'Creative class' will transform Windsor's core
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Let's stop complaining about downtown Windsor not being the way you want it to be -- let's do something about it. You have the power to change your downtown. Once every century an opportunity occurs that can change the texture and quality of downtown. Not since Gordon McGregor formed Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd. in 1904 has the occasion presented itself for a monumental cultural and economic genesis of a city centre.
The University of Windsor's Centre of Engineering Innovation could transform, rejuvenate and revitalize the downtown core. The campus is 300,000 square feet in size with rooftop windmills, a treed central atrium enclosed by solar glass and a green roof designed to catch rainwater -- an attraction that Windsorites, tourists and conventions will marvel at. When you combine the U of W engineering campus with the St. Clair College campus in the former Cleary International Centre we can give birth to a "creative class" in the core and a vision that will have a lasting impact. By introducing our children to downtown in their post-secondary years, we create a nucleus that will seize the opportunity to transform the core. They will make it safer, more attractive and create innovative businesses and services.
The "creative class" will populate the city centre. They will sip beverages in coffee houses, browse in bookstores, reside in lofts and walk their dogs in green spaces. Remember when downtown was Marilyn Brooks, The Tea Room, Birks Jewellers, Dacks Shoes and other retail shops? They will not return -- but will be renewed by healthier, trendier type outlets that cater to a fresh young audience. Research shows that a vibrant downtown boasts the economic health and quality of life in a community. It creates jobs, incubates small companies and raises property values. A healthy downtown is a symbol of community pride and history.
New York City, Kitchener, Ann Arbor, Mich., Dallas Tex., London, Ont., Newark, N.J., and scores of other cities have transformed their downtowns by creating university campuses in their downtown hubs. These forward-thinking cities have created a blueprint for a downtown recovery and revitalization strategy that is easy to follow. "Success lies in creating a place where creative experience can flourish," says former Seattle mayor Paul Schell. We have that place, we only need to select its occupants.
Kitchener is giving $35.5 million to create two satellite campuses in its core. The University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier are coming downtown, creating a partnership between the city and the universities. New retail and restaurants are springing up because of this development. Jeffrey Leder of the University of Waterloo says, "for the university, service learning also plays an important role in educating and developing community.... It challenges universities to broaden their missions toward becoming engaged campuses supporting not only what is important to them within their own domain but outside as well." McMaster University is also very engaged and is a strong advocate of the rejuvenation of its city core. In 2002, James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, spoke about how McMaster had played and is playing a significant role in the ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown.
The transition of downtown Windsor to an education based "cafe society," or as Mighigan Governor Jennifer Granholm calls it, a "cool city," has begun with the St. Clair campus locating in the core. In a short period of time more than 500 students have had an economic and social effect on downtown.
They are shopping, sipping coffee and looking to be involved in social and educational activities.
Bob Williams of the Downtown Diner has already seen a positive change in his clientele. He sees the addition of an engineering campus as affecting the entire texture of downtown. Tim Hortons' Vicky Smith, past chairwoman of the DWBIA, is also excited by the possibilities and can see it as changing the face of our downtown. The BIA strongly supports having a Centre of Engineering Innovation campus in its core. We will do what it takes in manpower, incentive and energy to be a welcome centre. We have shown what we can do for St. Clair students and faculty and hope to prove the same for the University of Windsor.
The Downtown Business Association has been changing its direction toward creating a new healthy, clean and safe city centre we can be proud of. It has created a facade incentive program, a clean team, security cameras, streetscape and a chess park. Its focus and direction is business recruitment and these initiatives can help bring us to that goal. "Luck is being prepared and being in the right place at the right time." We are prepared and now we need the citizens of Windsor's assistance. Not since I moved back from New York City 10 years ago have I been so excited about an opportunity for downtown. It is time for us to nurture, grow up and transform ourselves.
I ask, YOU, the citizens of Windsor to support and encourage the Engineering School of the University of Windsor to come downtown.
I ask visionaries Ross Paul, Marty Komsa, Dave Cooke and Ed Lumley to broaden their mission and revitalize and recreate the texture of downtown into a cafe society.
I ask the honourable mayor and council, who have done a remarkable job with St. Clair College, to remove any impediments to making downtown a two campus urban village.
I ask Premier Dalton McGuinty and cabinet ministers Sandra Pupatello and Dwight Duncan, who realize how downtown campuses have revitalized other Ontario cities, to assist us in making a downtown facility a reality.
I ask the Downtown BIA to support in every way imaginable (i.e. manpower, programming and incentives) a two- campus downtown.
By working as a team we can make it happen.
Larry Horwitz is the chairman of the Windsor Business Improvement
Association. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: 817-6264.
© The Windsor Star 2007