Final chapter in Navistar’s story in Chatham as site is sold to developers
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A group of developers confirmed Tuesday they have purchased the site of the International truck factory.
Rob Myers, Don Tetrault and Mike Vagi say they spent two years negotiating with Navistar and closed on the deal just 10 days ago.
They will not divulge how much the property cost but do say the plan is to remediate the site, parcel it off into pieces and attract commercial or industrial businesses to Chatham.
Crews are already at the 82-acre site breaking up the concrete at the property border by Richmond Street and Kiel Drive in Chatham.
“This has been an eyesore around town for best part of a decade and at some point somebody needed to step up and buy it and clean it up,” says Rob Myers.
Myers says he got bored hanging around Chatham during the pandemic and came up with the “hair-brained” idea to buy the land.
Navistar idled the factory in 2009 and company officials decided to close it completely because they said they couldn’t’ come to an agreement with the Canadian Autoworkers Union.
The factory closed for good in 2011 before being torn down in 2013.
“We had an opportunity to bring some jobs back in 2016 for paintin’ actually, trucks, but that didn’t pan out,” says Mike Vagi.
Vagi says after that, the paint shop was demolished in 2018, and the land has sat vacant ever since.
“After working on something that long, you kinda don’t think the finish lines even gonna hit,” says Vagi.
In the last two years, negotiations with Chicago-based Navistar continued along until this conclusion.
The group will not divulge how much money the land sold for, but do tell CTV News they invested “several hundred thousand” dollars into the environmental assessment of the lands.
“We’re not going to buy without knowing what we’re dealing with here, and after doing all of our investigation it’s much better than we thought it was actually,” says Rob Myers.
That search discovered an old landfill used by the municipality and subsequently purchased by Navistar many years ago.
Don Tetrault says they expect to find many “unknowns” as crews start to dismantle decades of concrete.
“There’s I guess voodoo about town,” says Tetrault “about something buried under there. There might be a bus down there with something in it,” he says if stories from retirees are to be believed.
The group expects to have a warehousing building installed on the property within the next six months.
But admit it could take a year or two before the site is completely cleaned up.
“And then we just tackle the worst areas as we do along," Tetrault says.