Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rejected...

Well, I knew it would happen one of these days. The following letter is the first one of mine that The Windsor Star decided not to print. The funny thing is that the Star employee responsible for the letters-to-the-editor didn't know what "RFP" stood for and wrote back to me asking.

Wow, my ego is really taking a beating these days...

Re: U of W arts campus called possible for Windsor core, Jan 30.

Windsor City Councillors, PLEASE do not use this latest anouncement by the University of Windsor as further reason to hold up the RFP process for the Urban Village plans on the City Centre West lands.

We need to move forward with issuing the requests for proposals to guage interest in redeveloping the Urban Village in our downtown. Revitalizing our downtown core is paramount to the health and economic well-being of our city. By bringing residents to our core, we will then start to lure the necessary businesses to support these new residents, creating a positive-feedback loop. All these issues must be dealt with in tandem. Partnering with the DWBIA in cleaning the area up and making it safer will yield much higher benefits than simply waiting for that "silver bullet" mega-project to come in and save us.

We look to our elected leaders to offer some help in achieving this outcome. What do ward councillors Jones and Postma have to say? They have been conspicuously silent since the Universities decision to locate the engineering school on campus. The community/downtown activists cannot do it alone. It is time to step up to the plate and work with us, as this idea of a "community partnership" has produced such great results in more cities than I can count, and the energy and desire is out here to move forward. You are squandering some precious community resources if you choose not to act any longer.

Chris Holt
scaledown.ca

It's a good thing I have an alternate venue with which to air my grievances. How about all those other rejected writers that don't, however?

19 comments:

Chris Schnurr said...

Chris - The Windsor Star has many reasons behind their decisions, call them fair comment - only permitting so many letters from the same individual in a certain time frame, or it is not newsworthy.

But keep up the fight. Blogging as you know is having an impact.

dave said...

Chris, I too am quite interested as to why Councillor Jones and Postma have been silent of late. They seemed to have been the biggest booster (at the time) of the urban village but now their silence is deafening.
Could it be the cat was let out of the bag by The Windsor star and St. Clair College and the city (I mean Eddie) are looking at expanding St. Clair College downtown?

What this city doesn't seem to understand is that students alone cannot and will not save downtown. Teh fact is very clear. STUDENTS DO NOT HAVE DISPOSABLE INCOMES! Not to mention more than 90% of students at St. Clair College already live in Windsor/Essex county. Are they going to move closer to the campus just to move? I don't think so. A large majority live at home with their parents. A smaller percentage are adults with their own homes or apartments that are either back at St. Clair to upgrade their schooling for work or trying to upgrade to find work. Either way they are not in a position to move closer to a possible downtown campus.

I am not trying to be negative but the facts are what they are. I know I sound like a broken record but I must hammer home the message. The downtown NEEDS an urban village with little to no cost to taxpayers. This is going to be a large piece of the puzzle for the revival of downtown. A downtown that MUST be healthy in order for the city to be healthy.

What is isn't is the be all, end all for downtown. There are still other pieces that need to fit but the urban village goes a long way in filling the void that is badly needed; People with disposable incomes.

Boomer said...

Students don't have disposable incomes? 90% of the people I see at the mall and the theatre are under the age of 25. I think that young people today have far more disposable cash than any other generation before it and they love spending it on entertainment, relaxation, clothes and electronic devices, but maybe I'm wrong, I'm not sure. I do agree though that the Urban Village would be the best thing for the core of our city.

Chris Holt said...

Thanks Chris. Honestly, as much as my post sounded like sour grapes - that was not my intention. I just wanted to raise the issue of the University now waving the possibility of an arts campus being located downtown and how I didn't want any more dreams of "magic bullets" to hold up the process any longer, and it was clear that the Windsor Star wasn't going to help.

I don't want to overwhelm SD readers with too may posts, and that's the reason I wrote to the Star that day. I think we had already posted three blog entries. But, maybe I should ask them - Is there such a thing as too many posts?

The rumours abound that the City Centre West development holdup can't be attributed to the Engineering school, an Arts school, a lazy council or anything else, but may just be because of decades-old legal problems related to the original land expropriation process. It's something that I'm trying to look into now, but if there are problems of this nature, it's time to bring them out into the open as opposed to looking for scapegoats to take the blame for the holdup.

Yeah baby - we're having an impact. Of this, I am certain.

Dave - contact me at chris_at_scaledown_dot_ca

Anonymous said...

Dave,
Can you explain where these people that will move to the Urban Village are going to come from? We have the highest unemployment rate in Canada. Who is going to build this village? No builder in his right mind would take the risk. That would mean the City would have to. I know as a tax payer I don't want my money going into another City pipe dream. While I certainly like and support and active and vibrante downtown I can clearly see that economics are the biggest factor preventing this.
Don't you feel that without jobs and people moving into Windsor we would just be building empty buildings (Ie. Canderel) ?

Adriano Ciotoli said...

who in their right mind??? if i remember correctly, Beztak offered to build the urban village/arena combo for free.....FREE. included in it would have been a wayne gretzky restaurant which would have been a draw alone.

i hope the city has the sense to reapproach beztak, thats if they will even consider listening after they way they were treated last time.

Sporto said...

Chris, no such thing as too many post! Keep 'em comin....

How many posts does it take to affect critical mass?

Anon, Where will people come from? They will come from all over! From the fringes, from the county, form suburbs. Thats where.

Mark Boscariol said...

"The rumours abound that the City Centre West development holdup ...but may just be because of decades-old legal problems related to the original land expropriation process. "

Nope, As absurd as it may sound, I got a legal opinion that basically states that after 10 years of inaction after an expropriation, the city can change the intended use to whatever it wants with no recourse from the landowners.

The next answered quote will give a better idea of the real problem:

"Can you explain where these people that will move to the Urban Village are going to come from? ..... No builder in his right mind would take the risk."

My argument has and will always be that Windsor's economic condition will not be cause for tenders for the land not exist. It will cause them to be lower. Much lower than what the city paid for expropriation.

The city maintains it offered $25 million to the university. $10 million of that is the price of the land that they expropriated.

When will the city admit that the land is not worth what they paid and move on? This land with its design conditions will probably only bring less than 2 million. I believe that many are afraid of the negative publicity from that admission.

I don't think its negative. Even if the city gets the much lower number, the money will be easily recouped from property taxes, spin off development and higher Assessed values from surrounding properties.

Admit the property is not worth what you paid for it and move on.

dave said...

Anon,

There are many people who would like to live in an urban environment. No, not everyone but many, just as there are many people who like the sub-urban experience. If these were upsacle residents with a middle class block I am sure the response would be met, just as they were in Detroit. The problem in Windsor is that there isn't a good stock of houses in the downtown core.

You stated that economics could be at play here. That was said about areas in the downtown Detroit area as well however the response there has been overwhelming in light of the current market meltdown and subsequent credit crunch.

As for who would pay? Builders would build it if the incentives are there. Currently the city makes very little money (aside from the minimal parking fees) on these sites. Wouldn't it be better to at least receive property taxes plus having people living in the area to frequent the downtown? Also the construction would be local. The jobs created for this project would be a boom to the shriveling construction sector.


Boomer,
The majority of those young folks you see at the mall live with their parents. There is something close to 75% of people under the age of 25 still living with their parents! They have jobs but most of teir money is spent on themselves and not to their parents for rent and food. I guess this is our fault for allowing our children to live off of us for so long.

My arguement against an expansion of St. Clair College on these sites (could be used elsewhere downtown) stands. These people live with their parents and will not be buying a house anytime soon.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city. Do what is right. Follow all of the studies and they will see that people LIVING downtown is what is going to make the difference.

Mark Boscariol said...

As to who will want to live there. Everyone who realizes that Downtown WIndosr has infinitely more walkable amenities than any other location in the city.

Riverfront Park, Arts, Theater, cafe's, symphony etcetera etcetera

Chris Schnurr said...

Yes - I know of the problems which you speak and am doing a blog in the future simply asking questions as I can't make statements regarding that.

Insofaras the downtown campus of the U - an arts, music, social work would be a much better fit than an engineering warehouse.

An arts or music school is something I can rally behind.

dave said...

Again, why does it have to be schools? Why not the village?
I think enough time has been wasted away on schools and every other thing that has come around the block. The facts remain that PEOPLE LIVING THERE (I can't spell it out any clearer than that)will make the difference downtown.

dave said...

Chris, I sent you the EMail.

Chris Holt said...

Definitely - don't wait for the "Silver Bullet", but also don't discount it if the opportunity arrises.

My one and only beef with the engineering school was the fact that it would have monopolized the entire plot of land, leaving no room for any other uses.

I think the most important aspect of an Urban Village would be a diversity of uses. An organic development where the uses compliment each other and compliment each other with pedestrian activity 24/7/365. Low rise office space, gallery space, residential, commercial and retail - all woven together like a Persian Rug.

This is how some of the most vibrant communities have developed over time and I think it would become one of the most economically important developments that Windsor could pursue.

Mark Boscariol said...

If we wanted to do it right, we would see every future gov't or educational bldg as an anchor in a mixed used development

Thats why the campus is important, its an anchor tenant for the entire development

ITs what we should have done with the 400 bldg. Its what we should do when city hall one day gets rebuilt. Its what should be done when the proposed federal bldg one day goes ahead

BTW. Thats another huge opportunity we're missing out on right now, a new major federal bldg has been proposed years ago and no ones talking about it. It would see a reshuffling of all the current federal staff downtown and bringing back some other federal offices downtown.

dave said...

I agree Mark. It is odd to see so many gov't bulidings spread across this city yet in many other cities they are in one central area, usually the downtown.

Let's not only look at the western site but many of the surface lots downtown. Many could hold another building or two and increase downtown's density...like it was 50 years ago. Interesting to note our downtown was a lot larger in the 1950s than it is today. Also, the downtown of the 1920s was bigger than it was in the 1950s. Contrast that to many other cities and it is really a head scratcher.

Chris Schnurr said...

Dave -

It is always wise to have a back-up plan, or to incorporate different ideas into the plan.

The urban village land uses included institutional, residential and commercial.

Between an engineering warehouse or a school of music, for example, a music school would be a better fit.

It could also tie into the Windsor Symphony and the Capitol Theatre.

A Faculty of Law could set the stage for unique partnerhsips with downtown law firms. A Faculty of Social - with the City of Windsor Social Services.

I prefer the arts option - a better fit that offers many more opportunities to enhance the core.

And Mark is correct - you require an anchor for an urban village to be truly successful.

Or we can simply continue demanding residential only and the urban village will develop that much slower.

Send out the RFP's and attract an anchor - just not a manufacturing warehouse.

Mark Boscariol said...

Hey, I kinda like it when Chris and I agree.

More should be done to find out the details of the Federal building proposal and why its not public knowledge

Chris Schnurr said...

Mark - truth be told we usually agree - I just disagree with you know what - and on that, we'll agree to disagree.