New Urbanism An Anathema To Windsor

Header-image-TuomiBy Robert Tuomi

The brain trust at city hall wants Council to spend $8,000 to showcase Windsor at this year’s Congress for New Urbanism Conference. It might seem, to the non-observant, a case of hypocrites wanting taxpayer money to pretend they are urbanists.

Neither the city’s council nor its administration give a public thought to any kind of urbanism, modern or otherwise. This is why they are blindly preparing to gouge taxpayers to the tune of $300 million to service the urban sprawl of a new hospital in a farmer’s field, close to the flight path of the local airport.

In a report to Council for its March 7 meeting, apparatchik Adam J Coates talks of the principles of new urbanism. They include designing, “… walkable blocks and streets, housing and shopping in close proximity, accessible public spaces, place making and human scaled urban design.”

Who does Coates think he’s fooling?

While these are nothing if not good principles, they’ll never see the light of day in the city common sense stuffs into the dustbin.

The conference itself will be held in Detroit, but its organizers apparently are planning on having some sessions in Windsor; thus the need for $8,000 smackers. Was Windsor selected for its proximity to Detroit or was it picked because it can keenly display what should not be done?

Windsor is well on its way to being the contrarian when it comes to new urbanism, with its plans to shift its centre from downtown to its outskirts in a move it knows will threaten to hollow out the heart of the city.

Ironically enough, Detroit is doing quite the opposite with its revival of its downtown.

Curtis Sullivan, co-owner of Vault of Midnight, which plans to open one of its famed comic book stores in the D, told the Free Press February 29 about there being, “… no place more exciting right now than downtown Detroit. We are thrilled to bring something new and completely different to the mix and become part of the city’s historic resurgence.”

No one has ever accused Windsor of being exciting or even its council of being dynamic. Or, for that matter, awake. So, it becomes quite the mystery what it plans to do to impress the 1,500 designers, planners, developers, architects, and other professionals who are gathering to see new urbanism successes.

It could be the city will try to pretend its failures are successes. Coates, in his request, offers this piece of pretence.

After decades of decline Ford City is beginning to turn itself around but still faces issues of blight, poverty and perception of crime.

There is even blather about Windsor facing, “… unique challenges when it comes to urban planning. Separated by only 1 mile of water and an international border, Windsor and Detroit share an intimate dynamic unlike any two cities.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

What, pray tell, has the river to do with urban planning?

At best, the delegates will see quite the contrast. As Detroit pulls itself up, Windsor works to pull itself down. Its council cares about nothing except elite swimmers. It refuses to help any locals trying to better the city. It won’t contribute to its farmer’s market nor the downtown incubator.

Meanwhile, Detroit just motors on showing the world what leadership is.

No doubt the delegates will enjoy the contrasts of can- and can’t-do cities. They might even compare the steady handed leadership of Detroit’s Mike Duggan to the ego and glitz-chasing anti-leadership of Drew Dilkens. That, alone, could be entertaining.

Robert Tuomi can be heard at noon every Thursday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. It is also streamed online at CJAM.

About the Author

Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi

4 Comments on "New Urbanism An Anathema To Windsor"

  1. James Coulter | 10 March 2016 at 13:51 |

    Mr. Tuomi is absolutely correct to say that our local government gives nothing but lip service to its policies regarding urban intensification.

    The shameless promotion of the proposed site for the mega-hospital as an opportunity to open up more land for developers and describing it as “good” for us is what our politicians prefer.

    However, the Congress of New Urbanism convention in Detroit is an opportunity to press City Hall on the advantages and value to tax payers of urban renewal and reinvestment in our core neighbourhoods.

    My knowledge of the Windsor activities is limited to the broad strokes at this time but it will include bike tours of our city centre neighbourhoods, a road-diet demonstration and a powerful speaker. This is all being put together by volunteers in Windsor.

    For them to ask for $8,000 is not “gouging”. This is not a multi-million dollar sporting event asking for $50,000 with no quantifiable benefit for Windsorites.

    These volunteers will be inviting professional planners and architects into our city and they will have an impression made on them. What they have to say could embarrass or cajole our decision makers into looking at our city a little differently.

    When you consider that a certain councilor plans to go to Italy to learn about modern urban planning, $8000 given to an event that will actually bring people that practice modern urban planning to Windsor is not a bad way to spend tax dollars. Especially if it has a chance to change the conversation to “maybe all this sprawl is a bad thing.”

  2. CityGuy2 | 7 March 2016 at 11:45 |

    Good article Robert. Spot on and direct.

  3. Robert you have done it again great article, and I am sure the D is coming to Windsor to see how not to do things. The mayor of Detroit is investing in their downtown and the people of Detroit, not himself like our ineffective mayor Dilkens. We need our ineffective mayor and ineffective city council to spend one week with their mayor and city council to see how to run a city. Our mayor and city council need to understand how to set priorities for the city starting with our infrastructure, and taxpayers needs. The problem we face in Windsor is our ineffective mayor and some city councillors have huge EGO’s stopping them from making the right decisions for our great city.

  4. Marny beale | 4 March 2016 at 14:29 |

    That one mile of water….. stuff sounds like pure Gord Orr. Frightening.
    If we had a shred of pride left as a downward plunging city you would hope that we would discourage any delegation from a legit conference on urbanization coming to witness it up close.
    Any chance someone from here is going to Detroit to see how it is done? Probably not exotic enough for our crew.

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