Plans are underway to breathe some long awaited life into the Navistar lot in Chatham.
The 80 acre site, once home to a truck building factory which was the largest employer in the city, has sat empty for a decade. Environmental concerns and high costs made a sale seem unlikely.
“The only thing you heard about it was rumors about how contaminated it was and memories of how much it contributed to the economy in the past,” says Mayor Darrin Canniff.
But earlier this month a trio of well known locals, Don Tetrault, Rob Myers and Mike Vagi, finalized a purchase after two years of negotiations. “We’re looking to attract companies into Chatham to create some great employment opportunities for the Chatham-Kent area,” says Myers.
“There’s quite a demand for industrial assembly plants, industrial type properties, manufacturing properties,” says Myers, adding “We’ve got some retail type areas to deal with on the face of Richmond Street and possibly on Keil Drive.”
The new owners are looking to bring in existing industrial and retail companies rather than creating new ones. And interest is already ramping up.
“We’ve got three or four inquiries in the last 10 days,” says Myers.
Many of these have come from the Ontario government who “don’t necessarily tell you what they’re planning on doing there,” says Myers. “So we’re just sort of feeling them out, seeing what their requirements would be and so on.”
The owners say they may build some buildings if companies wish, with either lease or lease-to-purchase options. This includes construction of a 60,000 square foot building this fall.
“With the visions of these three new owners I suspect that we’re going to have a lot of jobs on that site and there will be a lot contributed to our economy over the next while,” says Caniff.
“I am absolutely thrilled. Several years from now we’re going to be looking back at this point and saying this was a big turning point for that area and the town,” says the mayor.
While hockey fans will be disappointed to hear there’s no plans to pursue a new twin-pad arena at the site, the trio did hint at a separate arena announcement in the future. They added a transportation centre or hotel are also not likely to be part of the 80 acres.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent