The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Jan. 29, 2014
In one swift motion, what could have been the finishing touches on the transformation and revitalization of the downtown core – the redevelopment and repurposing of the Paul Martin building – was effectively killed without warning and what could be argued in bad faith.
A tripartite deal between the Harper Government, the University of Windsor and the City of Windsor would have seen the roughly 400 federal employees transferred to a new city hall from the Paul Martin Building, and about 700 law school students, staff and faculty move from the west end into the (then) soon-to-be renovated Paul Martin Building.
However, it would seem that small-town politics and big-city egos have gotten in the way of what could have helped push forward downtown revitalization in ways that had only been discussed about with the loftiest of aspirations.
In numerous cities throughout North America, law schools are viewed as both cornerstones and points of civic pride for communities; New York, Boston, Oklahoma City, Phoenix and St. Louis all have law schools located in their respective downtown cores.
The influx of an additional 700 warm bodied Windsorites into the downtown core would have generated a spin off which could have seen additional business, services and amenities offered to core residents, workers and patrons alike.
CAPTURING THE SPIN-OFF: Higher Education as a Catalyst for Downtown Revitalization, was a panel discussion held by the Urban Land Institute Boston which discussed how downtown campuses create economic opportunities for the host municipality and adjacent businesses and how they can also generate additional demands for transit, safety, security and ancillary services.
Now there’s no doubt, the deal was expensive: the city was to transfer $15 million to the university as part of the deal, and the additional two floors required to house the federal employees at the new city hall was to cost an extra $12 million.
In a very rough total, for the deal to have gone according to the [then] plan, it would have cost city taxpayers $27 million; no doubt, a large chunk of change.
But residents would have walked away with a cornerstone of the downtown core reestablished as a point of pride.
At some point, Windsorites needs to get comfortable boasting about what we have to offer, and until we get to that point, there will undoubtedly be continuous contention about big spending projects and whether our city is even worthy of such ideas.
Is Windsor worthy? You bet your ass we are.
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. 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.