Soods prepare to break ground on brownstones, with more projects planned

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross

 

https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/soods-prepare-to-break-ground-on-brownstones-with-more-projects-planned

 

A Windsor businessman hoping to develop hundreds of housing units in the forlorn vacant industrial land between Walkerville and Ford City plans to start his first project this spring.

Walkerville Stones will be located on the Walker Road location of the burned-down Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company and will emulate the brownstone townhouses directly behind it on Monmouth Road.

“We’re going ahead, we’ll have a shovel in the ground definitely in March/April,” said Champion Products owner Ashok Sood, who has held brownfield properties in the area for upwards of 20 years and now believes they’re ripe for development.

He envisions hundreds of housing units eventually bridging the space between Walkerville and long-neglected Ford City.

Walkerville Stones, on the west side of Walker, has received all the necessary approvals and will begin with 12 units, followed by a second phase of 12 units, according to Sood’s son Amit. He said people are lined up waiting to purchase the units. They’re attracted by the idea of new housing that resembles the older housing stock that helps make Walkerville a desirable place to live.

Meanwhile, the Soods are in the preliminary stages of moving forward with residential development on 17 acres they own east of Walker, south of Edna Street, west of St. Luke Road and north of Richmond Street.

The Soods had been planning condo buildings and townhouses —  between 200 and 250 units of reasonably priced housing. But then last year came passage of the community improvement plan for Ford City, which includes the Soods’ brownfield property. It provides many financial incentives for building residential units, including up to $5,000 in grants for every unit built to a maximum of $50,000, grants that eliminate a bevy of city fees and grants that for up to 10 years give back the tax increase that happens when vacant land is turned into residential property.

A similar CIP plan in the downtown has sparked residential development largely because it saves investors millions over 10 years.

The Ford City CIP speaks to the need to develop the vacant industrial lands including the Soods’, to better connect Ford City with Walkerville.

Ashok Sood said the CIP will hopefully make it easier to develop his vacant property. He’s already accessed a separate CIP plan for brownfields that helps fund environmental studies to test for possible contamination. Now he hopes to meet with city officials to find out what kind of development on his land would best fit the plan for Ford City and what incentives are available.

“It works out really well for the community overall, because it’s a good thing to do,” he said. “Now we’re just going to look at the costs and the rents and determine if it’s going to pay for itself.”

He said the project will likely be a combination of rental and individually owned units. It’s too early to say how many units will be built. But he added: “It’s going to be large, it could be the largest of its kind.”

He said he would like to start the project later this year, but the approval process may make that difficult.

Kevin Alexander, a planner with the city who authored the Ford City CIP, said the city would like to look at any proposal that comes along for the former industrial land between Walker and St. Luke. That land — formerly occupied by big manufacturers — cuts Ford City off from Walkerville because there are few roads going west/east through it. The CIP envisions extending streets like Ontario and Whelpton from St. Luke to Walker as part of developing the land.

“That would create a huge impact and reduce that feeling that’s both physical and psychological of (Ford City) being isolated from the rest of the city,” Alexander said.

He said the city hasn’t yet received a formal application from the Soods.

“There’s opportunity for housing, there’s opportunity for other mixed uses,” he said, explaining the idea is to extend streets and create pathways, sidewalks and parks to make the area busy with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

“To travel down those roads where there’s a development rather than vacant underutilized property, where there are new roads with people down them for a purpose, makes that whole area safer over time and reconnects it with the rest of the community,” he said.

Alexander said the financial incentives in the CIP means there are substantial savings available.

“It’s really a good opportunity for someone who wants to redevelop or invest in the area.”

For more information on the project, email info@walkervillestones.com.