East side neighbourhood looks like decaying Detroit (see more pictures at bottom of page)
The blocks have been allowed to deteriorate by absentee landowners and, according to one long time resident, an uncaring city hall that does nothing to clean up the mess.
“This neighbourhood is a ghetto right now,” says Jean Dubois of 651 Chatham St. E., who has lived there 45 years.
Dubois points to the back of a house along an adjacent alley, the roof of which is crumbling.
Meanwhile windows on an adjacent row of abandoned houses are boarded up, with heavy vines covering one of the house entrances.
Across the street are vacant lots and a lone house. Around the corner on Louis – between Chatham St. and Riverside Dr. – are two houses in bad repair, one with its roof crashed in showing exposed rafters.
“The city don’t want to give a permit to those people to demolish it,” Dubois says.
Pointing to the Louis Ave. house he says, “There’s one half-burned. They don’t want anyone to touch it.”
As a result of the open fields and blight, with the exception of perhaps a few properties like his, “nobody wants to live” in the area, just two blocks east of glistening Caesars Windsor casino.
Dubois is disgusted by what he says is decades of city indifference.
“They don’t do nothing in this neighbourhood, nothing for as long as I live here.”
He said there are rats, racoons, and skunks. “We can see them coming,” Dubois said. “They come and eat our garbage.”
The resident said the city should be embarrassed by the area, so close to the casino.
“Americans pass there, and they look at it. And they say ‘What the hell is going on in Windsor?’”
Interestingly, the area is listed on city planning books as a prime candidate for cutting edge development.
It’s included in what’s known as the Glengarry - Marentette Waterfront Village Community Improvement Plan (CIP).
The plan indeed describes the overall six-block, 19.7 acre area as “vacant, derelict or in a state of poor maintenance.”
The city would like to turn the blocks into an “urban village.”
This trendy planning concept would be “more urban than suburban”, pedestrian-friendly with residences and businesses set close to the street and parking perhaps in the rear, according to senior community development planner Kevin Alexander.
Alexander said that, like in Olde Sandwich Towne on the city’s west side, the area is also under demolition control.
City council would have to approve any building demolitions.
A reason is that the city wants to ensure that buildings that have some historical or architectural significance are not gutted. But on these two blocks within the six block zone there seems to be no fear of that.
Ideally the city would like developers to invest in the area. But Alexander said there have yet to be any takers.
Meanwhile, short of redeveloping the area into a “village” with a waterfront theme, the existing rundown buildings haven’t been torn down because they don’t present a sufficient danger to passersby on the street or to adjacent property owners.
“Obviously if we felt something was structurally unsound we have, under the Ontario Building Code Act, authority to issue an order for demolition,” Chief Building Official Lee-Anne Doyle, said.
Doyle added the city also has the power to order a property owner to maintain a building.
“And if they don’t do that then we proceed with court action.” But, she said, that can take months, “sometimes years.”
(see below for more pictures)