BIZ X MAGAZINE: Summer in the City

Summer is a glorious season in Windsor for residents, and for our Summer 2022 Biz X Magazine column, the Rose City Politics panel opines on what Windsor can do to make summer living better?

With almost four months of summer annually and warm temperatures extending into fall, city council should do more to capitalize on this by focusing more attention on what makes a city livable & enjoyable. We don’t need constantly shiny new mega-investments to lure tourists or even new residents, what we need are minor investments and policy changes to maximize livability for residents.

In no particular order, here’s the investments and policy decisions city council should make, some necessary, others wishful thinking.

Dedicated & Protected Cycling Infrastructure: While the riverfront is a lovely trail for a recreational ride, Windsor lacks adequate and safe cycling infrastructure. With warm summer temperatures, we’re missing out on one of the best ways to get around the city, actively and safely.

More street closures & patios:
Windsorites love Open Streets so much it won a TWEPI “Best of Windsor” award, & with thousands regularly flocking to the eight kilometers to take part, perhaps we should consider adding more weekends of street closures…dare I say, make them permanent features? Oh, and let’s keep the extended patios, they’re a great addition.

More beaches: With such a vast waterfront and ample municipal parks along it, is it too much to ask for more beach access?

Riverfront: Our riverfront is the gem of the city, which is why it needs more maintenance on signage, sculpture garden pieces, and even broken benches. Beyond that, installing more benches, allowing for more food and drink vendors, and adding in colourful lights at night could really make it liveable and enjoyable, day and night.

Parks: Windsor has 205 parks spanning 2,558 acres, and while some need minor maintenance and more benches are needed (it’s a theme!) – not to mention working water fountains and unlocked washrooms – most have seen important improvements over the past few years. Allowing for adults to responsibly consume alcohol and cannabis in parks without breaking bylaws would allow for enjoyment.

Music: With the loss of many music festivals over the last few years, it would be nice to see more publicly funded performances throughout our BIAs and the riverfront. Windsor has a large contingent of great musicians and performers; the city should support them by providing a public music series.

Jon Liedtke is a host on AM800 CKLW, co-host and producer of Rose City Politics, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and plays trumpet in Windsor band The Nefidovs.

“Summertime, and the livin is easy”, well aside from insane gas prices, food prices, restaurant prices, higher borrowing costs, and across the board inflation. 

But on the brightside, one thing that Windsor Essex has that the government can’t control (or can it?) is the best summer weather in Canada. It warms up earlier, and stays warm longer than everywhere else in Canada. For four months we can all pretend we live in the Mediterranean.

If Windsor would like to expand off my delusions we can do a few things to make it even better. The pandemic kept us all inside for literally years, and one thing the city did when we started to reopen was to let restaurant and bar patios expand into public space and occasionally closed down some main BIA roads to make them pedestrian only. For the love of mojitos, please don’t go backwards on that. In my opinion every main entertainment district from Downtown, Erie St. Ottawa St. etc. should have their main roads closed every weekend to draw people out of their fallout shelters and enjoy our entertainment districts. 

If that sort of thing isn’t for you, Windsor has a plethora of beautiful parks that could add or expand weekend programming of music, movies, mini Art in The Parks, farmers markets, etc. In an effort to make those sorts of things accessible for everyone, Transit Windsor for low income people and anyone on social assistance should be free. If not year round, it could be summer specific. 

If all that won’t work, well I spend a lot of time in the summer in my “Fake Cuban” patio enjoying a nice cigar and cocktail, feel free to stop in. There is an $87 cover charge, Ladies Night is Thursdays, and make sure to tip your bartender. The real estate market got really tough the last 4 months and his motorcycle takes premium.

Don Merrifield Jr. is a realtor serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 year, a co-host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a former professional musician, father and grandfather, and a former ward 3 city council candidate.

Windsor is blessed with long, gorgeous summers, and we’re getting better at making the most of it. Outdoor events and festivals are a summer institution in this town, and we’ve seen a revival of patio culture since the adoption of the City’s COVID-19 Small Business Action Plan, approved by Council in May 2020. This program includes a patio fee waiver along with support for “parklet” temporary patios installed on public right-of-ways. 

These forward-thinking measures were an important injection of hope and support to small business at a difficult time, and they represent a major enhancement to Windsor’s summertime quality of life. The City’s decision to continue to waive sidewalk patio fees and support parklets for 2022 is a welcome one. Council should consider which aspects of this program can be made permanent, and think about ways to make cost recovery by the city more accessible and friendly to small business.

Windsor’s 204 parks are a valued amenity year-round, but most especially in the summertime when the weather is nice and children are out of school. We’ve seen significant capital investments in park amenities throughout the city – $26 million in 2022 alone. This term of council has also seen ever-increasing investment in the Parks operating budget, improving the maintenance of parks and making sure critical infrastructure like water fountains and washrooms are in the best condition they can be.

All of these enhancements are welcome and should continue. To maximize the benefit to the community, council should consider making investments in active transportation infrastructure to better connect our parks and patios with residents, and liberalize rules around alcohol consumption in parks as many Canadian cities are doing. We’ve already done a lot to make summer living more pleasant and sociable in our community – we should go the extra mile and aim to make Windsor the best summer city in Canada.

Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.


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