Library Plan Lacks Forethought

Windsor was once known as the gateway to Canada. Shouldn’t we re-introduce ourselves to the current mission since we are the ever-present link in the chain which connects us to Detroit?

Preparatory to the DWBIA meeting June 26, recall might be suggested in more ways than might appear. Much has been reported in the media lately as to portents and possibilities for the immediate future facing Windsor municipal tax payers, whether they rent or own property.

Without careful analysis, the visionary prognosis that appears does not guarantee positive probabilities.

Millions of tax payer dollars are at stake and the viability of a soundly established urban core is at risk. Viability of the downtown is in jeopardy. Assets forming the built environment are being, or will be, further compromised. We’ve followed this path before and do we want to follow historical precedents.

Financial-PostForty years ago, March 4, 1978, to be exact, a Financial Post 24 page insert appeared in the Windsor Star entitled, “Windsor. The Forgotten Frontier, Where Canada Begins.”

The articles for this advertising supplement were written for and supplied by the Greater Windsor Visitors and Convention Bureau. The front page caption was supplemented with, “Take another look at one of Canada’s leading manufacturing centres, our diverse investment potential, and our distinct quality of life.”

It encompassed the quality of every facet of life from sports, to culture, labour, and industry, and touted new responsibility, commerce, business, and educational services, “A Turbulent Past and A Bright Future,” enshrined within, “The Economics of It All.”

It’s worth reflection since it has not at all turned out that way.

In physics, a spinning gyroscope tends to portray a sense of balance. In reality, the Central Business District of the city of Windsor is off kilter. Activities engaged in as normal, logical, and inevitable use of a CBD over an extended period of time have become compromised. There have been challenges and those challenges continue.

Empty commercial space prevails in Windsor’s CBD. Pedestrian traffic has considerably decreased with attempts to humanize a de-vehicularized Ouellette Avenue mall. A costly extension south of Wyandotte is in progress.

The question posed is, “Where is it going?”

The demographics south of Elliot Street, but for the Windsor Public Library, is dead area, with due respect to the presence of a funeral home.

Prevalent is in excess of 100,000 square feet of floor space in the process of being dedicated to the homeless in a landmark and fully functional educational/learning facility. It’s not to infer that those less privileged don’t respect compassionate recognition of their plight. However, accommodation of these individuals should be redirected to rehabilitation and the preparation to pursue vocational pursuits.

Rehabilitation does not denote the French cultural context habitation or a place to live.

I made prior reference to a Dalhousie University program that recognizes the plight of the less privileged and addresses the crises in a particular manner that goes beyond sleep, food, and clothing. There is a cooperative venture between a University and a public library to work to a positive resolution.

Dispossessing the less privileged of the central branch lacks imagination in robbing these individuals of shelter which has purpose in serving the needs and potential opportunity for advancement.

As a municipal taxpayer, let’s get real. If talk of a combined college/library is not a political tale, and WPL wants to downsize, why couldn’t both have been accommodated in the existing Central Branch?

Using the Halifax Public Library cost as a numerical comparison, at $57.4 million, dedicate half that, or $28.7 million, to college/library aspirations and the other half to a multi-purpose homeless residential facility, say, for example, on the lands across the street, south of the funeral home.

Alternatively, various apartment buildings or other structures in the city, and one in particular on Goyeau Street immediately behind the library, might serve as an example to fulfill the prescribed need.

Another question arises as to need. How many will be served and what is their demographic make-up?

Will the proposed accommodation promote to non-residents that the pickings are good for relocating to Windsor? It’s a bad word, but the matter requires a “Needs Study.”

A piece in the Windsor Star’s from Windsor’s City Planner this past week centres on the ability for the occupants of the new City Hall to see daylight and the Detroit River once the existing building is gone. For whose purpose?

I believe that the judgmental process at City Hall, in regards to daylight, might be illuminated in consideration to prudent application of the municipal treasury to responsible opportunity which sits within their field of vision.

The City Hall Square so-called Campus Vista plaza, touted in original projections for the new building, becomes a cliched misnomer since it has a political motivation in servicing the whims of municipal government which may have gone astray in their thought process.

What about the College and University which see the CBD as an attractive educational venue, where ancillary services for operations already exists? City of Windsor Administration and the politicization of the thought process associated with City Council’s zeal to demolish a perfectly serviceable building, is subject to serious query.

For those who are unfamiliar with the ground floor of the existing building, the ground floor north to south was once an interior pedestrian mall, accessible front and back. Reawakened, it could become the Arc de Triumph indicative of the transition into the new millennium by a City Council which is symbolic of Rip Van Winkle’s re-awakening.

The best way to embrace our legacy, “Windsor. Where Canada Begins,” is by action grounded in substance and comes from thorough analysis and application.

Respectfully put, embarking on what appears to be a distress sale, shoe-horning the WPL main branch into a temporary position within the new City Hall does not reflect prudent wisdom nor rational forethought, and suggests an ill conceived legacy projected forward.

About the Author

William Kachmaryk, Sr
William Kachmaryk, is an architect and member of the Ontario Association of Architects. He has extensive work experience in both Canada and the United States and was the original architect of the Pelissier Street parking garage in Windsor.