Biz X magazine June 2021

Page 6

Rose City Politics

In this space the Rose City Politics panel will analyze, breakdown, and critique a local political issue that affects each and every Windsor resident.

Downtown Windsor And What It May Be

For June 2021, the Rose City Politics panel opines on both new downtown residential construction and renovation, a new central library on the horizon, the potential for the redevelopment of “The Barn” by the Windsor Express, and what these opportunities can provide for downtown Windsor and the city as a whole. Downtown Windsor, much like the Detroit Lions, is on year 45 of its five year rebuilding plan. Many plans and ideas have come and gone, some happened like the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre, and many others didn’t. However, if you haven’t been paying attention during our last year-plus of lockdown, while we all took on the challenge to “Make Our Stretchy Pants Tight Again,” some good things are happening. Residential redevelopment, new residential development, increasing downtown home values, and Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage moving into the old Fish Market, are all positive steps to revitalize the downtown core. What downtown has needed, at the most basic level, is more people living downtown. Residents make commercial development feasible, new retail businesses get customers, and the area just has a feeling of coming to life. Continuing on with some of the positive ideas that we had the last year — like

Doug Sartori Efforts to revitalize downtown have been a constant in Windsor for decades. Municipal election platforms in 1974, touted plans to redevelop the downtown. In the 1980s, plans for an enclosed downtown mall were floated. And in the 1990s, casino gambling and a blockbusting office tower were the flavour of the month.


extended outdoor patios — can only add to downtown core momentum. All these positive happenings still don’t mask a problem that keeps many residents from coming downtown — homelessness, mental health issues, and addiction problems of a population that congregates in the downtown area, is a big problem with no easy solutions. The concentration of community services for these issues in the core exacerbates the issue. A focus on policing and real help for those who find themselves in these unfortunate circumstances is probably the biggest factor in helping the core area reach its full potential. It’s an issue we cannot ignore if we want the downtown to continue to make progress. With COVID-19 hopefully in our rear view mirrors, soon events like the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market, the Windsor International Film Festival, weekend road closures, and my personal idea for Mad Max Bird Scooter races, can only bring more positives for the downtown area.

Don Merrifield Jr. is a REALTOR serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 years, a Co-Host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a father and grandfather, a former professional musician, and a former Ward 3 City Council candidate.

More recently, Adventure Bay was constructed at great expense with massive, ongoing operating losses. Council, developers, and boosters have tried one idea after another to inject new life into the city’s core neighbourhood. Besides Casino Windsor — now Caesars Windsor — few of these plans have brought real progress. The Public First “Windsor Works” report makes the point Windsor has learned from experience: “There are very few examples of new sports stadiums or art galleries that, by themselves, have turned their part of the city around, and all too many examples of major civic infrastructure projects becoming white elephants.” City Council has made progress in recent years with a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) incentivizing residential development. It’s not flashy, but it works: tax incentives have brought incremental, accelerating growth in residential development. Beyond the CIP, there are other signs of life: a growing number of Detroit tech firms

have found a home downtown. Community efforts like the Windsor International Film Festival have blossomed. Moving forward, Council should consider what’s failed and what’s been successful, using those lessons to move forward. We have enough evidence to know misguided investments in big-ticket flops aren’t the answer. Building on the success of the CIP, Windsor should work to bring professionals back to the city core. Council’s approval of commercial development on Rhodes Drive — an area that should be devoted to industry — did tremendous damage to the viability of commercial spaces downtown. That’s a done deal, but Council should find ways to reverse the damage and work to make downtown the vital place to work, live and play that this city needs it to be. Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.

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Don Merrifield Jr.

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