Six condo towers with 1,414 units proposed for downtown. 'It's a great sign,' mayor says.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross


Towers — six of them, 16 storeys high, proposed for two separate sites with a total of 1,414 residential units — are being hailed as “huge” news for downtown.

Five of those towers, plus some back-to-back townhouses with a total of 1,295 units are planned for the 6.6-acre Riverside Drive West property currently used by the CBC. Another tower with 119 condo units and four storeys of parking is proposed for the parking lot behind the Shoppers Drug Mart at Ouellette Avenue and Wyandotte Street. The two separate plans — in different stages of approval — were included as communication items in Monday’s city council agenda.

When you add these to other recently announced projects for the downtown, the end result could be more than 4,000 new downtown residents, the councillor for the area, Ward 3’s Rino Bortolin, said following the meeting.

“People, people, people, people, people is what we need for everything,” he said, describing how more people living, working and walking around downtown will lead to more stores and businesses moving in to cater to them, more developers picking up on the trend, more people wanting to join the crowd, and an increased sense of security that comes when there’s foot traffic and activity throughout the core.

“How remarkable and fun would it be to come downtown for five years and have cranes in the sky and road detours because there are towers going up everywhere?” Bortolin said. “I would be pretty giddy myself. That’s the goal, right?”

The Ouellette/Wyandotte tower is further along in the process — seeking site plan approval. There are already architectural drawings and a name — Inspiration Towers — denoting the development company, the Inspiration Group of Companies based out of Mississauga.

“This is going to be a big project,” said company principal Javed Ali, who said Inspiration has owned the parking lot for about five years.

“We were talking creatively and decided ‘Why don’t we develop this?'” said Ali, who once lived in Windsor and attended University of Windsor. He said if all goes as planned with the needed applications, construction could start by 2022.

“I hope the market is doing great right now in Windsor — that’s what I’ve heard.”

The CBC property is owned by Clayland Development Inc. out of London and is bounded by Riverside, and Crawford, Salter and University avenues, said Ashley Paton, a planner with the GSP Group that is representing Clayland. It still requires Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments.

The company went through a pre-consultative process with the city starting about four years ago, and has made updates and revisions based on suggestions from city hall, she said. That revised plan includes underground parking. The site has already undergone a number of studies, including environmental studies on the soil. Recently, the city asked for a geotechnical study because it had learned there was a salt mine operation around the site many years ago.

The CBC building, built in 1954, is listed on the city’s municipal heritage register. The CBC leases the property from Clayland.

Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city has been approached with a number of proposals for the CBC property over the years. “This one is very exciting,” he said, describing how the two tower projects would put a real dent in the local need for housing.

“There is a lot of excitement and a lot of activity, and this just reinforces that people from out of town are coming here and saying ‘We see prospects and opportunity.’ It’s a great sign.”

Outside the downtown, the London-based Shmuel Farhi is developing the former GM Trim site at Lauzon Road and McHugh Street into a project with 533 homes. Three 60-unit condo buildings are being built at Banwell Road and Firgrove Drive. The city is building a 145-unit affordable housing project on Meadowbrook Drive. 

Downtown, the former Grace Hospital site is being developed into a residential/commercial village with at least 400 units. The city is also mulling which of three or four developers to pick for its Caron Avenue parking lot, where it’s expected at least 400 units will be created. The $35-million Graffiti residential/commercial project with 148 residential units is planned for the 1200 block of University. Other projects underway or recently completed include the Hive project in the former Don Cherry’s on Pelissier Street, Valente Construction’s 955 On the Avenue condo project on Ouellette and the Piroli Group’s West Bridge Place apartment building at Crawford and Wyandotte.

Bortolin said he’s heard another tower is planned for Wyandotte and Victoria Avenue. He credited the city’s three-year-old Downtown Community Improvement Plan, which provides incentives for residential development, for the recent surge in building.

“I always said that once the Valente and Piroli projects were done … everybody else would come out of the woodwork to start doing it,” he said. “The opportunity is immense.”

The biggest incentives is a break in municipal taxes, in the form of rebates for up to 10 years on the increase in municipal taxes that results when you improve or build on a property. In the case of a condo tower, the rebate would amount to millions, Bortolin said, especially for a project where a 119-unit condo tower is being built on a parking lot which is taxed very little.

“This is huge for the downtown,” he said of the two most recent proposed projects. Both developers said they intend on applying for the incentives.

Bortolin also said there’s big demand for housing, from affordable to high-end.

“The number of incentives out there right now for new builds like that … I can’t imagine a better time.”