Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mr. Farhi's Lament

If Matty Moroun wants to get anywhere with this Mayor and Council, he needs to learn how to write a letter properly. And perhaps take some other lessons from a London developer about "heritage" buildings."

Take this note from poor old Mr. Farhi about the steel debris on the Lear site. I wondered who complained. I felt so badly about his economic health that I almost sent a note to the Mayor and Council begging them to add another year or two on to his tax-free status on the downtown lands by extending the closing date.

Perhaps if Matty asks Edgar to check out the border crossing stats and see how much the volume has tumbled, then Edgar might take pity on him and let him tear down the homes in the West End and grass the area. He would not have to build a Garden of Eden there and not have to come back time and time again to change plans the way Council made Burger King jump through the hoops.

The timing was perfect for Farhi's note at Council last night too considering Gord's Saturday column. I have no idea why he even wrote the note since we were told that the City could do nothing to him for a one year period ending in October:
  • "Windsor's battered downtown is getting a much-needed vote of confidence from larger-than-life London developer Shmuel Farhi, who has been opening his wallet to scoop up properties here and hopes to make an announcement in February of his plans for the core area.

    "I don't want to say too much much right now. But it's going to be good news," said the former Israeli soldier whose Farhi Holdings Corp. owns and manages four million square feet of office, retail, industrial and residential space across Ontario, including a significant chunk of downtown London.

    "Over the next two months we'll be expanding our interest in Windsor and hopefully early in the new year we can come with an announcement in regard to my future business there," said Farhi."

Who would dare say NO to the man now!

One thing though. In retirement, it seems that Gord has changed from writing "hard-hitting views on City Hall, the school boards, labour, crime, justice and more" to rewriting Farhi "press releases." Just compare his column with the Farhi note. So sad.

Here are some points to consider in that note that are troubling to me:

  • those shrewd investors who bought land around the arena may be in big trouble now since the Lear building had no prospect of being filled in the foreseeable future
  • they might be mad at Edgar's real estate advice when he said "You want activity. You want action,” said Francis. “The entire Lauzon Road corridor is going to come to life again. This just adds to and complements the activity at the WFCU Centre. Shrewd investors are already picking up properties.”
  • does this mean our "new downtown" has little hope of ever being built it the near future too. And our old downtown too
  • did Mr. Farhi check with his tax people to discover whether his property taxes came down after the Lear building was demolished and whether he could get a tax break for his pennies on the dollar multi-million dollar deal loss
  • OMG, the cost of land for parking has just sky-rocketed if the East End arena lands were bought at a discount
  • why would Edgar be so inhospitable take advantage of an out-of-towner like this when he wants to be a "good neighbour" and do new projects for Windsor.

This is a big tragedy. Why I can remember Mr. Farhi being quoted as saying:

  • "Farhi, who owns much of downtown London through Farhi Holdings Corp., which has real estate assets of more than $500 million across Ontario, confirmed in a phone interview that he’s finalizing plans to tear down the sprawling 43-year-old factory, with demolition beginning as early as October, and is working on longterm development plans for the 60-acre site that could, over the long haul, exceed 500,000 square feet and would benefit from close proximity to the city’s WFCU Arena complex...

    Farhi said the Lear plant’s demise is part of a transition in the east end. “This area changes from industrial to future commercial and residential.”

He also said:

  • “Farhi said he foresees the Lear plant moving to an industrial area in a few years, which would pave the way for him and other landowners in the area to create a commercial and recreational hub surrounding the new arena. “This place, the way I see it, it is going to be transformed into a new development.”

And it is too bad that the WEDC fellow from Moncton could not have been hired years ago since he knows call centres. It looks like Farhi lost this:

  • "He is also working on attracting a call centre to the 90,000 square feet of office space he owns in the Lear plant. "

He took a real bath on that WFCU transaction I guess:

  • "Farhi acquired the 100-acre Lear property in 2005 for $8 million. In the fall of 2006 he traded 40 acres of land behind the Lear plant to the city for the arena, in exchange for a prime 1.1-acre site west of the Art Gallery of Windsor plus $1.5 million in cash."

Except I have always been confused since the Star also claimed:

  • "Land registry documents obtained by The Star also show council agreed to pay Shmuel Fahri $4 million for 40 acres where the new arena is to be located -- less than one-third of the overall Lear plant lands Fahri paid $8 million to acquire just over a year earlier in July 4, 2005.

    He has retained ownership of the plant and surrounding property.

    Coun. Joanne Gignac, a member of the arena steering committee, said she had no idea what Fahri originally paid for the land.

    "The ($4 million) was a price council thought was reasonable," she said.

    "We then included the property on Riverside Drive. Rather than pay (more) cash, we had the land deal with Mr. Fahri. He was interested in that."

However, the BLOGMeister wishes to assist our new neighbour whenever possible. With all of that scrap steel, could I perhaps suggest that Mr. Farhi contact the people at the Zalev plant. Perhaps they could take it since they are close by:

  • "Zalev Brothers collects, processes and supplies recycled ferrous and nonferrous metals to the North American steel and automotive industries."

I think that Mr. Farhi's GPS device must not be working and he must think he is in a different City since Gord said this in his column on Saturday:

  • "Farhi, who deals with municipalities from James Bay to the St. Lawrence, said Windsor benefits from having the best mayor in Ontario, a pro-business council and fast and responsive administrators."

Oh yes, a Mayor who is accused of being "provocative" and acted in bad faith when he issued an ultimatum Thursday to the Ambassador Bridge company." With a Council who has been stalling our economic development for years. With an Administration that mini-Gord reported in the same Star edition:

  • "They said it was going to be a boring debate on development policy -- just a required five-year review of the city's Official Plan. Nothing to see here.

    Instead a special meeting of Windsor's Planning Advisory Committee turned into a shouting match this week, with the city's development community accusing planners of trying to kill what's left of their industry."

What a huge co-incidence though. Just as Mr. Farhi is buying up downtown properties, mini-Gord tell us this:

  • "In the meantime, with so much empty space in the city's commercial/industrial zones, city planners have floated this concept in a Land Needs Analysis Report submitted to PAC:

    "New commercial development needs to be encouraged/facilitated in the downtown, main street and commercial corridors.

    "We would recommend that no approval for additional commercial space in the City be made that would result in new commercial development within the next five years."

Wow, was he ever lucky! And we don't need an Interim Control By-law either.

Poor Edgar, Mr. Farhi is a tough guy. What will Edgar do when Farhi may say to him one day as he said in London:

  • "When Farhi speaks, city hall listens, as was the case 10 weeks ago, when he told politicians to step up with plans for parking or he'd raze or let rot some heritage properties.

    "Literally, I can knock down 20 buildings tomorrow," he said then."

Matty, take note!