GALLERY: New downtown Chatham revitalization plan called game-changing

Downtown Chatham Centre preliminary redevelopment plans. June 7, 2022. Photo by Paul Pedro

The local owners who bought the Downtown Chatham Centre (DCC) last June have revealed their preliminary redevelopment plans for the site.

The modern plans include a community hub and promenade with a new city hall, a public library and a museum inside the former Sears building, an entertainment complex with a new municipally-owned 4,000 seat hockey arena and a local sports hall of fame in the middle, and a third phase closer to Retro Suites that could be turned into more hotel suites or apartments. The proposal also mentions retaining lands behind the buildings for future private sector commercial and residential development.

Rob Myers, one of the co-owners of the DCC, said the idea is to revitalize the downtown core so it’s inviting for families all across Chatham-Kent and beyond, attract future business and development to the core, and have all municipal services under one roof.

Myers and his partners Don Tetrault, Jessica and Pete Tsirimbis, Ron Nydam, and Jim Bullock will present the concept to Chatham-Kent council on Monday night at their virtual meeting and councillors should have a final report for their approval in a couple of months.

Myers said the Downtown Chatham Centre redevelopment will be “a game-changer for the area over the next 50-100 years” and will provide the community with a ton of spirit.

“This will create jobs, this will be pride for people in our entire Chatham-Kent area. So, we believe it’s right thing to do for this area,” said Myers, the spokesperson for the owners group.

Myers said families, young and old, will benefit from the revitalization.

“This area as it has been in the past, only attracts mediocre jobs, it doesn’t attract good jobs. What the hell do you do with your kids around here? Go to London, go to Detroit, go to Windsor? Why not be able to stay around Chatham?” Myers said.

Myers said the proposed arena will be state of the art and accommodate a lot of events outside of hockey.

“Not just build a place that has 60 hockey games or 100 hockey games a year, but in the other times [have] some rock climbing, some roller blading, some basketball, some indoor soccer in the summer time, how about concerts?” he said.

Myers said the Chatham Maroons will play at the new arena when it’s finished and also set the record straight by saying none of the DCC owners have bought a hockey team to play at the new arena. However, he said it leaves the door open to having an Ontario Hockey League team move into the new facility when the time is right.

The revitalization project is expected to be just over 400,000 square feet.

The owners said shovels should be in the ground this fall, if council approves the project, and the entire redevelopment should take about five years to complete.

Canniff said “it makes more sense to build new” rather than spending millions to renovate old municipal buildings. The municipality has roughly 150 municipal buildings and they’re getting older.

The mayor said it’s unclear at this stage if the project will have any impact on municipal taxes, adding it depends on how many surplus buildings owned by the municipality can be sold. However, the mayor is betting this project can increase the municipal tax base to keep taxes low and create well-paying jobs.