Friday, October 5, 2007

Living in the Core

While I’m a strong advocate for downtown Windsor, my views are not limited to its boundaries. I believe that the City as a whole should have the same agenda, but it is only natural and logical to start in the downtown locale and expand outward. This is the methodology that Detroit, and so many other cities, has so successfully embraced.

Much has been posted on the subject of amenities and on the benefits of living downtown, Windsor still faces the challenges of attracting new residents and residential developments to its city centre. Many are beginning to realize the beauty and uniqueness of our riverfront but few are willing to live on its doorstep.

The City’s Planning Department has recommended the allocation of $150,000 to be utilized towards residential market studies prior to the adoption of any of the residential development incentives and recommendations made by the Community Improvement Plan. Theoretically, this is the correct approach however it does not address the immeasurable negative consequences these delays will have on our community.

One such example is that the of the current Community Improvement Plans which have been put on hold until 2012 - at which time we will be facing the same, if not greater, fiscal challenges. After completing CIP's 4 years ago, I do not have confidence that they will not simply be put on hold again either. In the meantime, there are no incentives to redevelop the Glengarry-Marentette area, most of Downtown, and every other neighbourhood in which Community Improvement Plans have been established. By that time Ottawa, Walkerville and Erie St. may be in a greater crisis.

Our developers are well aware of the City’s economic challenges and what the market will bear when it comes to new housing. $150,000 would be better spent on changing people’s perceptions of our downtown.

Tax Incentive Financing is only one measure of what should be provided to developers. We need to start promoting the many benefits of living downtown. Since 2003, I have been lobbying for residential development in our city centre, and I will continue to do so until action is taken. I have always been of the opinion that if residential development is integrated into the city’s centre, businesses are smart enought to locate near customers. Other indirect goals will be the fact that the type of residents who choose to live downtown will be the ones who will likely support and attend arts events, making facilities like the Capitol Theatre and the Art Gallery less dependant on public funding. In fact I tell you that no matter what the question is about Windsor's challenges, whether it be Arts, Economic Development, Tourism, Clean and Safe Issues, the solution includes residential development in the core. Just look across the river at Detroit or any other city that has recovered from a downturn.

Click here to see some of those benefits

Disclaimer: The views of my blog entry are my own and may not reflect the views or policy of the DWBIA

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