As you may be aware, City Administration has responded to Councillor Gignac’s October 4th deferral of the $41 Million Dollar riverfront proposals with extraordinary haste. The Riverfront Festival Plaza Canopy and the Riverfront Beacons are again on the decision agenda this coming Monday.
IF Administration had invited anyone associated with “Rally For OUR Riverfront” to the “public” meeting at 3pm October 13, 2021 they would have heard positive ideas and compromises that seek to balance the use of the riverfront parklands between nature and development.
Our group and others have well-meaning, positive contributions to make:
1. “Rally For OUR Riverfront sees that Councillors have a choice of overturning past Council decisions: a relatively recent and ill-informed decision about the streetcar location OR a bundle of laws designed to permanently protect the riverfront parks, or both. Windsorites have a passion for their reclaimed riverfront parklands. It is the common gem of our community. This ribbon of nature is the envy of most cities.
2. “Rally For OUR Riverfront” is proposing the removal of the streetcar from the riverfront equation. The 2017 Council decision to put the streetcar on the riverfront happened when the streetcar was imagined to be a very nice ice-cream booth or similarly simple and small. Recognizably, Windsorites do not have a devotion to their streetcar history. By design or by happenstance, the streetcar has morphed into something far more expensive requiring a gallery shelter. Consequently, it is obvious that other locations better fit the refurbished streetcar and gallery. Knowing this, the 2017 Council decision would likely be different. The place where the streetcar would be most protected yet accessible to the public at the lowest capital and operating cost is the west wall of the Chimczuk Museum. The capital cost would be a relatively simple three walled addition on stable soil. The operating costs are already covered and the museum needs more exhibits to be viable. The streetcar would be proudly and safely visible to all passing traffic. The view of the riverfront from the streetcar gallery would be a treasure even in foul weather. Several renditions of this proposal are attached. To be clear, “Rally For OUR Riverfront” is seeking a Motion and Vote from Council to remove the streetcar from riverfront park plans and to agree on an alternate, economical location like the west wall of the Chimczuk Museum.
3. The Legacy Beacon site is home of the CP Railway Station and Control Tower. It is still visible in the east pillar of the Riverside Drive bridge across “the cut”. For over 20 years this has been the intended purpose of the Legacy Beacon. It is foolhardy to obstruct this history with a hastily transplanted streetcar gallery. The streetcar is too large and too heavy for this site’s soil. At the same time, it is a great idea to move the other amenities to the Legacy Beacon site. The event dining and wine patio, bike rental and food concession are a much better fit there. It is closer to downtown in order to draw people to the riverfront, it already has an under Riverside Drive pedestrian bridge in place, “the cut” railway park is to be developed soon and integrated into the riverfront park, there is plenty of parking available on Caron Avenue, and any event noise is not imposed on a residential neighbourhood. Without the streetcar gallery it is a 100% win for all considered. The riverfront itself, as well as the actual history of the Legacy Beacon site is more than enough draw to make this park development an ongoing popular success. A rendering of this site proposal is also attached. To be clear, “Rally For OUR Riverfront” is seeking a Motion and Vote from Council to appropriately develop and celebrate the history of the Legacy Beacon site with all the amenities that were previously designed for the Celestial Beacon except for the streetcar gallery.
4. Regarding the Riverfront Festival Plaza, the canopy and other structures violate the many laws meant to permanently protect the uninterrupted natural view of the riverfront. (See the street level diagram attached.) The sections of the proposal that re-green the plaza are very, very welcome. At the same time, IF an exception or law changes are granted to these proposed structures, it must be surgical and specific in nature, it must come with a commitment to add the displaced amount of natural park to the riverfront, and it must strengthen the current laws protecting the riverfront’s uninterrupted natural view. The additional riverfront park, for example, is best extended under the Ambassador Bridge toward Sandwich Town as originally intended. The current Ambassador Bridge is obviously being refurbished to stay in place for a very long time despite the Federal Government’s granting of a replacement bridge to the same company. The abandoned Villa Maria should be acquired by the City and the riverfront park extended. To be clear, if it decides to proceed with any structure that contravenes previous Council’s permanent directions regarding the natural beauty of the riverfront, “Rally For OUR Riverfront” is seeking a Motion and Vote from Council to carefully protect and expand the natural riverfront parks.
We look forward to an honest and open dialogue with Council and Administration about the many positive possibilities this path afords us. In a brief time, a large number of people have joined “Rally For OUR Riverfront”. We hope it is a positive and sensible voice City Council will hear.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and dedication to improving the lives and environment of Windsor.
on behalf of “Rally For OUR Riverfront”
Both the proposed Riverfront Festival Plaza and the Legacy Beacon deserve more PUBLIC reflection time and integration into other City park plans such as the City Hall plaza and the CP Railway Cut Park.
To the Mayor’s Office, City Administration and City Councillors,
I want to say thank you for respecting the Decision of the Land Planning Appeal Tribunal. Thank you for moving the Streetcar Gallery away from the Celestial Beacon site. The objection to the Streetcar at the Celestial Beacon was about the principles upon which the riverfront parks were founded, I appreciate you respecting those concerns.
As you are aware, for 50 years in development, the public’s uninterrupted natural view of the riverfront is protected in numerous city laws, plans, Zoning Bylaws and the Official Plan. These same laws also protect the value of all of our properties. The “Rally For OUR Riverfront” group came together to advocate for OUR Riverfront. We are genuinely interested, like you, in advancing the wellbeing of the citizens of Windsor. Ironically, this has been a the same season in history when the natural riverfront park has likely done more for the mental wellbeing of our City than any other investment.As “Rally for OUR Riverfront” volunteers found time and again, park users expressed both surprise and exasperation when the City appeared to be deviating from these understandings. Although it has been challenging for all, it definitely renewed interest in our “crown jewel”, our riverfront park system.
This week, The Legacy Beacon announcement and that of the Plaza Canopy is truly stunning. I am sure almost all of City Council and the public are also interested at the large costs of these two projects. Most important is the quick speed demanded as we all process the plan.
Make no doubt: both of these new decisions are not constructed emergencies. This is exactly the same false emergency that led to the Architecturra Celestial Beacon decision. The project was so flawed and contrary to the City’s own laws that the decision ran into issues making many uncomfortable with the vision and process. This resulted in it being condemned by the Tribunal.
Similarly, these two projects have been assigned urgency that could also result in avoidance of genuine public scrutiny. It would be unfortunate to undermine an opportunity to bring us closure together. For example, the drawings for the Plaza are dated May 2021, and none of them show a pedestrian view from Riverside Drive. Why did Administration sit on these for 6 months and now demand your decision in less than 2 weeks? Similarly for the Legacy Beacon. What is the reason for the rush now? There is no tempting Federal money promised nor Provincial partner.
The rush has already startled and stunned those interested in making this process work. We all know the best decisions are not made under these conditions. The same is happening again, and as proven in so many cases the details make all the difference for public support and long term pride in significant investments.
My request is to ask City Council to postpone these decisions for at least 6 months. Give the public sufficient time for meaningful input, not just “tweeking” concrete-like proposals. For example, inside the Plaza Canopy decision is the direction to change the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaws that specifically protect uninterrupted natural view of the public’s riverfront parks. Maybe advance the greening of the Plaza, and wait: everyone will find it a more enjoyable space without any sacrifice of the natural view. Additionally the inside of the Legacy Beacon has no inclusion of the location’s important legacy: the CP Rail Station and Control Tower. (See the article attached.) Part of this structure is still visible at the overpass but would now be blocked by a relatively hastily redrawn Archecturra design. Shortcuts and hasty decisions such as these come at a cost to wisdom and trust.
The interested citizens want to contribute to the betterment of these projects. Respect for City Council and Administration would be gained by a period of real input and engagement, that would help build the trust for us to work on this project together as we only get one chance to “build it right the first time”.
Questions I am already receiving include:
1. How much has changed since Council assigned Streetcar 351 to the riverfront? It was imagined to be a simple ice cream stand at the time.
2. Why can’t the historic streetcar be displayed at the west wall of the history museum? The pedestrian underpass is no longer going there. The museum needs exhibits. The museum already has staff and budget to properly exhibit it.
3. Why is the City investing in a health unit certifiable food kiosk? Food truck stations would be much more attractive and economical.
4. Why are the soil conditions challenging at the Legacy site? Could it be that the Streetcar is too heavy as well as too large?
5. How will the Legacy Beacon celebrate its intended legacy: the CP Railway Station and Control Tower?
6. Have the residents of Raymond Desmarais Manor been properly informed about their view being blocked by a permanent Canopy rising more than 4 storeys above Riverside Drive?
7. Can the City benchmark better citizen engagement processes, like Toronto or Detroit?
8. Where will you find the $41 Million for these projects? Exactly which services and facilities will be cut in order to pay for these? And, how will those cuts affect the poorest among us?
I appreciate the opportunity to submit these suggestions and questions. I thank you in advance for these considerations, hoping I and many others can join you in a more meaningful planning process to further build consensus on how to enhance our “crown jewel”.
20 February 2021 ·
Neil Mens wrote:
The Riverside Gallery of Indigenous Arts– a concept of reconciliation and inclusion for our Celestial Beacon Site
I propose a year round gallery and shop for Canadian Indigenous Arts and Craft run by Indigenous People be sited at the Celestial Beacon. For more than a thousand years this shoreline Beacon site was known as Wawiiatanong “where the river bends”.
The Central Riverfront Integration Plan ( 2000) itself cites “Each Beacon explores a thematic aspect intended to provoke contemplation of time—both past and future, the planet as a miracle of life, earth in relation to space (sun, moon, stars and beyond) human creation and the human condition.”
Before we put shovels in the ground for a streetcar on the waterfront I ask for the public to reconsider what they ask City Council to build. While Streetcars tell the story of transportation innovation over 25 years, telling the story of the Indigenous people of Canada, in their own words and artistic expressions, spans thousands of years.
Indigenous groups have successfully operated similar social enterprises across Canada to provide meaningful employment. Windsor is a gateway city for American and International tourists who today want authenticity as they learn the stories of Canada.
Since 2000 when the CRIP was completed, Canadians have learned a great deal from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015). Our CRIP plan needs to be updated to reflect the changing attitudes of Canadians and International tourists as we seek to reconcile our past and build a more inclusive and prosperous future.
We are excited! Our first signs have arrived and are available for pick up, or for volunteers to deliver.
Share the Good News
If we wait for City Council to do the right thing, they will be deceived again into compromising the ‘clean and green’ uninterrupted natural view of OUR riverfront. Let your neighbours know that you are informed and willing to speak up FOR our parks.
What a View!
Because our riverfront is such a treasure it speaks for itself. That is why our lawn signs feature two great pictures of OUR riverfront. One is the rolling hillside that used to be railway marshalling yards and is now enjoyed by so many Windsorites. The other side features a wonderful sunset from the park where the Holiday Inn used to block this view from public enjoyment. Now, with that building no longer breaking up the view, the walking path and Riverside Drive enjoy a long, scenic view.
Amplify Our Voice
Of course, the sign points to this website. We need the strong, consistent, grounded voices of many, many people in order to change the City’s determined course. Instead of investing in lawyers to unravel the laws protecting OUR riverfront park, they ought to be researching ways to better protect OUR riverfront for future generations.
Rally for OUR Riverfront has been started as a movement of citizens in defense of the ‘clean and green’ natural riverfront parkland of Windsor, Ontario. The City has made it known that, having been stopped by legal means, it will now change the laws to permit it to build “beacons” along the riverfront parklands that interfere with the uninterrupted natural view of the riverfront.
The Parks Need You
The City has made it clear that it plans to bring to City Council a package of law changes that will allow it to develop almost anything it wants along the riverfront in future years without any accountability or due process. Then, like the Holiday Inn lease from 1967 till 1999, we will be stuck with structures that break up the natural beauty of OUR riverfront parks. The only way to stop the City is to speak up often, repeatedly and doggedly to each and every City Councillor. The message is simple: do not weaken the laws that protect the riverfront parks, instead strengthen the protections for future generations.
What Can I Do?
If you agree that the ‘clean and green’ principles that first formed the riverfront parks are important to preserve, write to the City Councillors.
Sign our petitions. We say ‘petitions’, plural, because we know the City will try to wiggle out of OUR requests. They have unlimited time and money to try to outwit our limited group of volunteers and contributors. We will do our best to stay nimble to the changing circumstances.
Contribute toward a sign.
Make a contribution toward the costs of our Lawyer and Planner. We know we need experienced and authoritative people working on this very important cause.
Share our citizens’ movement for greater accountability from our elected officials and civil servants.
When it comes to election time, question candidates and VOTE people in office who will protect Windsor’s jewel of a park: OUR Riverfront.