For years, Windsor’s Drouillard Avenue, as its slices famed Ford City in half, has sat derelict. It is, usually, eerily quiet; a quiet that has lasted decades. But, that might be about to change.
The street is somewhat of a dichotomy. It is a retail strip that is almost an island onto itself, which happens to be its greatest problem.
On its east side is a Ford engine plant. To the west, beyond a few streets of residential, are empty, mostly former industrial lands, between St Luke Road and Walker Road. Its lack of a large enough residential population is what probably made the street fail.
It is also a microcosm of a similar problem afflicting the downtown. This was punctuated less than subtly by London property developer Shmuel Farhi. He told the Windsor Star June 17 that Windsor needs, “… a lot more residents to bring downtown Windsor alive.”
If Farhi is right, and he certainly has economists on his side, Ford City, too, needs many more residents to bring it back to life. That might happen sooner than later.
Ashok Sood turned a small operation selling shopping bags to supermarkets into a regional industrial cleaning supply powerhouse known as Champion Products. Like Farhi has downtown property in key areas, Sood has property strategically located between Ford City and Walkerville.
Sood has held it for two decades and believes now is the time for development.
His plans, shown in the Windsor Star on June 13, show a proposed, “… townhouse development along Walker Road. There will be between 200 and 250 units, including condos, townhomes and houses on 15 acres.”
Half of a proposed dozen brownstone homes, resembling the historic ones that give Walkerville its character, are reportedly already pre-sold to Sood’s friends and relatives who are, “… anxious to get in there.”
The tracts of land include where the historic Seagrave Fire Apparatus factory burned to the ground. Sood is no stranger to tragedy. His own operation was destroyed by fire one night. He quickly located in an abandoned factory not far away and two years ago opened the City Market at the site of his former headquarters.
His new development could cover, “… 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.”
If all this happens, Sood may well bridge the gap between Walkerville and Ford City with a true urban village. A side effect might well be bringing some of the life back to Ford City.