Windsor unveils $3.2M ‘action plan’ to revitalize downtown

Taylor Campbell/The Windsor Star

“It’s time to ignite the flame of a new downtown.”

Impassioned words from Windsor’s Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino amplified outside city hall Tuesday morning marked the release of a new seven-part plan to defibrillate the core.

If approved by city council, the plan — “Strengthen the Core” — will see a dozen additional police officers stationed downtown, a bylaw officer dedicated to enforcing property standards in the ward, and efforts to establish a mental health and addiction crisis centre, among other things.

Council is being asked to approve more than $3.2 million to support the plan’s implementation this year.

“We have so many great memories of our downtown, but today, all you hear about is how bad our downtown is and how good it used to be,” Agostino said. “That’s all in the past.

“We love our history. We love those memories. But today, it’s time for our future. It’s time to ignite the flame of a new downtown.

“No matter where you live in this city, a part of downtown is in you — you get what you tolerate.”

The plan outlines seven initial “action items,” the first being “safe streets.”

That includes a “tailored to Windsor” police response model focused on high police visibility and disrupting and intervening in open drug use, property damage, petty crime, and disorderly conduct.

Other action items in the plan include:

• “high standards” (increase enforcement of property standards and filling vacant buildings);

• “healthy spaces” (lobbying upper levels of government to support wrap-around relief programs for vulnerable people);

• “place-making” (encouraging people and businesses to move downtown through Community Improvement Plan incentives);

• “vibrant district” (creating vibrancy by attracting visitors);

• “Our Downtown” (enhancing community engagement and implementing a marketing strategy to promote the core);

• “Stronger Together (convening a table to co-ordinate the efforts of community partners).

The plan was developed by hired consultant StrategyCorp using public input gathered through a community survey with 3,500 respondents; focus groups with residents, businesses, and social service providers; one-on-one interviews; and written submissions.

According to the city, StrategyCorp’s community consultants frequently heard concerns about property damage, petty crime, social disorder, limited foot traffic, and a perceived lack of safety downtown.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city will see change downtown if stakeholders collaborate.

“I would rather fail trying than not try at all,” Dilkens said.

“If we work on this together, if we have everyone’s back — that is the Windsor way.

“Being the southernmost city in Canada, that is the one thing you learn being here. We all have each other’s back, because no one else has our back.”

Council will be asked to approve the plan during its next meeting on May 13, along with a $3.2-million operating budget increase.

An administrative report on the matter urges council to support the expansion of service hours for the Homelessness and Housing Help Hub to include 6 p.m. to midnight; the addition of an employee to co-ordinate and manage and execute the plan; a dedicated building bylaw officer for Ward 3; and expansion of the Windsor Police Services’ downtown presence.