An architectural rendering of a proposed "canopy" over Wyandotte St E in Windsor. Sketch by Architecttura, provided by the City of Windsor.

Plan For Wyandotte Town Centre Canopy Hits A Roadblock

A plan to transform a Windsor neighbourhood has been slowed by Windsor City Council.

A divided council voted Monday night to reject a motion to spend $1-million on a street canopy over Wyandotte St. E. This was presented as the first phase of a plan to transform the area known as Wyandotte Town Centre into what was being called a “street world marketplace”.

Councillors and Mayor Drew Dilkens┬ávoted 7-4 against the motion. John Elliott and Fred Francis were among the “no” voters, each saying in their remarks that they are not opposed to the project, but they wanted to “put the brakes” on it.

Others, like Ward 8 Councillor Paul Borrelli, said it was like “putting the cart before the horse” and the current plan did not show off Wyandotte Town Centre as a distinct neighbourhood with a common theme.

Ward 3 Councillor Rino Bortolin co-sponsored the motion with Ward 4 Councillor Chris Holt since the plan spanned the two districts. Each would have contributed $500,000 in placeholder money to the project.

The city administration said in its report to council that there had been some reservations about the project to the city’s upcoming districting initiative, which involves the creation of distinct neighbourhoods in the city based on common community values. The administration had asked council for direction in moving forward.

Bortolin said the result of the vote, though, is a disappointment.

“It’s a little bit frustrating just because I think this is the ultimate notion of districting which came up from the grassroots, through the community,” said Bortolin. “Then it’s been approved for years now at the BIA level.”

The plan consisted of outfitting three separate blocks along Wyandotte St. E with giant, multi-coloured banners resembling a crisscrossing canopy, supported by new structural poles positioned midway between existing light poles and a high-tension cable system. The banners would last about ten years before being replaced, and they would be stored during the winter months.

The project was spearheaded by the Wyandotte Town Centre Business Improvement Association (BIA) after consulting with Windsor Fire and Rescue to ensure public safety would not be compromised. It was approved in the 2017 capital budget.

In addition to the city’s million-dollar contribution, the BIA would put in $400,000. However, the money was initially not due to be available until 2021, and the administration said financing costs would be factored in to release the funds early.

Despite the roadblock, Tamara Kowalska, chairperson of the Wyandotte Town Centre BIA, said her group’s enthusiasm would not be curbed.

“Their enthusiasm for, their dedication to neighbourhood revitalisation, does not depend on decisions made by city council,” said Kowalska.

With the “no” vote, the administration will now complete a report reworking the project to help it conform to making Wyandotte Town Centre a distinct district.