CBC News has uncovered information suggesting the developer of the former Grace Hospital building in Windsor, Ont. could be in some financial trouble.
A check on Lou Vozza's company shows a number of lawsuits filed against the developer —one for $524,000. Almost all the lawsuits were initiated after the province entered into an agreement with Vozza to convert the old Grace hospital into a nursing home.
The credit report obtained by CBC puts Vozza's business in "the highest risk" category.
The building, located west of Windsor's downtown on University Avenue, has sat empty since 2004 and has become an eye-sore to neighbours, and a problem for overcrowded Windsor hospitals in desperate need of the proposed 256 long-term care beds.
Vozza admitted to CBC on Friday that he does have financial problems, but said the financing for the Grace project is secure, and separate from his other issues.
"There's some liens and judgments against me and the property and my former construction company and those are all issues that are going to be dealt with before the project starts," said Vozza on Friday. "Money is in place to take care of those things and everybody is going to be taken care of."
Vozza said money was not the reason for the hold-ups. He said there have been delays getting the site plan approved by the Ministry of Health because of the complexity in working with an existing building.
McGuinty backs Vozza
Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke to members of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce on Friday. He said he is confident that the Grace Village project will be completed.
When asked about Vozza's financial problems, he said that it's not unheard of for projects "of this nature" to encounter problems.
"I can't speak to those specifics, but what I can say is that we made a commitment and we intend to see it through," said McGuinty.
As for Vozza, he said there's nobody who feels worse about the delays in bringing more long-term care beds to Windsor, and he understands that some contractors won't want to work with him because of his reputation. Several of Vozza's former contractors told CBC on Friday that they think Vozza will have a hard time finding contractors to work with on Grace Village, because they fear they won't be paid.
"I can't change people's opinions and my actions are the only ones that are going to change people's opinions and I can't worry about that," said Vozza.
Vozza hoped to complete the project by the end of the year.