Investors to renovate another Chatham Street building, economic development group moving downtown

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello


New life continues to be injected into a dormant corridor on Chatham Street West as a long-vacant building has been purchased by a Windsor investment group already in the midst of revitalizing three former restaurant buildings nearby.

And the Star also learned Tuesday that the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation will be moving downtown into some of that renovated space after signing a 10-year lease with the investment group.

“It will be a nice catalyst and help bring more redevelopment of that area,” said Stephen MacKenzie, CEO for the economic development corporation which will relocate about 20 employees downtown from its current home for the last eight years at the University of Windsor.

Meanwhile, the former Ye Olde Steak House and Pour House Pub building, located at 46 Chatham St. W., is the latest purchase by the partnership involving Mid South Land Development Corp. and owners of the Cypher Systems Group.

The purchase, said to be for just under $1 million, follows the group’s ongoing redevelopment of the former Fish Market and Loop building, plus the former City Beer Market and adjoining Chatham Street Grill buildings — all in the 100 block of Chatham Street West.

“It is a good fit for us,” said Brian Schwab, co-owner of Cypher Systems. “We will be fixing up that block. We do one block and maybe somebody else takes on another block.”

The makeover of the Fish Market structure at 156 Chatham St. W., is nearly complete with Detroit-based Quicken Loans, owned by Michigan businessman and billionaire investor Dan Gilbert, scheduled for occupancy sometime in mid-April. Initially, up to 75 employees will work in the building.

Starting in July, the economic development corporation will fully occupy the ground floor space of both the former Beer Market and adjoining Chatham Street Grill buildings.

“Quicken Loans will be right across the street which eventually may have 150 employees,” MacKenzie said. “That’s the great part of this story — how all these buildings have been sitting there and now there will be new life. It’s nice for us to be a part of the rejuvenation.”

He said there were no issues leaving the university behind which was a “tremendous landlord,” but also seemingly grateful to have the added space returned for its own expansion plans.

The sale of former steak house building officially closes in about a month. It was sold by Toronto investor Henry Tam who purchased the building roughly five years ago, but has since remained vacant. Tam also sold the former Fish Market structure to the group in late 2017.

“There is no real plan (for the steak house),” Schwab said. “We will follow the formula that has worked for us. We will gut it, put in new electrical, roof, heating and ventilation, new windows and flooring. Then we will open it up to show prospective tenants.

“Our plan is to build it and they will come. That has worked out really well for us on the other buildings. You will have more jobs moving downtown and restaurants will follow. Then shops will follow that. Eventually you will have more people who will want to live there.”

Mid South Land Developments, under Dino Maggio and his son Anthony, has a history locally of converting old buildings into viable commercial ventures, including the former Teutonia Club, plus several buildings in the Walker Industrial Park and Olde Walkerville.

Dino Maggio took a lengthy tour inside the three-storey steak house building Monday just prior to signing off on the sale. He described it as being in bad shape.

“It’s going to be a lot of work to get it back where somebody says ‘this is great location,’” he said. “There is a lot of work there for us. It’s not something we will turn over in 30 or 60 days. Everything is rotted.”

Maggio has no “clear vision” for the building which he said eventually could feature office space or a mix with apartments on the upper floors.

“We will know better once we get in there,” he said. “We will take it one step at time.”

Ye Olde Steak House was owned and operated for decades until 2008 by the Deeg family, which at one time also operated a bistro known as L’Auberge De La Bastille inside the former Chatham Street Grill building across the street.

The former City Beer Market, which has 21 apartments on the upper floors which are being kept by the investment group, closed in 2013. The former Chatham Street Grill restaurant, which has five loft-style apartments upstairs also being maintained, shut down in 2009.