Former roller rink, trolley car heritage site in West Windsor may get some new life

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

CBC Windsor



Depending on how long you've been in Windsor, it's the site of the old Junction or the hub for the old streetcar. Its history dates back to 1783, when it was a horse-drawn passenger carriage operation. For many years, a hardware and industrial supply operations company called it home.

It was even a roller skating rink.

Today, the property at 1200 and 1220 University Avenue West sits empty, with the two buildings on the property. At some point, it was designated as a cultural heritage resource.

But a Toronto-based developer, who bought the property last year, wants to turn it into at least 120 residential units as well as commercial space.

Shabeg Singh, with AIPL Canada Holdings said the development will be the "true definition" of mixed used development, which is what the property is zoned for.

Singh said a number of businesses are already on board but he is not ready to disclose how many or who they are.

He also said he is not daunted by the location's more recent history.

In November 2012, an organic gardener, in collaboration with Windsor's classic Penalty Box restaurant, was aiming to turn the space into a restaurant that would have an attached garden.

By October 2013, that plan was no longer a go, though it's not clear why the plan fizzled out.

Singh has a number of municipal hurdles to clear before any development takes shape, but he received approval from the city's development and heritage standing committee Monday for a brownfield tax incentive (through the Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement Plan). 

The committee approved allocating up to $23,795 to help AIPL Canada Holdings pay for an environmental site assessment, which will look at the soil and ground water conditions.

"Clearly identifying the type and delineating the extent of contamination is an essential step in moving toward clean up and redevelopment of the site," according to a report from city planning staff to the committee.

City staff also note this project "exemplifies the intent" of the brownfield redevelopment program.

Those incentives still need council approval.

"We're working on getting this out of the way," Singh said about the environmental assessments. He also said the company was working on getting the required building permits and expects to "see a lot of traction this year."

Singh said the development will have a phased opening, but didn't have a timeline to disclose other than "as soon as possible."

He also did not say if he's planning condos or apartments.

AIPL hasn't developed property in Canada before, but has at least $7 million in "delivered development" in India, said Singh.

Despite the number of failed businesses on this site, Singh said his company is "determined to deliver" and that the City of Windsor has been cooperative thus far.

"We do realize the history has been a little alarming for a lot of people, but we are confident about the location, the site, the demographics and just the overall support of the community," said Singh, adding they were hoping the proximity of the University of Windsor and downtown St. Clair College campuses would benefit from the development. 

"We are trying our best to give Windsor something they haven't seen before."