City of Windsor 'anti-business,' says Toronto developer

An out-of-town investor from Toronto who bought several properties on Chatham Street is calling the City of Windsor "anti-business."

Henry Tam in stalemate with City of Windsor over Chatham Street development

Henry Tam says he'll pull out of the development project if the stalemate with the city continues for more than three months. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

An out-of-town investor from Toronto who bought several properties on Chatham Street is calling the City of Windsor "anti-business." 

That's Henry Tam's thoughts after he bought several properties on Chatham Street last fall, with hopes of drawing business from the college and university students who are taking classes downtown. 

Tam was hoping to create a market with a food court feel, where people can grab a bite to eat late at night. 

Work has not started

But, four months later, work has not yet started at 156 Chatham St. because Tam is in a stalemate with the City of Windsor over submitting a site plan. A site plan is an architectural drawing that includes details of the plans for the inside of the building. 

"[I've never encountered] any city in Canada requiring a site plan unless you're doing a structural change," he said. "We're not doing a structural change. It's face-lifting. I own the property. I can put paint on it, I can put stucco on it." 

But, according to Tam, the city is not giving him the go-ahead on the work without a site plan. Tam notes two issues with this.

"I pay the fees for $5,000. Ten thousand dollars to the architect," he said.  "I don't mind, but once I'm done, they tell me it's a two-month waiting period.

"Also, if I do a McDonald's [in the plan] and a McDonald's doesn't come, then it's another two month waiting period. If we keep going like this, we'll never finish." 

Councillor thinks 'procedure is warranted'

CBC took Tam's concerns to small business owner and downtown councillor Rino Bortolin. 

"I'll be the first to admit the City needs to do better job dealing with businesses, small businesses, making it a more welcoming atmosphere," he said. "But in this case, I think the procedure is warranted. The rules, regulations, what he needs to go through is there for a very good reason." 

While the building itself is not a heritage building, Bortolin referred to heritage features in the building as to why he thinks the procedure is warranted in the case of Tam. 

"We're in a downtown where there are hundreds of years of history" he told CBC News. "To retain that character, to retain the look and feel of downtown, you want to have an idea of the direction the building is going in." 

Bortolin said the University of Windsor taking over the old Windsor Star building is one example. 

"They put in millions of dollars in retaining the heritage of that building. Those are the types of things we'd like to see more of in the core," he said.

Selling everything

In the meantime, Tam is taking another three months to decide on his next steps. 

"I feel very annoyed because this is anti-business, anti-development. I'm an out of town investor. I tried to resurrect the city, so let me do my job," he said. "But, I cannot leave the money here and do nothing. If I don't get to go-ahead, I'm pulling out. I'm going to sell everything." 

So far, Tam says he has invested $6-7 million in Windsor.


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