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Friday, April 15, 2016

One Riverside Drive quietly sells to developers with a plan

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson

One of Windsor’s most prominent buildings, One Riverside Drive, has been sold to a Toronto-based company expanding its presence in the city.

The company, Europro Real Estate, has been investing in Windsor since 2006, though it keeps a low profile. Europro bought the building that houses Chrysler Canada last month for almost $32.3 million, according to land registry information.

“One Riverside Drive is an outstanding building that anchors the downtown and is a recognizable landmark on the Windsor skyline,” Europro spokesperson Nelly Horovitz said in an email to the Star. “We believe that it will continue to benefit from the resurgence of the downtown in the years to come.”

Horovitz said Europro already has ideas for the property, noting that the University of Windsor’s pending downtown expansion should help, though she wouldn’t elaborate.

“We will have more to say on this in the weeks ahead but we have a number of plans in the works for the building,” she said. “In particular, we are focused on the ground floor retail fronting Pitt Street as it offers a key opportunity for a prominent retail/entertainment use.”

The ground floor has more than 20,000 square feet of space with 18-foot ceilings.

“We have been investing in Windsor since 2006 and it has been a positive experience,” she said, noting that Europro plans to continue doing business in the city. “Windsor has its cycles and unique challenges but the city sports a resilience and a comeback spirit.”

Europro bought the building from Dundeal, which had purchased it in 2012 for $33.2 million from Windsor Asset Management, which in turn had paid $47.7 million for the property in 2004.

But Bob Peters, a local real estate agent for almost 30 years, said a dropping price is not uncommon for an office building as it gets closer to the end of a lease for a major tenant, such as Chrysler Canada.

“When you have a main tenant with 20 years left on a lease, that’s worth something,” Peters said. “But it’s worth less when it gets close to the end of the lease.”

Besides One Riverside Drive, Europro recently bought the 300 Ouellette Avenue building, which formerly housed the Palace Cinemas and is now home to the Windsor Star and other businesses. The company also has interests in other Windsor properties.

Europro’s Horovitz said the improving picture in manufacturing and employment numbers and the low dollar show there’s a strong tailwind supporting Windsor’s recent upturn. “There is a general sense that Windsor is emerging from the trough healthier and stronger with businesses feeling more optimistic about the future,” Horovitz said.

The 14-storey One Riverside Drive building was built in 2002 by Canderel, the Montreal-based development company. Though the silver-grey building is still Windsor’s newest office tower with a prime downtown location at Riverside Drive and Ouellette Avenue, it turned out much smaller than originally proposed. The concept — that led to the demolition of the former Norwich Block, then the oldest mercantile block in the city — was originally pitched as 32 storeys.

As part of the deal to construct the building and keep Chrysler Canada’s headquarters in town, the City of Windsor agreed to lease 14,000 square feet on the third and fourth floors for an average of $24.28 per square foot. The city’s 20-year lease runs until 2022.

The city has since offered some of the space for as low as $7 per square foot.

Some of the primary tenants in the building currently include The Keg restaurant, which reopened this week after a $1.8-million renovation, National Bank, Investors Group, and the legal firm Greg Monforton and Partners.

Mayor Drew Dilkens feels hopeful that One Riverside Drive will flourish.

“I have met with the building’s new owners and I know what they’re trying to do and I’m pretty excited about the plans they have for the building,” he said. “Hopefully it will come to fruition. I think it will be of community interest.”

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