Long-vacant Ouellette Avenue office tower eyed for residential market
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While he favours the idea of converting unused office space into badly needed apartments, Bortolin said he wants to make sure the units created aren’t all tiny, low-cost units catering to students, because the recent influx of thousands of international students could someday dry up, leaving a glut of units.
“This is an existing building, it’s already there, they’re changing the use and they’re making it residential, which is all good,” he said. “We just need to make sure we do it right.”
The developers are running into some obstacles at city hall as they go through the approval process, such as the requirement that residential projects provide 1.25 parking spaces per unit. If the building was located three blocks further north towards the river, parking wouldn’t be required at all, Bortolin said. The building has 33 parking spots in back, well short of the 100 required. Bortolin said he’s trying to work out a solution, such as finding an off-site parking lot where spaces could be rented.
“We want to get away from all these empty lots that are so prevalent downtown, especially in an area like this,” he said. “He’s right on a transit route, he’s in the core, a lot of these students will be walking or taking a bus, they won’t even own a car.”
The building is located beside the former Windsor Public Library central branch, which was sold to the Downtown Mission in 2018, igniting criticism about the impact of locating services for the homeless on Windsor’s main street. That deal went south last year when the Mission flipped the property to a developer. In October, the Mission announced a $7.2-million plan to “get off Ouellette” by consolidating its multiple operations at a single site on McDougall Street.
Mahmood said when the Mission was planning to move in next door, his intention was to fix up 880 Ouellette, find some office tenants and flip it to a new buyer. The Mission’s decision to locate elsewhere was a determining factor in switching plans.
“We do plan on holding onto it,” he said. “The rental demand is very, very high in Windsor.
“I have no doubt in my mind these will be rented out very, very quickly.”