The new owner of the Budds building in downtown Kitchener says he knows what he wants to do with the property – just not precisely what that entails.

The Budds department store closed up in January, after several decades of operations on King Street.

Owner Howie Budd said at the time that he would only sell it to somebody with the right idea to continue the downtown’s rejuvenation.

He says he turned down several offers before finally finding somebody whose interest in the building matched the potential he saw in it – tech entrepreneur Jay Shah.

Shah says he’s not sure exactly what will end up in the building. What he does know is that whatever it is will be something currently absent from the neighbourhood.

“We’re exploring a lot of different options right now,” he said in an interview.

“We’re starting from that point of ‘What do residents here really need?’”

In recent years, there have been calls for a grocery store to be located in downtown Kitchener. Shah says a downtown supermarket would be “fantastic,” but notes that other landlords are already thinking along the same lines.

Downtown Kitchener BIA executive director Linda Jutzi says the building’s second floor could be utilized well as office space, while many businesses are looking for smaller spaces than the 25,000 square feet available at Budds – something that has Shah thinking about dividing up the ground floor storefronts.

Shah has lived in Waterloo Region for eight years, and spent the bulk of the past three in the downtown.

He says he’s seen a lot of improvement in the neighbourhood even in that relatively short timespan.

“It’s been unbelievable to walk down the street every day and see the changes,” he said.

For Shah, the Budds store marks his first foray into commercial real estate.

He says he expects the building will need some renovations before it’s ready for its new life, and might be given some “creative” interim uses before a long-term tenant is found.

The purchase is expected to close in July.