New medical centre set for Windsor’s west end

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Windsor Star/Alex Brockman

Two local entrepreneurs have found a solution for vacant buildings in Windsor’s west end, while adding much-needed health services in the community.

Van Niforos and George Sofos announced Tuesday they’re planning a 60,000-square-foot medical centre in the 1100 block of University Avenue West, with six physicians already committed to moving their practices there when the facility opens next spring.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” Niforos said. “We’ve been working at this for a long, long time and we’ve invested a ton of money already. The timing is perfect. It’s the right project, the right spot at the right time.”

Niforos said this will be one of the biggest medical facilities in Windsor and Essex County with a focus on family practices, urgent care and diagnostics. He pointed out there are few primary care options for residents living in that area but the new centre will bring them access to a pharmacy, physiotherapist and lab.

“We had the restaurant, but the buildings beside it were empty. It was pointed out that a clinic was a must in that area. There are 40,000 to 50,000 people in the area. It’s very underserved,” Niforos said.

City Coun. John Elliott was on hand at Tuesday’s announcement and said he’s fully on board with bringing this project to life, hoping it will further bolster that area of the city with a medical centre residents need.

“You can’t have enough health care in the city, especially with our aging population,” he said.

Next door, the pair will complete restorations to the historic streetcar building, bringing a Penalty Box restaurant to the west end. Both projects will use the historic vacant buildings already on site.

Architects’ drawings of the development show an ambitious project, with glass walls, an outdoor patio on the second floor and most importantly — parking space.

“I was particular to the free-parking aspect, because that’s always an issue with people,” Elliott said. “Sometimes people can’t afford it as readily as others, so I was particularly happy to hear about it.

“That whole corridor (along University Avenue), for a long time it’s needed some help,”  he said. “There are a lot of empty buildings, there’s so much potential. One thing I’ve always talked about is it being a major thoroughfare as far as a business section.”

This particular area of the city’s west end has long been the focus of city councillors and developers. Before Tuesday’s announcement little has materialized — apart from the reopening of the grocery store on Crawford Avenue. Elliott said these types of projects could help turn things around.

“Some good things are coming. Little things at a time, a building here, a business over there. I think we’re on a comeback down on the west end,” Elliott said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve turned a corner yet, but incrementally, we get a grocery store, now a health-care centre and that attracts business.”

There’s still lots to do before work can start though. Niforos and his partners still need to apply for all their building permits and go through the city’s planning department to get approval.

John Revell, Windsor’s chief building official, said he hasn’t heard from Niforos yet but he doesn’t anticipate any problems with this project going forward.

“A medical centre is a good use for that area of the city and a good use for those buildings,” he said.

Niforos has been trying to develop this property for years. In 2013 he began setting up an urban garden and greenhouse to support his restaurant and in 2012 he approached city council with a plan to open a museum on the site.

While both projects fell through, he said he’s certain the medical centre will succeed.

“I know we’ve been there before where we thought we had something going on. I know it didn’t come to fruition, but that’s what has made this day so emotional,” Niforos said. “The doctors have committed and signed on, there’s no stopping us.”