Today, at a regular meeting starting at 4:30pm, Windsor Council’s Planning, Heritage, and Economic Standing Committee will be presented with a draft of what is known as the Downtown Windsor Enhancement Strategy and Community Improvement Plan. It is the result of two and a half years of effort.
Despite the verbosity of 216 pages, the draft plan to revitalize the city’s core is light on detailed specifics. Although a number of ideas are offered, the plan has no timeline, sets out no measureable goals and, although it recommends how money could be spent on various grants to spur development, no overall budget is presented. The vision statements are also very light.
The report presents few new ideas. An example is the Commercial/Mixed Use Building Façade Improvement Program. It is designed to, “… encourage the redesign, renovation, or restoration of commercial and mixed-use building facades in Downtown Windsor by providing a financial incentive to offset some of the costs associated with the improvement of commercial facades.”
A similar program of grants has been available from the Downtown Windsor BIA and has achieved limited success. A red flag for the public might be the suggestion the, “… program encourages the restoration of façades to their original state using authentic or original materials. Products used in the restoration of a façade should contain materials that match the texture, colour, size, shape and detail of the original material where possible.”
This seems to presuppose the report’s authors have approved, without public discussion, an architectural style for the downtown consisting of restoring aging buildings to their former look.
This is not the only option, however. There are many others, including a city of the future approach.
In this style all buildings and upgrades would match some of the new edifices in the core, such as the new TD Bank or the FCA Canada headquarters. Both reflect modern, 21st Century standards. Deciding on the approach would need to start with a defined vision and considerable discussion of what the public want in their downtown storefronts and buildings.
The report presents contradictory direction, though. As an example, the plan says the city should, “… increase the number of businesses and people working in downtown Windsor by encouraging investment in new and revitalized office space.”
The fifth recommendation calls for an, “… incentive program according to an approved Community Improvement Plan that will, for eligible residential development occurring in the designated project area, provide grants and/or loans to offset the costs to renovating existing buildings, including upper-storey conversions for residential use.”