Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon chat outside the Paul Martin Building in Windsor, April 17, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

‘An important part of Windsor’s history’

A downtown Windsor building that has been an anchor for decades will finally see some new life.

The City of Windsor and the federal government announced Wednesday morning that the Paul Martin Building, occupying an entire city block on Ouellette Avenue in the heart of the core, has been sold to the city for the sum of $10. With the city taking possession, it will become the temporary home of the main branch of the Windsor Public Library.

The library is preparing to move out of the Ouellette Avenue building it has called home for over four decades after it was purchased by the Downtown Mission. While the planning and building of a new permanent library takes place, two floors of the Paul Martin Building’s 1959 annex will be converted into a temporary central branch. One floor will be used for the main book collection and the computers, the second will be used for administration and archival purposes.

The city believes the library will occupy that space for a period of three to five years.

Steven MacKinnon, Liberal MP for Gatineau and the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, said buildings like the Paul Martin Building are part of the historic framework in towns across Canada, including the town in PEI where he grew up.

“All sort of towns across Canada have had a Dominion Building or a Paul Martin Building, with a lobby like this and generations of Canadians have walked through public spaces like this one,” said MacKinnon.

That sentiment was echoed by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who hailed the purchase as another moment for downtown in which older, historic structures have been converted to modern use.

“We certainly have a proud tradition of celebrating our heritage in the city of Windsor, and working to protect its history,” said Dilkens. “This building is an important part of Windsor’s history.”

The structure opened in 1932 as the Dominion Building and for many years served as the main downtown post office. Signs directing visitors to the long-gone post office remain on the exterior of the edifice. More recently, numerous federal entities such as the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) used the space. It was renamed in 1994 after the longtime Liberal MP and Senator from Windsor, Paul Martin. His son, Paul Jr., is a former Prime Minister of Canada.

The purchase closes the book on several years of uncertainty over the building’s future. The University of Windsor had hoped to move its law school into the structure and had spent a lot of time negotiating the move. The plan received a $20 million backing from the previous Liberal government, but it was permanently scuttled last year when the new PC government cut any potential monies for the project. The university then decided to expand and renovate its current on-campus law school.

The facade of the Paul Martin Building recently got a $3 million facelift with funding from the federal government.

The city said the library is poised to move in before the end of the calendar year, with any collections or programs that do not make the move being split among library branches across Windsor.

Former post office nameplate, Paul Martin Building, Windsor, April 17, 2019. Blackburn News file photo.