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City axes agreement for massive downtown housing, commercial development at former Grace hospital site

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A major development planned for the former Grace Hospital site in downtown Windsor has been cancelled by city council.

Council met behind closed doors last week, voting unanimously to end the relationship with Ohio-based developer Fairmount Properties, which was looking to build a ‘Global Village’ with commercial and housing on site.

“It just became clear to council that this project wasn't moving at the speed that we hoped it would be moving at this point,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens Wednesday morning.

The city signed a memorandum of understanding with Fairmount Properties in 2020 for a mixed-use Global Village, combining commercial units and housing, among other services.

Mayor Dilkens said the city was patient, given the global pandemic, but despite big plans, there wasn’t enough movement over the three years to continue.

“We will be issuing a new expression of interest to test the market and see what interest is out there and I think it will be high because of the size of land and where the location of that land is,” said Dilkens.

Just two weeks ago, Fairmount inked an affiliation agreement with St. Clair College through a memorandum of understanding for the college to take control of 400 housing units on site for grad students. That now also falls apart.

“It seems to be an element of surprise all the way around,” said Ron Seguin, the vice president of international relations, campus development and student services at St. Clair College.

The college has grown its downtown footprint to 4,000 students, according to Seguin, who said the college was eager to provide housing solutions for both students and the community.

“We're at the point in time where we had to kind of circle a date, where housing would be available downtown to allow us to grow internationally, there. So from that point of view, we were disappointed,” he said.

Seguin said the college liked the partnership with Fairmount because it lets the college focus on education while developers can focus on development.

He added there’s no hard feelings towards the city.

“They have to do what they feel is best for the city and something prompted them to make that decision,” Seguin said, noting the college has received calls from local developers expressing interest in a similar partnership.

“We'd be interested on the right terms to continue those discussions,” Seguin said. “Both as a resident and in terms of recruiting students, I'm sure hoping we're not looking at that land sitting idle for years.”

According to Dilkens, the land has also grown in value since the original agreement with Fairmount Properties. The city projects it has jumped from $1 million in value to $4.5 million over three years.

The city will now work to re-zone the land and complete a site condition report to fast-track the process for the next interested parties who respond to the city’s expression of interest.

“When we do that work, it means that the developer and the proponent that's chosen will be able to start very, very quickly on their project,” said Dilkens, who said the priority will remain the same.

“Housing has to be the central component of a redevelopment of the Grace Hospital site,” Dilkens said.

Fairmount Properties did not respond to a request for comment.

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