Proposal to redevelop shopping center property to revitalize Chatham town center to come to council

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The owners of a largely vacant Chatham shopping center are launching an ambitious new project that could radically transform the town center by creating a huge 4,000-seat entertainment complex that would also serve as an arena.

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The owners of a largely vacant Chatham shopping center are launching an ambitious new project that could radically transform the town center by creating a huge 4,000-seat entertainment complex that would also serve as an arena.

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Local media previewed the proposal on Tuesday, which also includes extensive renovations to the former Sears store in Downtown Chatham shopping center to create a community center that would house the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre, the Chatham Library, the Chatham Cultural Center and the Chatham-Kent Museum under one roof.

The proposed second phase effectively calls for the demolition of much of the mall built in 1982 next to its parking lot to create the huge entertainment complex, which would be surrounded by retail buildings featuring the historic King facade. Street.

The mall’s owners – Rob Myers, Pete and Jessica Tsirimbis, Ron Nydam, Don Tetrault and Jim Bullock – have been working with Chatham-Kent officials on the concept since buying the property about a year ago. The proposal, dubbed Imagine Chatham-Kent, is due to be presented to City Council on Monday.

This rendering is part of a proposed redevelopment of downtown Chatham that would include a community center that houses the civic center and other municipal services as well as an entertainment complex surrounded by new retail space.  (Submitted)
This rendering is part of a proposed redevelopment of downtown Chatham that would include a community center that houses the civic center and other municipal services as well as an entertainment complex surrounded by new retail space. (Submitted) png, cd

“We spent several hundred thousand dollars to come up with a plan” for downtown, Myers said.

With a commitment to use local trades for the project, Myers said the proposal, if approved, will create a number of jobs while becoming a destination of pride for the Chatham-Kent community.

“We think it’s the right thing to do for this area,” he said.

With work already done on the concept, Myers said the municipality wouldn’t need to hire consultants to move the project forward.

“We’ve spent enough money, enough energy and enough time on what we know what we’re doing,” said Myers, the founder of the Retro Suites Hotel in downtown Chatham. “This isn’t our first rodeo here.”

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This rendering is part of a downtown Chatham redevelopment proposal that shows the entrance to an entertainment complex surrounded by new retail space.  (Submitted)
This rendering is part of a downtown Chatham redevelopment proposal that shows the entrance to an entertainment complex surrounded by new retail space. (Submitted) png, cd

Nydam, a developer who oversaw the construction and renovation of several buildings in downtown Chatham as owner of JP Contractors, said the structure of the former Sears building was sound.

“I’ve seen a lot of buildings all over Chatham-Kent, and even all of Ontario, and this building is well constructed,” he says.

Myers estimated that the new community center, with council’s blessing, could be completed in two years, allowing the municipality to post sale signs on the civic center, library and cultural center, which also houses the museum. .

Suggesting the civic center could become a “cool area for adult living”, given its proximity to the River Thames, Myers said these civic buildings could “be hot properties”.

While estimates for the project run into the tens of millions of dollars, Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said the report presented to council on Monday is more for information than a request for immediate approval.

“That’s why we haven’t talked about the costs at all, because we’re still trying to figure them out,” the mayor said.

This rendering shows a new retail space with a historic King Street frontage that is part of a proposed redevelopment of downtown Chatham.  (Submitted)
This rendering shows a new retail space with a historic King Street frontage that is part of a proposed redevelopment of downtown Chatham. (Submitted) png, cd

The report, if accepted, will seek funding to begin the “due diligence” necessary to study the feasibility of the project from a municipal perspective. Public comment will also be sought on the proposal, culminating in a final report to council in the coming months which will include a detailed cost estimate.

Chatham-Kent Council has already heard that tens of millions of dollars are needed to renovate many of its key facilities, including the Civic Center, Chatham Memorial Arena and Library. About a year ago, councilors asked staff to prepare a report looking at options for relocating or redeveloping municipal assets as part of parallel plans for the redevelopment of Chatham town centre.

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Bruce McAllister, community development manager for Chatham-Kent, said a business case will be presented as part of the final plan and will include updated costs for renovations to these municipal facilities. The report will also include appraisals of what these buildings could be worth if offered for sale.

Real estate has never been hotter in this community in terms of marketability and price,” McAllister said.

Canniff noted that a substantial amount of money will have to be spent on these municipal facilities, regardless of the approach.

“It’s a choice between building a brand new facility or fixing the old ones,” the mayor said.

Pete Tsirimbis said the ownership group’s plans for an entertainment complex go beyond just being an arena. The complex, he said, is planned to host concerts and festivals, as well as rock climbing, roller-skating and other activities throughout the year.

He said the plan is to model the complex on the model of Budweiser Gardens in London, which has helped revitalize the city center in recent years. While the complex, as expected, could accommodate an OHL team, Myers dissed all runners who had purchased one.

This rendering is part of a proposed redevelopment of downtown Chatham which shows the entrance to a new location for the Chatham Library.  (Submitted)
This rendering is part of a proposed redevelopment of downtown Chatham which shows the entrance to a new location for the Chatham Library. (Submitted) png, cd

If the first two phases go well, the group of owners also have plans for a possible third phase which could involve a multi-store building combining living and working spaces.

The proposal, Canniff said, goes beyond providing “efficiencies”, saying the complex could spur growth in Chatham-Kent, helping attract more residents and more businesses.

“At the end of the day, we are in competition with all the municipalities for people,” the mayor said. “For us to thrive, we have to bring people here.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that most other municipalities are dying for. We have local people ready to make that investment and ready to do it for the community.

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