Chair: Professional Services, Distinctive Homes & Real Estate Ltd.
In 2004, Chris MacLeod found himself “adopted by Windsor”.
The licensed real estate broker and co-owner of Realty ONE Group Iconic, located on the main floor of The Hive on Pelissier, has been a real estate professional since 2009, having served thousands of happy customers with RE/MAX Preferred Realty and Prudential Select Real Estate. Previously an engineer at Johnson Controls, and a passionate community activist, the well-traveled Oshawa native says that there was something special about Windsor that captured – and kept – his attention: the potential.
“For whatever reason, we think that our downtown challenges are unique,” says the warm and affable MacLeod. “But having traveled to many other big cities, the issues we face are just a function of being a big city. What I see is so much potential, and we’re at the point now that there are so many projects being announced or underway, and every day we’re picking up steam.
“This is Windsor now,” he adds. “And the excitement is contagious. People will want to be part of what’s going on downtown.”
Vice Chair: Bars & Nightclubs, The Bull & Barrel
Few may know the downtown core as intimately as Andrew Corbett.
At 14 years old, Andrew discovered his entrepreneurial spirit, renting out venues along Ouellette Avenue for high school students to have the opportunity to descend upon the downtown to enjoy age-appropriate events. He eventually took his disc jockey skills to Caesars Windsor, where he rocked the house for two years, all while owning and operating his own production company, which he founded also at 14. At 21, he opened the Bull and Barrel as a partner.
“There are a lot of people advocating for the downtown, and with the new board of directors, we are focused on the three main priorities any board should have for the downtown: safety, security, and marketing.
“We have to help people feel safe and be safe when they come down here, investing toward security and safety for the good of the public – because that’s what leads into making this downtown the place to come.”
Treasurer: Member at Large, Continuing Education, University of Windsor
Surrounded by students and academics, and as a veteran of one of the most respected post-secondary institutions in the country, Jennie Atkins envisions a downtown that is “an ecosystem of tourism and students and business, where everything feeds off each other and allows for a healthy, thriving environment.”
The highly revered University of Windsor mainstay is the former director of the Academic Writing Centre, as well as director of International Development and Recruitment. Since 2019, Jennie has been the executive director of Continuing Education for the school, which is located in the historic Windsor Star building, aptly named Windsor Hall.
“I have to be honest – it’s inspiring to be integrated with the downtown core, which has a great feel and a great vibe,” Jennie muses. “For the growth of the downtown, it’s certainly necessary (for students) to be able to provide their feedback, whether it’s student space, green space, or safety concerns, as well as what’s accessible to them.”
Director: Retail, The Gifting Tree
Many people will recognize the vibrant Misty Adams from her days as owner, operator and designer of Funky Kids, favoured by customers over the 12 years it spent on Ottawa Street as well as on Manning Road. She can also be found at her Gifting Tree pop-up shops at Windsor Regional Hospital.
Today, she’s the friendly face behind The Gifting Tree, a true downtown gem and the go-to for shoppers looking for unique, locally sourced gifts.
As a new member to the board of directors, Misty says she’s eager to “get the downtown rolling.
“It’s really exciting to work with this new board and start picking up the pace on getting downtown where it deserves to be,” says the downtown resident and business owner. “I know we can get there, and we can do it together. I not only work downtown, I also live downtown, so I’m fully invested.”
Director: City Appointment Ward 3 Councillor, City of Windsor
Renaldo Agostino is a familiar and beloved face in the core. In the early 1990s, the Toronto native recognized Windsor’s potential and decided to be a part of downtown’s growth, organizing numerous large-scale events like Jurassic Park Windsor during the Raptors championship run, and operating numerous successful businesses in the heart of the city.
As Ward 3 Councillor, Renaldo serves on a number of boards, including Windsor Public Library, Community Services Standing Committee, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, and the Windsor Detroit Tunnel Corporation, among others. He’s a volunteer executive director and coach at Border City Boxing, where he mentors Windsor’s youth while training many of them to be champions.
For the downtown, Renaldo says there’s one thing to do to get the downtown to where it needs to be. “Work hard and never give up,” he says with his trademark confidence. “For me, the number one thing is to make sure that people feel that they’re safe downtown, and that we work in cooperation with the City to make sure that downtown is about hospitality and respect.”
Director: Restaurants (unlicensed), The Coffee Exchange
Born in Australia, and raised in Windsor, Ron Balla joined the Canadian military, coming home to attend Dalhousie University and the University of Windsor to study physics and computer science.
And then he fell in love with the hospitality industry.
Ron opened The Coffee Exchange 30 years ago, one of the most cherished and successful institutions in the core. When asked about the secret to his success, Ron’s answer is genuine and simple. “It’s about creating an environment where the business owner is allowed to be innovative,” he says. “When you figure out what you’re good at, it’s not rocket science – it’s like managing your own home.”
Ron is eager to see and be a part of a bright future for the downtown. “We have to be cognizant of the issues we have with diversity, security, cleanliness, and fix those up,” he suggests. “We’re responsible as a membership to do all the things we’re supposed to do as a community, to be proud of who we are, and to care.”
Director: Hotel/Tourism/Retail, World Space & One S.U.N. Legal Services
Sikander Riaz Bhatti, affectionately known as Sunny, essentially grew up in downtown Windsor; his parents owned and operated World Cottage in the core for over four decades. After retirement, the Bhattis continued to invest in the downtown, thoroughly renovating the building where World Cottage was born, renaming it the Riaz and Afzal Bhatti Building. Today, the building is home to Nadia Bhatti, Barrister and Solicitor; Christopher Knowles, Barrister and Solicitor; World Space (collaborative work space); One S.U.N. Legal Services.
“My parents always loved the core of our beautiful city,” shares Sunny, “and I share that same passion for downtown Windsor.” As a member of the board, Sunny says, “I want to work collectively with all business owners and residents to make our downtown shine.”
Sunny, a graduate of the University of Windsor and TriOS College, has a passionate personal mandate for the core – it’s to focus on creating a vibrant, safe, and thriving downtown by prioritizing economic development and enhancing its image, as well as supporting infrastructure improvements and fostering community engagement.
Director: Commercial Property Owner, The Bitcoin Building
He’s a former restaurateur and owner of two upscale dining establishments in Toronto. He’s a real estate developer who saw promise in the region, and decided to make Windsor home. And now, Ray Blanchard is one of the members of the DWBIA’s Board of Directors, and he’s ready and eager for progress and change.
“There’s so much about Windsor that’s special,” he muses. “The people are kinder, much more considerate. The warmer weather is great. The promise of development is absolutely incredible.
“This is absolutely the place to be.”
Ray’s primary mandate for the core is safety – while he agrees that engaging more business and promoting the core is an eventual goal, for now, “we have to make downtown safe and secure, because you want to promote a downtown that people feel safe coming to. Once we’ve attained that, the full will of the board is next, which is taking different measures to ensure that we’re everything we can be, attracting corporate names, new business, and really beautifying the downtown.”
Director: Restaurant (licensed), Maiden Lane Wine & Spirits
A servant’s heart. That’s Olivia Holt in a nutshell.
“I’ve been in hospitality since my first job,” says Holt, whose kind smile is a mainstay at Maiden Lane Wine & Spirits, where she serves as floor manager. “I’ve always been really fascinated with being of service to others – I have a degree in psychology because I wanted to really understand people, and even went to college to be a funeral director because I felt like that’s the height of service, and certainly something so respectful.
“Being of service to others is the door to really knowing people, so you can be more compassionate and empathetic to everyone you work with, meet, support, and help.”
Holt says that serving on the board of directors with the DWBIA will permit her to finally witness downtown’s long-awaited growth. “I want to see more diversity in our economy. I want to see more residential areas. I just want to see the building of a community that we’re deserving of downtown, to enhance and support businesses. And ultimately, all people.”