Letter to City Council October 4, 2021

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”. 
Mike Cardinal

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