Central Elgin (CE) is expected to put pen to paper this summer and begin writing the climactic chapters in the continuing saga of Port Stanley harbourfront development.

The next chapter involves repurposing the Dominion of Canada Building, at 191 Carlow Road. The deadline for submissions to the municipality’s Expressions of Interest (EOI) process – inviting private sector proposals for future uses of the property – is June 3, 2021. Final negotiations with prospective entrepreneurs are to be completed by the end of September.

The narrative continues with an online Zoom public meeting on June 16, 2021, when locals may review the CE Official Plan. A public meeting to discuss the Port Stanley Harbour Secondary Plan is also slated for the summer months. Both documents – roadmaps for growth, development, and protection of heritage assets to 2046 – should be approved before year end.

“The municipality has a vision for the municipally-owned waterfront to be a people place for residents and visitors alike, and considerable municipal investment has been made along the waterfront to encourage this sense of place,” according to the EOI documentation. “There is now a desire to move forward with developing this sense of place and waterfront even further. The D.O.C. Building will form an integral part and catalyst to this vision.”

An 8,629 square foot structure on the western bank of Kettle Creek, just south of the King George VI Lift Bridge, the D.O.C. warehouse was erected in 1930. Structural integrity of the building has not been verified for some time and it has been under-utilized for 14 years. It needs a new roof, as well as new doors and windows. Water and electrical services also need to be replaced.

Zoned for mixed uses, the D.O.C. Building is on the municipal clerk’s list of heritage properties. While the EOI documentation does not specify the size of the lot, it states that parking is available.

Another consideration for prospective developers is the 2010 divestiture agreement. When CE acquired the D.O.C. Building from the federal government, one of the feds’ conditions was that CE retain ownership of the property until at least 2030.

“ … The intent of this project is to find a long-term partner to utilize and return the subject property to a key, contributing component of the waterfront,” the EOI documentation continues. “The ideal tenant will be a group or person which intends to make a long-term commitment to Central Elgin and should propose a use which takes the community and economy into consideration when determining suitable uses.

“Generally speaking, the intended use should promote economic activity in Port Stanley and Central Elgin, should be a year-round operation and be of a nature that is long-term, intending to become a part of the community.”

David Russell, proprietor at the London rental agency The Apartment Shoppe, has submitted a proposal to CE for future uses of the D.O.C. Building.

While details of his submission remain confidential, Russell said: “The repurposing of ‘as-built heritage’ is the only realistic way to preserve the D.O.C. Building. The building needs a new vision. It will be great to get the ideas flowing.

“The municipality has the asset and the means to invest in the D.O.C. Building to make it a prominent feature of our beautiful Port Stanley,” said Russell, a Port Stanley resident who owns a number of properties in and around the village. “We don’t want to lose out on a chance to preserve our heritage. We need to preserve it by repurposing it.”

While CE is still mum on the number and nature of proposals received to date, a proposal last year considered the development of a micro-brewery on the site. There was also talk of a roof-top patio and restaurant. Another concept involved developing a venue for live music.

“At this time, the municipality has no additional information to offer,” said Paul Shipway, CE Chief Administrative Officer and Clerk.


More about Central Elgin’s official plan review.