WINDSOR, N.S. – Nothing is set in stone, but the plans are in the works for a major residential redevelopment of Upper Water Street in Windsor’s downtown.
Parsons Green Developments is planning to buy the land where the abandoned Windsor Wear building is currently located to build one or more apartment buildings – but the plan could turn into something much larger.
Windsor council is currently considering whether or not to re-zone the entire parcel of land between Upper Water Street and King Street into a residential / mix-use zone, to allow for several multi-level apartments.
“We want people, who are looking at selling their homes, to be able to stay in the area,” Mayor Anna Allen said. “We hear it on a regular basis, ‘where am I going to go next?’ there’s no properties for them in in this town, which is why we’ve lost friends to Wolfville and to Bedford.”
“This would fill that void big time.”
A concept for a Windsor Waterfront redevelopment plan was drawn up by the developer to illustrate what the area could look like. It includes a new cul-de-sac, connecting pathways, greenspaces, and more.
Some of the buildings could go as high as five storeys, and would have underground parking.
The plan is still in the conceptual stages and the re-zoning needs to be approved by council before anything can proceed.
“They want this to be as green as possible, a show-stopper when you come into town and on the waterfront,” she said. “People want to live downtown, so they can walk to a restaurant, do errands on foot.”
“This could be a game changer for the town of Windsor in a big big way,” she said. “It’s as huge as the new arena, if not even more so, because bringing people downtown is what we’ve been trying to do.”
Allen said the redesign of the area is a long-term plan, which will likely take several years before it’s completed.
She said one advantage of going forward with a master plan for the area is that it ensures a cohesive long-term strategy, rather than piecemeal development.
Allen said the town is still committed to securing more affordable housing as well.
Chief administrative officer Louis Coutinho said the town put the Windsor Wear building up for sale approximately a year, after they purchased it in a tax sale.
A memorandum of understanding was struck with Noel Taiani, president of Parsons Green Developments, to allow him to conduct due diligence on the property.
During that time, Taiani interviewed surrounding landowners and held focus-group sessions to find out what the long-term plan for the area was.
The feedback they received included a desire for high-end apartment living options in the downtown.
“He was concerned that if he put a high-end apartment building where the Windsor Wear building is now, it’s surrounded by not-so-attractive properties and terrain,” Coutinho said. “He wanted to make sure that if he does that, maybe the town would consider how that area should be developed as well.”
“If we don’t have a plan for ourselves of what that area should look like, that becomes a bit of a problem,” he said.
The planning advisory committee is recommending to council to go ahead with Parsons Green Developments plan with the Windsor Wear building and to amend the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land-Use By-law to create an ‘investment-ready Windsor waterfront area,’ which would include re-zoning the area to allow for mixed-use and residential buildings.
The concept plan totally reshapes that part of town, with Dufferin Place no longer standing, replaced by surrounding buildings.
“The town now has to make some decisions, because right now it’s zoned commercial,” Coutinho said. “They foresee this as the grand entrance to the town, with people living and shopping there.”
Coutinho said the only way for the town to grow is to go upwards, as they’re surrounded by the municipality of West Hants.
The current height limit of buildings in town is three storeys, but that could also be changed to allow for apartments up to five storeys, he said.
Council will vote on those recommendations on June 26.