Windsor mayor considers taking over Paul Martin building in new year

The nearly empty Paul Martin building is offering an opportunity to dream about the possibilities, now that the University of Windsor law school is no longer moving in there.

Mayor Drew Dilkens says there are two ideas on the table right now, but wouldn't elaborate

The law school is no longer moving into the Paul Martin building, leaving its future in limbo. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The future of the Paul Martin building continues to be in limbo with the University of Windsor law school deciding to stay on campus instead of renovating the downtown landmark.

Now the City of Windsor has a couple of ideas for the historic space, but mayor Drew Dilkens won't elaborate further other than to say it's a potential municipal use and something related to economic development.

"I do think that there are some real exciting opportunities in front of us, that the city would want to take that building over," said Dilkens.

He said they would like the city to take control of the building in the new year.

Whatever the project, developer Joe Mikhail thinks it'll be expensive.

Mayor Drew Dilkens says there's a possibility to take over the building early next year. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Years ago he was one of the potential investors who showed interest in the property before the federal government began repairing the exterior.

Mikhail said according to the financial examination they did of the building, it could cost anywhere from $20 to $25 million to convert it.

"You're not going to get any money out of this building for at least 10 years," said Mikhail. "You need patient money, and you also need to spend a lot of money."

Now looking at this building, he said having a library, mixed with residential and commercial use is the first thing that comes to mind.

That idea is echoed by Rhys Trenhaile, a real estate agent, who would also love to see museums that showcase the history of Windsor.

"The feds will be taking care of the building until we decide what we want to do with it, and we better come up with a creative idea. It's not up to the feds, it's up to us," he said.

Dilkens says one of the ideas they're exploring is for a part of it to be municipal use. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

He thinks with the right ideas, the building can help attract and retain young people to live in the core of the city.

And according to a trained architect and professor emeritus at the University of Windsor's Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Veronika Mogyorody, mixed-use and turning it into a community hub is the way to go.

"We can't have a single identity," she said. "This is a time to dream. This is a wonderful building."

According to her, there needs to be more diversity in the types of development that happens in the city's core. And she thinks having this building become a community with multiple components, is the way to move forward.

"It can help revitalize the downtown. If you look at it in terms of all the levels that it could offer," she said.

With files from Chris Ensing