Soods hope to bridge Walkerville, Ford City with hundreds of homes

The Sood family was trying to keep quiet its plans to build hundreds of heritage-style homes on derelict former industrial lands bridging Walkerville and Ford City, but already half of the 12 brownstones proposed for Walker Road are pre-sold.BRIAN CROSS Updated: June 13, 2017

Anuj Sood, manager with Champion Products, holds an architectural rendering of a proposed townhouse development along Walker Road. There will be between 200 and 250 units, including condos, townhomes and houses on 15 acres. JASON KRYK / WINDSOR STAR

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The Sood family was trying to keep quiet its plans to build hundreds of heritage-style homes on derelict former industrial lands bridging Walkerville and Ford City, but already half of the 12 brownstones proposed for Walker Road are pre-sold.

“Just people we know, friends and relatives who are so anxious to get in there,” Ashok Sood said Tuesday, as he described in broad strokes his plans for land he has held for 20 years and believes is now ripe for development.

The cat was let out of the bag Monday night when the city’s Planning, Heritage and Economic Development Standing Committee gave its blessing to fund half the cost (up to $55,000) for several environmental studies required to assess possible soil contamination and suggest solutions for two properties:

  • The burned-down Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company  factory on the west side of Walker, where the Soods plan to build a dozen brownstone-style units.
  • And 17 acres of largely vacant industrial land south of Edna Street, west of St. Luke Road and north of Richmond Street, where the Soods’ long-term plan is for condo buildings and townhouses. They’re hoping to build between 200 and 250 units. The first building would probably be a five- or six-storey condo building.

Sood said he wants to make the units affordable, less than $200,000, insisting he’s no developer  he’s simply looking to find a good use for his land that’s sat vacant for decades.

“My goal is to put people in a house cheaper than they can rent, a mortgage payment of $700 a month,” he said in a telephone interview from Toronto. Sood, who two years ago opened the City Market on the east side of Walker, thinks his initial pricing for the Walker Road brownstones might have been low at $300,000. He said people are jumping at the chance to live and work in the popular urban area.

What he envisions is having young professionals living in the brownstones, operating their offices on the ground floor and living in the space above. 

The Sood family was trying to keep quiet its plans to build hundreds of heritage-style homes on derelict former industrial lands bridging Walkerville and Ford City, but already half of the 12 brownstones proposed for Walker Road are pre-sold. JASON KRYK / WINDSOR STAR

His son Anuj Sood said the brownstones will be designed to emulate the historic townhouses directly behind them on Monmouth Road. 

Architect Chintan Virani said the brownstone design is based on the Seagrave building. Though it burned down in 2007, the city provided photographs to help replicate the heritage look.

The Sood projects, he said, “will definitely stimulate the market in the area, economically as well as a lot of opportunities for more development.” 

Coun. Chris Holt, who represents the Walkerville area, said the Soods own “an incredibly important piece of property,” because it bridges Walkerville with Ford City. “It’s two growing and strengthening neighbourhoods,” he said Monday night.

The grants will come from a $1.2-million Brownfield Strategy/Remediation Account set aside by the city to encourage people to develop brownfields — previous industrial and commercial lands that have sat vacant for years due to contamination fears. The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement Plan aims to spur development of these lands which numbered 137 sites totalling 559 acres in 2009.

A city report says most of these sites are located in built-up areas where services and infrastructure — roads, schools, community services and public transit — already exist. Cleaning them up and using them prevents having to expand into rural areas and take over farmland, and reduces the cost of providing roads and other services. “The redevelopment of these sites also removes the negative stigma often associated with some brownfield properties, which increases the value of the subject property and adjacent properties.”

City planner Thom Hunt described the Soods’ land as remnants from the area’s industrial past that have become a sort of no-man’s land separating two neighbourhoods. “You don’t get the feeling they’re connected.”

Putting housing there will help connect them, hopefully with a walkable neighbourhood for people who’ve been priced-out of living in Walkerville, which has experienced rising real estate values. The projects still have to clear some hurdles, including resolving any possible soil contamination.

Hunt said he’s pretty optimistic any required clean-up won’t make it too costly for the Soods to develop the properties. 

bcross@postmedia.com

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