West end residents who have been negatively affected by the looming shadow of the former Windsor Grace Hospital building might find solace in the fact that the Government of Ontario has announced support for the demolition, clean up and redevelopment of the facility.
“I’m proud of the support the Ontario Government is providing to clean up the site and to fulfill its commitment to the residents of Windsor,” commented newly appointed Minister of Children and Youth Services and Windsor West MPP Teresa Piruzza.
The province has provided the City of Windsor a onetime grant of $3-million to support the demolition, cleanup and redevelopment of this site.
The total actual costs for the project are pegged at roughly $7-million, and while Piruzza explained that the request for the additional $4-million is currently undergoing appropriate governmental approvals, Mayor Francis is convinced that the city will receive the funds.
Francis explained that he has a letter from the province of Ontario’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and from former Finance Minister Duncan that states that “the money is allocated”.
“We have a commitment today from the Minister that the province is moving forward … I’m not concerned about it,” Francis explained. “When they say that they’re going to deliver the $7-million, they will.”
“A lot of people in this neighbourhood have waited a long time for this day,” Francis added. “This has been an intrusion into their way of life [and] this neighbourhood. We can finally move to bring some normal back to the residents and the neighbours who have had to deal with this for some time.”
When asked about potential development of the site, Francis explained that while he has had numerous calls from interested individuals, the city is “only interested in real development and real concrete plans … we’ve got plans for this site, and we hope to put those plans into action.”
“This is probably just another bunch of BS,” voiced Frank Harshaw, an emotional resident of the area who wasn’t impressed by the announcement. “They’ll find something wrong [and a reason] not to tear it down. There’s been so many politicians up there saying that they’re going to do something [and] it never gets done.”
Harshaw wasn’t convinced when Mayor Francis stated, “don’t judge us by what we say, don’t judge us by what our message may be, judge us by our action” nor when the Mayor added, “here we are, 90 days later, we’ve acquired the property, we’ve got the tender for the demolition, we’ve got the demolition crews on site, the plan to demolish is going to start with the abatement next week, [and] we’ve got $7-million from the Province. I think our actions speak louder than our words.”
“Judge them by their actions up till now,” responded Harshaw, “city bylaws weren’t enforced, we’re forced to call [for property maintenance] … it’s going to continue.”
Harshaw will not be satisfied until the building is torn down and he has “no confidence that this is going to go down. They should build a permanent soapbox there so [politicians] can come and make all these announcements.”
Councilor Ron Jones expressed gratitude and joy that the announcement was made today and explained, “it’s not the fault of the government [or] city that this has happened … [but] we acted on it, and there have been very cooperative members of provincial parliament who have helped us with this [and] we’re thankful for that.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.