Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dave Hall's Latest Article

Dave Hall gives Windsor Star readers some valuable insights into what's happening in Windsor's business community. Todays article is on green architecture, putting the brakes on big-box development and business' actually moving INTO downtown...

Green designs benefit budget and environment

A member of Greenpeace for over 30 years, Windsor architect Joseph Passa comes honestly by his commitment to designing environmentally-friendly buildings. With dozens of his company's green designs popping up across the region, Passa Associates Inc. is among Canada's leading designers of environmentally-friendly buildings. A list of awards backs up their expertise. "Green buildings have been my passion for decades," said Passa, who was trained in Canada and New Zealand. "Now it's a growing worldwide movement which is drawing interest and commitment from across the globe." In the past, it's often been thought that environmentally-friendly buildings are more expensive to design and build. While that can be the case, Passa said it doesn't have to be. "We've designed schools for the local separate school board which have come in well under budget," he said. "We have to follow the same budget and constraints as any other architectural firm and we've shown we can do it without spending more money." As examples, Passa said Our Lady of Mt. Carmel elementary school came in $65,000 under budget while St. Christopher's was $350,000 under budget when it was completed. Both exceeded the national energy code standards by between 40 and 60 per cent. St. Christopher's was recently recognized as the most energy-efficient school in Ontario and the fourth most in Canada. Buildings designed by Passa Associates are scattered across the area and include a new fitness facility at the University of Windsor, Glengarda Child and Family Services linen building, the Rotary Children's Safety Village, Lakeview Montessori School, South Walkerville Medical Centre, Clairmont Financial, Hofburg seniors residence, Parkpoint condominiums and Crystal Harbour condos among many others. Passa and colleague David Rompf have just had an article published in the Journal of Green Building, outlining four of their local projects. Next month, Passa will spend a week in Verona, Italy, studying sustainable aspects of stone construction at the 42nd international exhibition of stone design and technology on a scholarship awarded by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. In recognition of his commitment to green buildings, Passa has also just been named to a three-year term on the Ontario Heritage Trust. His mandate will be to devise ways of maintaining the historical integrity of heritage buildings while at the same time making them more energy-efficient. Passa said one of the heritage buildings under retrofit consideration is Toronto's Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres on Yonge Street. "We're hoping to renovate the building and make it more energy-efficient while retaining its history and charm."

Plans for a Birch Run-style big-box retail development (reported here previously) adjacent to Ambassador Golf Club, on the city's southwest border with LaSalle, are scheduled to go before the City of Windsor's planning advisory committee today. The neighbouring Windsor Raceway, however, wants a delay. The proposal by Coco Developments requires a zoning change to allow for a commercial centre development and construction of a 400,000-square-foot retail centre on 50 acres of land at the northwest corner of Sprucewood Avenue and Matchette Road. Since the majority of the lot is designated residential, the proposal also requires an amendment to the city's Official Plan. The development calls for a pair of 100,000-square-foot buildings and about 2,400 parking spaces. There are plans to buffer it from the adjacent Ojibway Park prairie grass reserve. Lawyer Chris Kruba, a spokesman for Windsor Raceway, said the track is requesting a deferral to "give us time to assess how the development will impact our property and business." City administrators are recommending approval of the zoning change as well as a change in the designation of a portion of Sprucewood from Class I collector road to Class II arterial road. There have been no objections voiced by Transit Windsor -- which has a route past the site -- or from police services, the Essex Region Conservation Authority and the planning department. However, that department has recommended that the majority of traffic access be from Sprucewood rather than Matchette. Fearing the development's impact on its Malden Town Centre retail businesses as well as concerns over increased traffic, LaSalle council has stated its opposition to the plans. If it's dealt with today by PAC, Windsor council will get the proposal Oct. 15.

Two businesses have located in the downtown core. The Drive Magazine has moved into 309 Chatham St. W. and Indaba Marketing Inc. has taken space at 430 Pelissier St. Formerly at 711 Riverside Dr. E., The Drive now occupies part of a building that houses Rogues Gallery Comics. Indaba, a Zulu word meaning "a meeting or council of people with like mind," is owned by Debi Croucher, a marketing specialist who also works with the Windsor International Film Festival.

In other downtown news, the streetscaping project on Ouellette Avenue between University Avenue and Park Street is expected to be completed by the end of October.

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