Windsor Star: Open Streets: Councillors OK longest block party in city’s history

[Windsor Star – Craig Pearson] Let the streets be open.

Council decided on Monday to green light a pilot project called Open Streets Windsor, creating what will become the longest block party in Windsor’s history — not once but twice.

It’ll mark the longest street closing, too, all in the name of healthy people and healthy community.

“I am supporting this motion extremely enthusiastically,” Coun. Rino Bortolin said. “I hope we extend this to every area in town. “Everybody has been on board with this. This is money spent creating great neighbourhoods.”

Open Streets Windsor will stretch from Olde Sandwich Towne to Ford City on July 17 and Sept. 18, at a total cost of $55,000. It’s based on Open Streets initiatives around the world, including cities like Toronto and in countries as far away as Brazil. The initiative started in the late 1970s as Ciclovia (Cycle Way) in Bogata, Colombia.

Despite the popularity of the festive event, Open Streets Windsor managed to stir up strong emotions at city council.

Two councillors, Paul Borrelli and Hilary Payne, voted against the four-hour Sunday get-togethers, largely due to cost.

Borrelli called the event “fantasy land,” suggesting that it does not make sense to spend $7,00o an hour on two events that he feels won’t change people’s lifestyles and won’t be sustainable without city money.

“This is not Brazil, this is not Toronto with millions of people downtown, this is Windsor,” said Borrelli, who thinks a better idea would be to close Pelissier Street and Ouellette Avenue for a similar event. “My problem is that it’s costing taxpayer money. I have to protect the taxpayer. It’s selling us on a fantasy.”

Coun. Fred Francis supported the initiative and seemed to direct his response specifically to Borrelli.

“Why can’t we show vision?” asked Francis. “We deserve what Toronto has. We deserve what Brazil has. “Sometimes, we need to dial down the rhetoric.”

Coun. Bill Marra, who served as acting mayor while Mayor Drew Dilkens is out of town on city business, challenged Borrelli’s concerns.

“Open Streets will succeed,” said Marra, noting that promoting healthy living and community engagement pays off in several ways. “Nobody has asked the question, ‘What is the cost if we don’t do this?’”

Open Streets Windsor will run roughly from Brock Street along Sandwich Street, down University Avenue West, through the downtown, along Wyandotte Street East to Drouillard Road.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit made a presentation in support of Open Streets.

Yet Payne noted that the event — which invites participants to walk, run, roll, dance, do yoga, practise karate, or demonstrate whatever exercise they like — will cross through five business improvement districts, but that not one BIA is chipping in.

Jon Liedtke Jr., co-owner of the newly opened Higher Limits vapour lounge, said his business will donate $2,500 if the BIAs match the money — to help make the party even better.

“Open Streets is a great project,” Liedtke said. “It gets people out being active and exploring their communities in ways they haven’t before.”

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