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50-acre tract of Windsor industrial land sells for $20M

Canada-U.S. border city continues to see growth as Gordie Howe International Bridge nears completion

The Morton Drive industrial development property, shown in relation to the under-construction Gordie How International Bridge (left), downtown Detroit (centre) and downtown Windsor (right). (Courtesy CBRE)
The Morton Drive industrial development property, shown in relation to the under-construction Gordie Howe International Bridge (left), downtown Detroit (centre) and downtown Windsor (right). (Courtesy CBRE)

The sale of a 50-acre industrial development site just minutes from the under-construction Gordie Howe International Bridge in Windsor is the latest sign of a major uptick in commercial real estate activity in the border city.

Morton Salt, which is owned by Stone Canyon Industries Holdings, sold the vacant industrial-zoned land on Morton Drive to an unnamed private buyer for $20 million.

The deal, the largest in the Windsor market this year, was brokered by CBRE Windsor senior vice-president Brook Handysides and vice-president Brad Collins. CBRE pitched the landowner on selling the acreage and it was put on the market last summer.

“We ended up receiving multiple bids and selecting a transaction partner,” Handysides told RENX. “Windsor is almost completely a private capital market and we have very little in terms of institutional capital that flows into this community.

"So the target has always been owner-operators and value-add investors. And to that point, we received pretty good interest from both sides.”

Property details

The greenfield property at the southwestern corner of Windsor’s city limits was severed from the approximately 250-acre site of the Windsor Salt Mine, which was established in 1955.

Handysides said the severance process took about nine months and the deal closed on May 21.

“We went to market at $400,000 an acre for 50 acres and we achieved that price,” Handysides noted.

The purchaser is a local commercial investor which CBRE couldn't identify due to confidentiality restrictions. Handysides said it owns more than a million square feet of industrial real estate in the Windsor area and has sizable land holdings throughout southwestern Ontario.  

Handysides couldn’t speak about what the new owner’s specific plans for the site might be, but said: “It's large enough that you could see a significant factory going on the entire parcel or it could be subdivided. It does neighbour a fairly active industrial park in the town of LaSalle, which is literally across the street from Morton Drive.” 

The Morton Drive property has MD2.5 zoning, which permits a wide variety of heavy industrial applications. 

International bridge is a major attraction

CBRE Windsor's Brook Handysides, left, and Brad Collins. (Courtesy CBRE)
CBRE Windsor's Brook Handysides, left, and Brad Collins. (Courtesy CBRE)

The property is located minutes away from the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which remains under construction and will connect Highway 401 with Interstate 75 in Detroit.

“Investors are starting to see opportunities here that there could be a value lift, and maybe even something you could achieve in the near term, once the bridge opens,” Handysides said, “and that is likely to happen by fall of next year.” 

Windsor is also receiving other infrastructure improvements and its population of approximately 240,000 has been steadily increasing.

The Q1 industrial space availability rate in Windsor was 3.85 per cent, according to Handysides. Industrial real estate prices in the market have also risen consistently this decade.

“I think if you look across Ontario, land values have fallen off in most markets. Getting a 50-acre land site at top of market pricing, I don't think you'd see that up the highway in today's market,” Collins said, referring to Highway 401, which connects the region with the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of Eastern Canada. 

Stellantis plants will have a big impact

There’s a particularly big buzz about two projects involving Stellantis, a collection of 14 automotive brands and two mobility arms that's also Windsor’s largest private employer.

Stellantis’ $1.89-billion retooling of its 4.4-million-square-foot Windsor assembly plant will support production of a new multi-energy vehicle architecture that will provide battery-electric capability for multiple automobile models.

The plan is for the plant to return to three-shift operation by 2025 after being downsized to two shifts in July 2020.

Construction of the nearly 4.23-million-square-foot NextStar Energy electric vehicle battery plant, a joint venture with parent companies Stellantis and LG Energy Solution, began in August 2022. It’s expected to create 2,500 jobs in the Windsor market.

“Most of the demand we're seeing in industrial right now is related to the retooling of the existing Stellantis assembly plant,” Handysides explained. “Much of the demand related to the battery plant that's under construction hasn't really materialized yet because we're so early. 

“So we've seen a bit of a cluster of demand pop up in the industrial sector related to the retooling, but we're betting on another tranche of activity taking hold once that plant’s done in 2025.”

Industrial is Windsor’s dominant commercial asset class

Windsor has an automotive industry-driven economy. Handysides said the city’s industrial footprint is 59.5 million square feet, compared to slightly under four million square feet for office.

London, a larger city with a population of approximately 525,000 less than 200 kilometres up Highway 401, has about 41 million square feet of industrial space.

The multifamily asset class is also performing well in Windsor and CBRE is marketing a 71-unit apartment building Handysides said is garnering significant interest.

“Industrial and multifamily are obviously the darling asset classes regardless of what community you're in, and for Windsor it's no different,” he said. “The fundamentals for both those markets are incredibly strong.”

Windsor’s retail market has also seen a recent rejuvenation.

“There's been a lot of new retail development that's happened and a lot of the properties that had chronic vacancies four or five years ago are full in most of the major retail nodes,” Collins added.

More grocery stores are also expected to open due to the city’s rapidly rising population. 

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