Several new businesses opening in Ford City, combined with a "major player" planning to set up shop is driving the neighbourhood into a new era.

Many buildings in the heart of Ford City still sit vacant or boarded-up. But not for long, according to many who live and work in the area. It's being labelled Windsor's next up-and-coming neighbourhood.

A big boost will be the opening of The Grand Cantina restaurant at the corner of Drouillard Road and Whelpton Street. It's set to launch in January, and it's the first eatery to open in the area in the last 15 years.

"With Ford City and its history, I think it's close to being the next go-to place," said Tom Scully, co-owner of The Grand Cantina. "We just want to be a cog in that wheel to help grow."

"We just want to be a cog in that wheel to help grow." - Tom Scully, co-owner of The Grand Cantina

This will be Scully's second restaurant, after opening F&B in Walkerville. He doesn't believe opening his latest venture in an up-and-coming neighbourhood is an added risk. In fact, he views Ford City as a "very desirable" area that unfairly gets a negative connotation.

Unfair negative perception

That negative perception has held back the neighbourhood for many years. Ford City's Business Improvement Association views itself as a hidden gem that's just now starting to shine again. BIA chair Randy Diestelmann said entrepreneurs and investors alike are now starting to see the opportunity.

"They've come to realize that with a little bit of hard work, being a little gritty and getting your hands dirty that there can be a great deal of opportunity and success," he said.

'Major player' coming

Although very tight-lipped, he said that a "major player" is coming to Ford City next year. Diestelmann said he is bound by a "code of secrecy."

"They're trying to keep things under the wraps because they do realize there is a lot of buzz in this neighbourhood," said Diestelmann.

Even with all of this development, he said much more can be done in Ford City and building owners need to realize the potential. Landlords are even starting to post their properties on real estate websites, something Diestelmann hasn't seen in quite some time.

Shop holds grand opening

Michael Difazio

Michael Difazio owns a reclaimed furniture and decor business at 1023 Drouillard Rd. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Just last week Michael Difazio held a grand opening for his reclaimed furniture and decor shop on Drouillard Road. He boasts about Ford City's potential and his unique brick and copper building.

"You come to an area with nothing and you can change it, you can make what you want here because there's nothing here now," said Difazio, who was born and raised in the area.

He's been at 1023 Drouillard Road for two years using it as a workshop. Now he has a showroom and storefront for customers to browse and purchase his hand-made items.

"You come to an area with nothing and you can change it, you can make what you want here because there's nothing here now." - Michael Difazio, Ford City business owner

Difazio's business was built by turning old materials without a purpose into something new again. And that's exactly what he did with a vacant building in Ford City that now has a new lease on life.

"I love it here," Difazio said with a smile.