Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the looking glass?

First off - I don't want anyone to feel that the M.O. of SDW has shifted off of "Windsor's built environment and it's cultural effects" to "Let's get an Downtown Campus". That does seem to be the direction a lot of SDW posts have taken lately, but our outlook remains the same. Strengthen the city's heart and the rest of the city will flourish.

In light of that disclaimer, I want to point you to an article a friend forwarded to me that appeared in the Toronto Star on, ironically, International Car Free Day. Now, as you read this article and you can easily and forgivably believe that Christopher Hume - Toronto's all-knowing urban critic - actually had Windsor in his mind (except for his waterfront observation) as he wrote it. It is actually eerie the similarities. But, who am I to make the judgement for you. Read it and let me know...

Urban campus could have revived Oshawa
September 22, 2007

What can one say about Oshawa? Here is a city that has made every mistake in the book; a place so devoted to its own ugliness, it has become almost remarkable. The clear impression one gets from even a cursory visit is that no one cares; neither its leaders, nor its residents. This is a city in which people live, but refuse to inhabit. Who can blame them? Other than the usual shopping malls, franchises and fast-food outlets, there's practically nothing here. True, there is the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, but it seems somehow an afterthought. There's even a waterfront, though it's as plain as can be, dull even.

Oshawa's claim to fame, of course, has been the automobile industry. Interesting the effect that U.S. car manufacturers seem to have on the communities in which they're located; think of Detroit, North America's most spectacular failed city, and one can't help but wonder if there isn't some connection between urban decay and car makers.

Certainly, the automobile has done its share of damage to Oshawa, but this is something it has in common with many other communities throughout the continent, indeed, the globe. Still, bisected by Highway 401 and rent with feeder arteries, Oshawa does appear to have sacrificed an awful lot so that Ontarians can remain in their cars as long as possible. But it would be wrong to cast Oshawa as a victim, even of its own success. For instance, when it was chosen as the location of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, the campus was built at the far north end of the city, ensuring that it falls into the same commuter category as the rest of Oshawa.

One might have expected the UOIT to be situated in the "downtown" core where the on-going demise of General Motors has left lots of land vacant. Surely that would have made more sense, especially at a time when the environment has emerged as the major issue we face.
Building dense, urban communities is infinitely preferable to sprawl, which Oshawa already has lots of.

Besides, "downtown" Oshawa – and we use the term loosely – needs all the help it can get. An urban campus would have brought hundreds, if not thousands, of people into the city and provided an economic, social and maybe even a cultural boost. It could also have brought some vitality and sense of place to a hopelessly unfocused and unformed city.

And at a time when the major issue we face is that of climate change, the need to build compact and dense cities is more urgent than ever.

Clearly, this isn't a message that has been heard in the "City that Motovates Canada."

Obviously, we here in Windsor are not suffering our fate alone. We are, in fact, governed by the same economic and social laws as everyone else. Why is it that we will not follow the leads shown us by other successful communities who've turned their fate's around? It's high time that we started to do just that.

1 comment:

Chris Holt said...

As far as I know, there hasn't been a concrete timetable with which to work, but it seems as though we have to increase the pressure on our city councillors and the University's Board of governors. This from today's Windsor Star:

U of W eyes engineering partnerships

Monica Wolfson
Windsor Star

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The University of Windsor has lined up at least 30 companies it will approach about partnerships at its Centre of Engineering Innovation building.

Members of the university's board of governors went in-camera Tuesday to discuss property and contract issues associated with the new $110-million project the school will start building soon.

University officials have also met with Chrysler executives to help identify corporate partners. School leaders will start meeting soon with companies clustered into specialities such as automotive and robotics, to discuss interest in "manufacturing courtyards."

The courtyards will meld corporate projects, faculty research and student co-op positions.

"This is intense now," president Ross Paul said. "We are going to set up more of these meetings."

Paul said officials were getting closer to deciding on a location for the building. While city council and Mayor Eddie Francis have tried to persuade the university to locate the engineering school downtown, Paul said there are considerable design issues that must be taken into account.

"This one is so huge, it's more complicated," Paul said. "Architects need to be engaged before we make a decision."

The university must also make sure all its documentation is in order, Paul said, to support the provincial grant of $40 million toward the project. While the school already has $50 million from a bond to pay for construction, it has to raise an additional $20 million.

The university is considering hiring consultants to help with raising private funds. There have also been talks with other government entities.

"There have been discussions with the city and county on mutual benefits and possible opportunities together," Paul said. "There are a lot of elements to manage at once. We are well on our way."