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New owner of former hospital buildings shares his intentions

Italo Ferrari's re-development is expected to be mostly residential

"I love Sault Ste. Marie," says Italo Ferrari, new owner of Sault Ste. Marie's old General Hospital site and the adjacent former Plummer renal wing.

"I've already been here four times. Wintertime is a little bit harsh but that's okay," says the Woodbridge, Ont. developer.

Woodbridge is more Italian than Sault Ste. Marie, if that's even possible.

Of 104,745 souls in the Vaughan-Woodbridge federal electoral district, 23,755 claim Italian as their mother tongue.

"Somehow we all gathered there," Ferrari says.

That compares to 3,225 of the Sault's 77,075 population.

Ferrari loves our food, and he's enthusiastic about the neglected waterfront properties he bought on May 24.

"It's one of the best sites anywhere," he tells SooToday.

"The water – the river – is there. It's very challenging project because of the size, and the previous users. It will be a big challenge for us, but it's a challenge that we're going to be undertaking and there will be something there."

How about the condition of those buildings?

"Indescribable – the breakage and the damage that was done inside," Ferrari says.

"There's no understanding. Why would they do what they did inside there? I went in there with the city officials and walked through the whole building. I have never seen city officials do what you guys have done. They walked with me from the top to the bottom in both buildings."

Can the smashed-up, water-stained structures be turned into something usable?

Ferrari thinks so.

"Randy Beltramin [a licensed engineer from STEM Engineering Group] went through it and it's in extremely good shape. The water that came into the building, coming from the roof.... it came in from open latches on the roof and windows. All the water went to the lower area, the basement.  But the building's in very good shape."

Now, Ferrari is working with local architect Franco Pastore from IDEA Inc. to develop a master plan for the two buildings.

"There will be some residential, some special uses for the facility," Ferrari tells SooToday.

"We're going to be spending the next month or so to come up with specifics. The moment that it's ready we'll publish."

The project may have a small commercial component, but it's likely to be something like a coffee shop or convenience store, just for residents living there.

"We're excited. We want to make sure that we do the right job for Sault Ste. Marie. We have never failed. I've done a lot of developments. North Bay, St. Catharines, Oshawa, all over the place. I have never let anybody down. I'm hoping Sault Ste. Marie will be one of them as well."

Ferrari is general manager of Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc., which bought the former hospital buildings from Amit Sofer, president of TVM Group.

As SooToday reported earlier today, Ferrari was in the Sault today at property standards appeal related to the former hospital site.

The hearing was adjourned after city officials and the new owner struck a deal and jointly submitted an agreed-on order specifying timelines for maintenance work to be done on the site.

Ferrari has retained Wright Time Contracting of Sault Ste. Marie, which has already been working on the site.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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