New push to sell former City Beer Market, Chatham Street Grill buildings
The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson
For Sale signs have appeared on the former Beer Market and Chatham Street Grill buildings, whose commercial spaces have sat vacant for between four and eight years.
The Windsor Family Credit Union, which controls the properties after the previous owners defaulted on their mortgages, recently put up large For Sale signs that link to a new website called BuyThisBuilding.ca.
Though the buildings have been for sale the whole time — the City Beer Market closed in 2013 while the Chatham Street Grill stopped operating in 2009 — the signs and website are part of a new marketing initiative associated with WFCU Real Estate, which started last year. One of the company’s first deals was acquiring 25 per cent of One Riverside Drive.
“It’s something new we’re enacting for all of our properties, not just the downtown properties,” WFCU president Eddie Francis said Thursday. “Last year, with the investment we made in One Riverside Drive, we formed a new corporation, WFCU Real Estate. It has now provided us an opportunity to set up physical marketing and Internet marketing of our properties.”
Francis noted that while the commercial spaces at the bottom of the Chatham Street West buildings remain empty, all 21 apartments on the floors above are rented — which they weren’t before the WFCU took over.
Francis would not say, however, what the asking prices are for the properties.
“We’re inviting people to contact us and we’ll get into those discussions with interested parties,” he said.
But he did say the buildings could be sold separately or as a pair.
“We are introducing a significant amount of new initiatives at WFCU,” Francis said. “We have new lines of business.”
Over the last year or so, WFCU has expanded a number of ways: real estate, payday loans, foreign exchange, U.S. credit cards, quick loans, and Omnia Direct, an “online branch” that offers WFCU services to people outside Windsor and Essex County.
“We are expanding,” Francis said. “And we’re happy with the response.”
Francis said the difference between WFCU and a bank is that when the credit union does well it offers more interest, services and dividends to its members. Plus, he said WFCU has invested heavily in the community, with naming rights, scholarships and more.
The new real estate marketing is one element of trying to fare even better.
Larry Horwitz, chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, is glad that For Sale signs have finally gone up on the two formerly happening buildings. The Beer Market was most famous as Cadillac Jack’s and before that Fiddler’s, while the Chatham Street Grill was previously best known as the Bastille French restaurant.
“It’s something we have been hoping for, and the merchants in the area have been hoping for,” Horwitz said. “It’s important. Chatham is such a pedestrian-friendly area downtown and it has been neglected somewhat.”
Horwitz thinks the extra marketing push is indicative of more movement on Chatham Street, once one of the busiest strips downtown.
“It’s a very positive step forward,” Horwitz said. “This signals a rebirth of that area of Chatham Street, so I’m excited about it.”