Over the past few weeks I’ve watched and listened with interest to some of the media reports related to our downtown core. As a life-long resident and Mayor of the City of Windsor I’m proud of the accomplishments that have been achieved in our downtown. I see positive momentum. I see opportunities. I see growth and development. These are the things I want to share.
Yes, our downtown has challenges but many are not unique to Windsor. I meet regularly with mayors from 22 of the largest cities in Canada and we talk about our cities, the obstacles we face, and the successes we’ve achieved. The issues confronting Windsor’s downtown are the same issues I hear from nearly every mayor at these meetings. It’s frustrating for all of us to know there is no clear solution or quick-fix to very complex matters such as homelessness, addiction and mental illness. But we continue to work on strategies and initiatives to keep moving forward – to keep improving. We continue to talk. We continue to evaluate and re-evaluate, to share what works and what doesn’t. We continue to advocate for change and we implement solutions that work for our communities.
It’s easy for many of us to focus on the ‘bad’ things we see while ignoring all the ‘good’ things happening around us. Some are doing just that in the conversation about our downtown. Here are the facts: downtown Windsor is growing. We are seeing momentum, excitement, engagement, investment and passion amongst residents and businesses alike. People old and young, businesses small and large, are working hard every day to make a good name for our city. There’s an undeniable energy downtown and it’s been gathering steam over the past few years.
Windsor has amazing things to offer residents and visitors alike. Our waterfront is beautiful, with some of the best views and trails in the world. As the fourth most diverse community in Canada we regularly celebrate the people, the traditions and the stories from around the world that have become the very fabric of our local DNA. Our downtown is full of life with arts, entertainment, culture, dining, shopping, sports and community events. People in Windsor look forward to our annual festival season as it’s the unofficial start of summer. We know there will be something new to celebrate downtown every week, whether it’s Carrousel of the Nations, SummerFest, Bluesfest, the annual international fireworks display or the City’s annual Birthday Celebration, we all gather together downtown, as one – time and time again.
In the fall we are lucky enough to enjoy the Windsor International Film Festival, which is the second largest volunteer film festival in Canada, held in both the Capitol and Chrysler Theatres. For its part, the Capitol Theatre houses the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, where talented musicians perform music that captivates audiences of all ages. Just a few blocks away, Caesars Windsor hosts world class entertainment, winning multiple awards as a top tourism destination, and they do it all from downtown Windsor.
Downtown is growing. The investments are huge. The changes are visible. There is so much to be proud of – so let’s be proud!
Our hospitality sector has seen a huge boom with three hotels undergoing more than $25 million in renovations in the past couple years. The campus expansions by St. Clair College and the University of Windsor have helped add a youthful vibrancy. These investments alone amount to nearly $100 million and help build our local creative class. We now have five post-secondary education campuses downtown and we continue to work on a viable educational solution for the Paul Martin Building. All of this is good in its own right but we’ve also been able to preserve strong elements of our local history including the Armouries, Bus Depot, and Windsor Star building.
Let’s be proud of the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market, which expanded and relocated to Pelissier Street and Maiden Lane. This market brings people downtown on Saturdays to shop local and experience live entertainment. We were pleased to make an investment this year that will allow the market to expand and grow.
City Council’s commitment to downtown has been amazing and is unwavering. When viewed separately each investment may seem small but when stitched together the story is very exciting. Every decision, every ‘piece of the puzzle’ that clicks into place, results in big change for our city. In 2017 we adopted the Downtown Windsor Enhancement Strategy and Community Improvement Plan, which offers grants for improvements to existing businesses and incentives for new businesses to locate downtown. This innovative plan has already paid dividends with a major investment planned for the old Fish Market property located at Chatham and Ferry Streets. Additional interest has been expressed by private developers looking to build residential housing downtown with one application received in just a few short months. City Council also allocated funding for downtown focused investment related to theming/districting, alley enhancements and the Windsor International Film Festival. We are now experiencing the lowest vacancy rate of the past five years and I’m confident this trend will continue into the foreseeable future!
I look forward to hosting a broader community conversation regarding the future of downtown as the year progresses.
Small steps. Big change.
Windsor has momentum. You can see it and feel it in every ward throughout the city, especially downtown. If you haven’t been downtown in a while, I encourage you to come, explore, and see what’s happening. Try a new restaurant, see a show at the Colosseum or hear the WSO perform. Explore the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Chimczuk Museum. Take your families to Adventure Bay and experience what we’ve built, together. The business owners and the people who live in our downtown are a passionate and dedicated group. They work hard not only for themselves, but also for our city. Like me, they believe in Windsor. They feel the momentum. They feel the energy. They want to be here as we continue to grow and improve. There are challenges and we are working hard to address them every single day, but we don’t let our challenges define us. One day those challenges will be part of our story and our history.
Together we can write the future. We can change the conversation. It’s time that we do.
Take note of the good. Accentuate the positivity and the opportunities. Believe in our city with me, and you’ll experience a downtown that is new, exciting, evolving and so very worth celebrating.
Believe in Windsor. I do.