Today’s post idea comes from Urbanrat, who recently informed me about a discussion that took place about a new library/combination cultural centre that was talked about to help revitalize a dying downtown… The only difference is the headline below appeared in the Windsor Star on December 3, 1968.
43 years later almost the exact same discussion is happening again. Amazing how Windsor keeps running in circles.
- By RON JOINER
Ald. Anthony Soda‘s vision of an integrated cultural centre in Windsor’s core area will probably delay once more the selection of a site for the proposed new central library. In a split vote broken by Mayor John Wheelton, City Council Monday night ordered an administration study of sites in the downtown area that would accommodate a library building, an art gallery and other cultural and recreational facilities that could be included in such a complex.
In moving the study Ald. Soda described the proposed centre as the beginning of a program to revitalize Windsor’s core area, which he said is “going downhill at a fantastic rate.” Mayor Wheelton sald the concept of a cultural centre in the downtown area could set Windsor on a new course in core-city planning.
The city’s administration has recommended a site on the south side of Park St. between Pelissier St. and Victoria Ave. for the proposed library, but Monday’s resolution throws a whole new light on discussions.
The knotty problem of selecting the site was earlier deferred four weeks to Dec. 16 for decision, but it is doubtful more than a preliminary administration report on the cultural centre will be completed by that time.
The controversial issue has been before council several times in the past 18 months, with no end in sight to the dialogue between the Windsor Library Board, the city and various interested parties including the Downtown Windsor Association.
Meanwhile council authorized a unique move which will take the pressure off the city to select a site before the end of the year. The city’s finance department will apply to the Ontario Municipal Board for approval of a $100,000 expenditure for the site, before the site is actually selected.
The expenditure, included in this year’s capital works budget, must be applied for beforeJan.1 if it is to go toward purchase of the site.
With OMB approval the site will not have to be selected until sometime in 1969, allowing a full consideration of the proposed cultural complex. Ald. Soda said the centre would serve a three-fold purpose:
-It would give the core area, which ls “going downhill at a fantastic rate,” a much needed shot in the arm;
-It would join the art gallery with the library which, he said, go together like “apple ple and ice cream”;
-And it would get the present gallery away from the “hallowed grounds” of Willistead Park and into the centre of the city where it would be easily accessible.
Aid. Soda said there is probably no other urban-core area in North America that has as many vacant stores and second storeys as Windsor’s.
He said it was not his intention to frustrate the library board, which favored immediate acceptance of the recommended site. “You should be in a prestigious site, much more so than the one you’ve selected,” he told representatives of the board.
Voting in favor of the motion were Mayor Wheelton, Aldermen Soda, Thomas Toth, Albert Weeks and Huntley Farrow.
Voting against were Aldermen Frank Wansbrough, William C. Riggs, Roy Battagello and Roy Moore.
Ald. Toth said the city should take a long look at future core-area planning, suggesting some recent downtown developments are “monuments to stupidity,” and charging
“hodge-podge, piece-meal” planning in the clty’s centre.
Aldermen Riggs and Battagello suggested the motion would prejudice the library board’s chances of getting the funds needed for the central library.
Aid. Riggs pointed to the clty’s growing capital debt which has tripled to about $55,000.000 since annexation, in speaking against the cultural-centre concept.
There are other °‘bread-and-butter” projects which should be undertaken first, he said. Mayor Wheelton agreed that the city is approaching a point of “serious reckoning” in its capital works spending, and that he would probably oppose a site that would cost the city more than originally planned.
But with the approval ol the allotted $100,000 expenditure on the site, the city has more time to consider the full implications of a cultural complex and of the whole concept of long-range core area revitalization, the mayor said.
The study. he said, could lead to “a centre we can be proud of in the years to come.”
Mayor Wheelton said a further delay would not hold up the central library project, which is scheduled for final planning in 1970 and completion of construction in 1972.
R. E. Burnell, library board solicitor, told council the board was not against the proposed centre as such, but that “the real nub of the problem is delay.”
“It would be very very sad for the people of Windsor if that money were prejudiced” because of a further delay, Mr. Burnell said He added that the site question “can go on just about forever.”
The solicitor said any other site than that recommended by the library board and the city’s administration, the Park St. site, would be a °‘compromise, something less than the people of Windsor deserve from their library board.”
His comments were made before the motion came up for discussion.
PS – Election day is today – Don’t forget to get out and vote!