Windsor city council's move to nix the planned "global village" development on the former Grace Hospital site came as a surprise to St. Clair College — and could impact their plans for future expansion and enrollment downtown — after news broke Tuesday the city had decided to re-issue the RFP on the project.
Ron Seguin is the vice-president of international relations and campus development for the college.
Just last month, the college had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Fairmont Properties, the developer the city had chosen for the project, to house 400 students from the college's downtown campus there.
"We were surprised to be honest with you," Seguin said. "We thought we were close to a really unique project and we've done a lot of development here at the college.
"So until the shovels in the ground, it's not in the ground, if you know what I mean."
Seguin said the college is practically at capacity for the number of students it can enrol downtown until there's more housing.
"It doesn't affect housing and enrolment right away. That was a futuristic strategy on our behalf that would allow expansion downtown as that developed ... we're at 4,000 students in the core, but we're pretty much at a point now that without more housing, it'd be somewhat irresponsible to continue to grow that enrolment," Seguin said. "So a bit of a pause, but certainly no, no immediate concerns."
The decision reportedly came in an in-camera meeting on Friday.
Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante speaks to reporters on Nov. 20, 2023. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)
Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante said is conversations with the developer — which he says occurred during his last term — were all positive.
"It's a project that certainly we want to see through but unfortunately it wasn't moving in the the timelines that we wanted to to see to get this off the ground and to to address housing and housing shortage in our in our community," Costante said.
While city staff are working on re-issuing the RFP for the site, Costante said they've also been directed to move forward with other measures like rezoning and site condition work to help expedite the process in the future.
"So that when we receive a renewed expression of interest from developers, a lot of the back work will already have been done or started to get the site up to up to par so that we could eventually see shovels in the ground," he said.
CBC has reached out to Fairmont Properties over the last two days requesting comment with no response.
"I can't speak for the reasons why the developer took as long as as it did," Costante said, noting possible delays during the pandemic. "But I can tell you that there is a strong interest among council to to see that land developed as soon as possible with the primary intention of of high density housing."
Costante said he anticipates significant interest in the property, which is located at the intersection of University Avenue and Crawford Avenue.
"[This project is] also a key pillar in the revitalization of University Avenue West. And and I would go even further to say it plays a massive role in the revitalization of the downtown too," he said. "I don't think we have any other parcel this large in our inner city, so it's you know it's an amazing opportunity for development and to me it's it's also part of that larger vision of revitalizing our our core."
Seguin said he respects the city's decision and anticipates future interest in the site by other developers.
"We respect that and certainly I'm guessing new developers will be very interested in that parcel of land," he said. "
"If education and students are part of their interest, we'd certainly like to talk to them."