Detroit businessman Gilbert, Quicken Loans moving into Windsor

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello


A beloved but crumbling downtown watering hole undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover will soon be occupied by some of the brightest minds within the extensive financial empire of Detroit's Dan Gilbert.

Employees under Quicken Loans — the mortgage-based business that boosted the Michigan businessman into one of the world’s richest entrepreneurs — will set up inside the former Fish Market and Loop building.

It is the first step into Windsor for Gilbert who of late has touted this city’s advantages after leading a high-profile joint two-city bid to woo Amazon to open a new headquarters here.

There are expected to be up to 50 employees — predominantly software and engineer gurus — who will initially occupy 9,000 sq. ft. inside the two-story building located at the intersection of Chatham Street and Ferry Street.

Quicken Loans indicated it may eventually grow the space in Windsor to include up to 150 employees.

The move into Windsor by Gilbert and his mortgage company is designed to better attract top talent from Windsor, Toronto and tech centres in Waterloo in support of the mortgage company’s growing technology team, the company said.

While Quicken Loans will have employees in Windsor, there are no plans to open a mortgage business on this side of the border. The office space and employees located in Windsor are solely to support the company’s existing operations and avoid crossing the border each day.

Gilbert said this summer he learned a lot about the advantages of Windsor through the two-city bid to attract Amazon.

He expressed concern at the time that many highly qualified tech specialists with international backgrounds may have difficulty entering the U.S. given tighter border restrictions and that was a primary advantage to being located in Windsor.

It is anticipated Quicken Loans will open in Windsor next spring following completion of building renovations and conversion into office space.

The former Fish Market and Loop building — which first opened in 1912 as an auto showroom and garage — has undergone extensive renovation since purchased jointly for $1.6 million nearly a year ago by local developers Dino and Anthony Maggio, under their Mid South Land Developments Company, and owners of the Cypher Systems Group.

Early plans by the new owners tentatively called for a mix of high-end lofts on the second floor, a number of apartments on the first and second floor targeted for downtown university and college students, with commercial or office space on the main floor and a possible food establishment in the basement where the popular pub known as the Coach and Horses was located.

But the investment group’s primary focus initially was to restore the shuttered building to its original appearance.

The former blue and white facade was sandblasted away, windows fully replaced, while the inside completely stripped and redone to create a wide-open urban-style interior with exposed brick and hardwoods floors.

Gilbert’s real estate arm Bedrock launched a search in recent months for a suitable property in Windsor which eventually led them to the former Fish Market property. The company will lease the entire structure.

The city and Mayor Drew Dilkens were in on discussions, but the only incentive being provided to Quicken Loans is 75 parking spaces either inside the Goyeau Street or Pelissier Street parking garages, the mayor said.

Dilkens pointed to the success of council’s decision to launch the downtown community improvement plan as a catalyst for attracting Gilbert to the city.

“The downtown CIP led (the Maggios and Cypher System group) to buy the building, make an investment in its transformation without a tenant,” he said. “This shows their vision was right. They took advantage of our CIP, did the renovations and it led to this.”

The mayor noted how a major part of the Amazon bid was to have employees on both sides of the border so there were no immigration worries.

“This shows you can take advantage of having talent in both Canada and the U.S. and get the best of both worlds,” Dilkens said. “This is a direct play from the Amazon bid. The company we worked with has said ‘we should do that.’ It’s exciting to see this announcement.”

More to come.