City should move on canal project (continued)

almost always provides a kneejerk “can’t do” before any proposal for a visionary urban project gets out of someone’s mouth. What, build a beautiful, resident-and-tourist- friendly land and water mark like a canal in downtown Windsor? You’ve got to be crazy! How could we possibly do that, respond legions of self-hating Windsorites. You’d think we were in some land-locked Prairie city. Well, folks, running along Riverside Drive happens to be a body of water. It’s called the Detroit River. To the north is an even bigger body, Lake St. Clair. And to the south, the mother of all local water, Lake Erie. Windsor and Detroit have long had the top ownership rate of pleasure boats in North America. Windsor-Essex is renowned for its marinas, river and lake front parks. Believe it or not Windsor is a marine city. Yet when it comes to projects like the proposed canal Windsor might almost be in the desert like Oklahoma which, come to think of it, happens to have the Bricktown urban canal. Or, say, Texas, which has the San Antonio River Walk. Our superb waterfront location aside, the canal would be a boon to downtown for a number of reasons. First, the city has longed for a “destination” attraction and this would be it. What other nearby city has anything remotely resembling a marine-oriented urban people-place? Second, this would inject the kind of development the core needs. The city centre requires not just a tourist attraction but residential use, and a kind that probably hasn’t been seen locally. This would be connected with plans for the City Centre West Urban Village in the area north of University Ave. Don’t think hi-rises. Don’t think suburban splits. How about heritage townhouses, such as those that exist in a vast number of other cities but have eluded Windsor. This would be the perfect housing to lure the type of creative class the city badly wants. It would also lure empty nesters as part of the 100 Mile Peninsula retirement initiative. It’s time for Windsor to seize the project and fast-forward it. The lands in the western part of downtown have sat empty or under-utilized long enough. Nov. 30, 2009

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