hyatt brand was yanked from the building in 2012 by the parent company because of deteriorating physical conditions. It then operated as the Edward Hotel & Convention Center. Edward Gong, a Chinese national living in Canada, bought the property in 2016. Gong is a colorful character who last year ran for mayor of Toronto. He paid $20 million for the building. The following year he was arrested in Canada for alleged fraud and money-laundering, which he denied. He tried to reopen the hotel and the property was seized by US Marshals. His lawyer Joel Etienne in 2022 told the Detroit Free Press: “Before the property was restrained, Mr. Gong, a Canadian citizen, had great ambitions for his Dearborn hotel and was valiantly working towards repositioning the property to become the community jewel that it once had been. The charges were withdrawn against Mr. Gong personally, by the Ontario courts in early 2021. Mr. Gong resides in Canada as a free and innocent man.” Added Etienne, “Mr. Gong has never been notified or told what happened with the monies stemming from the proceeds of the seized U.S. properties. We did hear that there was an arrangement between Ontario and communist Chinese authorities to share the monies.” The Toronto Star reported in April that while Gong’s company ultimately was fined about $1 million and ordered to forfeit $15 million to Canada Revenue Agency all criminal charges were withdrawn, and Gong was never convicted of any offense. Meanwhile the building, now shuttered more than five years, went to a sheriff’s sale last month after current owners New York-based Rhodium Capital Advisors defaulted on the property’s 2021 mortgage. Under state law, the owners have up to six months, or until Dec. 20, to buy back and redeem the property. After it bought the building for $18.25 million Rhodium announced plans to convert it into upscale apartments.

17-unit an example of "missing middle" June 30 2024

A proposed multiunit residential building for southeast Windsor has been called “an example of a missing middle development.” This is defined as being between traditional single-family homes and large scale apartment blocks or towers. The planned development by Olivia Construction Homes Inc. (Ashraf Botros) would see a three storey, 17 unit multiple dwelling with 21 space rear parking. It’s at the corner of Turner Rd. and Moxlay Ave. in the Devonshire East neighbourhood, one blook west of Walker Rd. and a few blocks north of Division Rd. The current lot is vacant as a previous residence was torn down in 1990. The neighbourhood is marked by low rise residential and commercial businesses a block east on Walker. The “infill” complex will also take advantage of existing municipal services, “further diversifying the range and mix of residential types available in the Devonshire neighbourhood" and “avoiding unnecessary land consumption,” according to a planning report. It also is within 400 metres of two bus routes, that figure being the “acceptable walking distance to a transit stop.” No traffic issues were reported. There were no objections and one person showed up to a public meeting. Meanwhile, according to the Toronto Star, the provincial and federal governments are encouraging building more multi-unit residential buildings, including those in the “missing middle.” The general way of building "has been tall or small, and people aren’t building that missing middle typology,” according to Richard Joy, executive director of the Urban Land Institute Toronto. “California has been able to get massive amounts of that type of housing supply in areas that have parks and amenities. There is absolutely enormous potential to see redevelopment of our neighbourhoods.” Land use polices and NIMBYism (people not wanting things in their neighbourhood) has caused barriers, but a lot of those issues have been recently removed, says Joy. That’s obviously not the case with this Windsor development.

Photo: Google Street View

Caboto Club planned six storey would create 54 units of affordable housing June 13 2024

Despite neighborhood traffic concerns a city committee is recommending a rezoning change to accommodate a six storey, 54 unit building at the southwest corner of Tecumseh Rd. W. and Marentette St. bordering the existing Caboto Club parking lot. The proposal is being brought by the Caboto Club and would require the demolition of the General Paint building on Tecumseh Rd. E. and the removal of five rows or 70 parking spaces from the Club’s own parking lot. A traffic impact study is required for site plan approval. The building is being designed by Windsor’s Sfera Architectural Associates. The site would have 68 parking spaces. The rental complex will feature one- and two-bedroom apartments with private balconies. Current zoning allows for four stories and this would be increased to six. A public consultation was held last October. One Marentette St. resident, David Girard, told last month’s planning committee the building should stay at four storeys as it “better suits” the lower profile mixed use area including the Tecumseh commercial strip. He also questioned the impact on traffic generally and specifically vehicles entering and exiting on to Marentette, a side street. “This solution creates a large traffic increase in the surrounding neighbourhood,” the meeting’s minutes reported. Once built the complex would be managed by the Caboto Club under a legally separate corporation “with the intent of creating affordable rental units.” Councillor Kieran McKenzie also asked if Caboto Club patrons would use the new Marentette exit. But private consultant Tracey Pillon-Abbs said the architect “designed the concept plan to deter this traffic behaviour.”

Image: City of Windsor

Big plans for former Green Shield bldg. May 29 2023

A developer seeks to convert the one-time home of Green Shield Canada to a mixed use commercial but mainly residential building. The modern looking three storey building at the southeast corner of Giles Blvd. E and McDougall St. was vacated when Green Shield, a national insurance company born in Windsor, moved offices to the east end on Anchor Dr. besides the EC Row Expressway. Windsor-based A.E. Baird proposes to convert the site to one commercial unit and 46 apartments, revamping the exterior, and providing almost 60 parking spaces across the street in what’s now a vacant lot. While lying “outside” the downtown BIA the properties are still “within the core … referred as ‘downtown,’ says a planning report. Surrounding land contains a mix of residential, offices, retail, warehouse and industrial and auto mechanic garages. Warehouse industrial uses are to the south and the land use "transition" to commercial and residential east and north of Giles Boulevard. A public open house was held in January and three people attended and had no objections. City staff recommend approval of a zoning change to accommodate the plan, which goes before the city’s development committee next week. Green Shield is a storied Windsor company. Founded in 1957 by pharmacist Bill Wilkinson and four other pharmacists, the company created Canada’s first pre-paid drug plan. Its website says that “before establishing Green Shield (Wilkinson) witnessed a mother sacrifice her health by forgoing her own medicine to ensure she could afford a prescription for her sick daughter.” The non—profit provides drug, dental, extended health care, vision, hospital and travel benefits for groups and individuals. The company relocated more than 10 years ago leaving the contemporary building a hollow shell in the “transition” district.

Photo: Google Street View

Restoring bay windows costs big bucks May 6 2024

The historic Strathcona Building at the corner of Devonshire Rd. and Wyandotte St. E., which got a major makeover, should also be getting almost $100,000 assistance from the city. Mainly it’s to pay for the painstaking work of refurbishing the building’s iconic bay windows. The half block building, once home to Hiram Walker facilities and numerous commercial and small manufacturing tenants since, was wholly redeveloped by the Rosati Group including new homes for two of the city’s better-known restaurants – The Twisted Apron and The Grand Cantina. Constructed in 1907 and designed by renowned Detroit architect Albert Kahn, the owner is applying for heritage status, after which funding would be provided. “The Strathcona Building is an important commercial building from the times of the former Town of Walkerville,” city staff say in a report to the heritage committee. Rosati Group has purchased a number of buildings in Old Walkerville, the city’s foremost gentrified district and soon to be home to a themed Distillery Square, a nod to the area’s famed Hiram Walker distillery and its current owners. A grant of $37,000 from the Community Heritage Fund would be topped by a 30 per cent tax break for three years, amounting to just over $55,000. “Given the catalytic impact of the restoration work at the property for Walkerville’s commercial area, and the additional expense of recreating the bay windows on top of the large investments into the project, administration is comfortable with the owner’s request,” staff said. Rosati has also applied for unspecified funding under the city’s façade improvement plan. The city had encouraged Rosati to keep the bay windows but restoration “came at an increased cost.”

Photo: Rosati Group

One time industrial ruin, Michigan Central depot to reopen June 6 April 22 2024

The long dormant but now revived Michigan Central train depot will reopen June 6. The building, for many years a rotting industrial hulk that greeted motorists crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit, was purchased by Ford Motor Co. from the Maroun family that owns the bridge. Ford has poured $1 billion into renovating the 18-storey tower, designed by the same architects that designed New York’s Grand Central Terminal. But the last train to leave the station was in the late 1980s. The building is part of Ford’s new mobility innovation hub researching and designing new forms of transportation including EVs. But Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. said the building will be an “open platform” for all manner of firms working in this and related fields. This included Google parent Alphabet Inc. which will teach coding. “It'll be bigger companies working in the train station hand-in-hand with these startups,” Ford told a recent Detroit Free Press Breakfast Club talk. “This is an open platform. We want everyone to come. We don't want this to be a Ford thing.” Ford announced the campus could eventually house 5000 workers, half from the car company and half from startups and affiliates. Ford is bullish on EVs despite some recent weakening of the market including Tesla’s announcement last week to cut 10 per cent of its workforce. And Ford expects to lose up to $5.5 billion from its EV division this year, delaying $12 billion more spending on EVs. “We don’t know what the (EV) adoption curve will look like," Ford said. "One thing we know for sure is they are coming. The research shows the people that have them don’t want to go back.” There is speculation some retail, as well as a hotel, could be part of the building. Roosevelt Park, the wide expanse immediately in front of the station, got a City of Detroit $6 million makeover last year. It now has public gathering and concert areas and links to the city’s new Southwest Trail and Riverwalk.

Fourplexes can be built pretty much anywhere in Windsor - local urbanist April 1 2024

Urbanist and local architect Dorian Moore thinks fourplexes would work very well in pretty much any Windsor neighbourhood. It’s just that the idea hasn’t been given a chance. He was commenting on the city's rejection of at least $30 million in federal housing accelerator funds to create fourplexes and consequently more density and ultimately housing. Alternatively the city proposed fourplexes on certain vacant lots and along transit routes, which the feds rejected. But Moore, a longtime observer of city housing, said fourplexes could fit in almost anywhere. It’s just that modern single family neighborhoods aren't used to them and there’s little conception of contemporary architectural styles that would make them fit in. “I think that's where some of the fear of fourplexes comes from,” he says. “A lot of the examples that are in older neighbourhoods are not that great so people are concerned about having them in their neighbourhoods.” He says Windsor planners already have compatibility guidelines. If enforced, “I think you’ll start to see examples where these fourplexes can be ‘good neighbours,'” Moore said. But one excellent example of traditional fourplexes can be found along Giles Blvd. (photo) with single family homes seamlessly flowing in the rear on cross streets. "It's all about designing something that fits into the aesthetic and the scale of the neighbourhood that you’re building it in," Moore said. These could be in "specific locations” where they’ve traditionally been built, such as along “transitional” arteries or buffering neighbourhoods, not just built “willy-nilly.”

Photo: Google Street View

"Complicated" River Canard development now ready for homes March 7 2024

A “very complicated” development site is now ready to sell by County Rd. 20 at River Canard. The history of the small slice of real estate nestled on the north side of the highway bridge is fascinating. Originally the area was going to be the site of a 50-something unit midsize development. That was back in 2003. The developer was Crumblin’ Muffin - that’s right, that was the name! Then it was rezoned for seven lots. For some reason that developer didn’t want to go through with the development process and the property was transferred to various people until Jonathan Seguin got hold of it. He’s a partner in PS Holdings and a former longtime local resident, now living in Alberta. His other developments are 75 Mill St. on the waterfront for a 15 storey, 250 unit building, and a 56 unit midrise at 1567 Ouellette. He has also developed numerous smaller properties in the area as well as in Montreal, where he’s lived for the past couple of years, and now in Alberta where his business partner lives and to where Seguin moved his family last month. But he still has five local projects ongoing in the Windsor area “and I’ll likely continue to invest in the area because I know it well.” Each of the River Canard lots sells for $324,900. Seguin admits people who know the area might have been perplexed by why the site hasn't been developed up to now. But the process has been long and arduous, especially dealing with various government departments. These have included ERCA and two provincial ministries, including one that controls endangered species. "You’re looking at one to three years,” he said and noted that a fox snake study, costing up to $20,000, will take “eight to 12 months” before the ministry just reviews it. “It requires someone experienced in development” to persevere and meet government requirements; someone less experienced would give up in frustration as apparently others have. Seguin said houses can be built to varying sizes but “what’s going to affect” the size is the septic drainage field. There are also water rights but since the river is environmentally protected only floating docks can be built. The water table is also three metres below ground level and land "highly impermiable." Seguin agrees the parcel has a ‘stigma” after being undeveloped all these years but says the first house will be under construction in two months. “I think the minute the house goes up on the property, I think those lots will fly,” he said. Sales are being handled by realtor Steven Jarrouge.

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

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City considers Packard plant rehab proposals

Today was the deadline for proposals to redevelop one of Detroit’s largest historical ruins – the former Packard automobile plant, now partly demolished. The 40-acre site on East Grand Blvd. opened in 1903 and closed in 1958. The historic ruin has a colourful history, the site of numerous raves including the Spastik Party hosted by world renowned techno DJ and former LaSalle resident Richie Hawtin. It also became a site for urban explorers and graffiti artists from around the world. A Spanish investor failed to rehab the property as a kind of mixed use arts district. The city began demolition in 2022. But parts of the historic façade remain. The redevelopment marks “a significant opportunity to bring new life to a historic property and contribute to the ongoing revitalization of Detroit’s automotive industry,” Detroit Economic Growth Corp. CEO Kenyetta Hairston-Bridges said. – 12/7/24

Caldwells want in on city's plan update

The Caldwell First Nation wants more input into an update of the city’s archeological management plan as the current plan “does not reflect the full inventory of lands of archeological potential and cultural significance, placing archeological materials at risk.” This includes ancient burial mounds, trading posts, birthing places, indigenous slave houses and ceremonial sites. A band consultant told the city’s heritage committee that ground penetrating radar is also required including for “raised surfaces in a woodlot.” – 28/6/24

Bouzide proposes six storey building south of Fred's Farm Fresh

The owner of Fred’s Farm Fresh plans a six storey apartment building between his property on Huron Chuch Rd. and a small plaza hosting a car wash and other shops. Fred Bouzide proposes 58 apartments and 83 parking spaces in the now vacant land. There would be commercial on the ground floor. Road access would be via Huron Church and Daytona Ave. to the east. His planning consultant stated at last month’s city development committee that “a traffic impact study was prepared and that there will be no negative impacts on traffic volumes and sight lines along Daytona.” Tracey Pillon-Abbs added, “The proposed development is an appropriate use of an underutilized vacant property and offers a mix of uses that offers residents and consumers a new option for housing and economic activity.” The property is only a couple of blocks from another multi storey proposed for Northwood and Daytona (see May 30 story below). – 13/6/24

Photo: Google Street Views

Nix to four stories & resident doesn't like "random people"

Following on recently announced improvements for nearby South Cameron Woodlot a developer seeks to build a four storey 20 unit residential building just a few blocks away. Castle Gate Towers (the developer has been behind a major luxury condo in S Windsor) would put the building on a vacant lot one block behind Huron Church Rd. at corner of Northwood and Daytona. But the surrounding residential hood features only single and semi-detached. City staff support a maximum of three stories as four doesn’t conform with the city’s official plan. There’s considerable opposition with residents objecting to its incompatibility and already too much area traffic. One said there would be too many “random people” living there. – 30/5/24

Photo: City of Windsor

Check out this local real estate podcast

Check out The Real Connection Podcast for a distinctly Windsor take on real estate investing, selling, home renovations, maintenance and yard and garden care. Hosted by mortgage specialist Sean Santoro and David McCall, a networking specialist, the podcast airs every Tuesday at 9 am. Guests have included Monique Gignac of Deerbrook Realty, Jordan Silvester of Verge Realty and Marla Coffin of Marda (property) Management. The podcast website is – 13/5/24

Work continues on four major Windsor construction projects

What are the top construction projects taking place in the city? According to Windsor-Detroit Revitalization Networks, there’s the controversial $8.4 million Windsor Legacy Beacon Streetcar Project. Critics have called it a waste of money in a relatively minimally travelled part of the city but which the city argues will be the most utilized riverfront location. There’s also the Amazon Fulfillment Centre/ Warehouse located in the Grand Central Business Park, one time home of the Chrysler large van plant. Original plans for a 200,000 sq. ft. warehouse were increased to nearly 300,000 sq. ft. It’s expected to employ 300 full and part-time people with completion later this year. The property alone reportedly sold for just shy of $12 million. There’s the $5 billion Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions EV battery plant located at EC Rowe Expressway and Banwell Rd. And, finally, the $6.4 billion Gordie Howe Intl. Bridge. - 29/4/24

Detroit's newest skyscraper topped off

There’s a new skyscraper in downtown Detroit and it just had its construction topping-off. The building, long under construction by developer Bedrock, also finally has a name Hudson’s Detroit. That makes sense, since the two-tier building, has been built on the site of the former famed Hudson’s department store. Started in 2017 - and interrupted during Covid - it soars 685 ft. and is the second tallest building in the city. The smaller of the two buildings is 14 stores that will have retail, office and event space. The taller buildings will have residential units and a hotel. – 14/4/24

Some reconsider homes as investments

Declining resale prices have made some Canadians reconsider their homes as part of their investment strategies, a survey by RATESDOTCA and BNN Bloomberg finds. 11 per cent said they no longer view their home as a good long-term investment. 23 per cent said "their perception of their home as a good long-term investment has weakened." The vast majority, however, still are keeping their homes in their portfolios. - 9/3/24

'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