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Cheaper options chosen by council for festival plaza, bandshell — meter parking left alone

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens tabled the 2024 budget on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.  (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens tabled the 2024 budget on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)

As the city of Windsor's budget becomes clearer, a few key amendments to the original proposed document have been made.

Council tweaks include downtown parking, restoration of the Jackson Park bandshell, and the enhancement of the downtown riverfront festival plaza.

The budget will now be reviewed by mayor Drew Dilkens who can veto amendments because of his strong mayor powers. Council would then get an opportunity to vote on any proposed changes he made.

2024 is the first budget process under new strong mayor powers following legislation passed at Queen's Park last summer. They can be used to hit provincial priorities such as housing targets.

Mayor Drew Dilkens wants the province to resume control and upkeep of the E.C. Row Expressway.
Mayor Drew Dilkens wants the province to resume control and upkeep of the E.C. Row Expressway.

Dilkens has strong mayor powers for the first time during a city budget process in 2024. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Dilkens' first major use of them was in the fall when he ousted two high-ranking officials in the legal and infrastructure departments.

The mayor said he expects this year's budget process will be complete by the end of the week. It needs to be finished and submitted by Feb. 7, 2024, he added.

The proposed residential property tax bill increase remains at 3.93 per cent.

Parking fee enforcement not extended

Despite the recommendation by city administration, a proposed extension of parking enforcement from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. was voted down.

City staff said the extension would have generated more than $400,000 in revenue,

but downtown Windsor businesses feared the extra parking cost would have driven away customers.

Coun. Renaldo Agostino was against the idea.

"I ask that we not move parking fees from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.," said the Ward 3 representative during Monday's city budget session.

His stance on the fees was one of the few changes a councillor was able to successfully see through during the city's budget process so far.

A new hand-held device will issue parking tickets with photographic evidence, such as expired parking meters, in Windsor, Ont.
A new hand-held device will issue parking tickets with photographic evidence, such as expired parking meters, in Windsor, Ont.

Parking meters in downtown Windsor, Ont. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The majority of council supported his position that enforcement should not be pushed back three hours.

Kais Kaawash is a tattoo artist at Advanced Tattoo and Piercing in the downtown.

He feared the extra parking costs would have driven away extra customers.

"It's tough for the clients," said Kaawash. "It's tough for people who live in [nearby] those buildings because there's no private parking for them."

Festival plaza canopy won't stand 

Council has decided to go ahead with the cheapest option it was presented for an enhanced riverfront festival plaza.

As was recommended by administration, the city will not pursue putting a 19 metre tall canopy over the space — that would've cost roughly $67 million for the full-sized version — and housed 5,000 under it.

Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association president Chris MacLeod is disappointed with the choice but said he understands why it was made.

"I think converting it to a green space is certainly going to help," he said. "And I think that council has a responsibility to the businesses and to the residents of Windsor to be fiscally responsible."

This rendering shows the full canopy option viewed from Detroit.
This rendering shows the full canopy option viewed from Detroit.

This rendering shows the full canopy option viewed from Detroit. (Rendering by Partisans)

Instead of the canopy option, council okayed the project moving ahead improvements to amenities, 'greening' the plaza, and installing a water feature — for $17.3 million.

Another option that was originally on the table included $48.1 million to construct half the canopy and accommodate half the people under it.

Less expensive route for bandshell restoration

Windsor city council also took the less expensive route on another project involving a city-owned venue: the restoration of the historic Jackson Park bandshell.

A feasibility study will be sought on the project, but council decided the maximum price of the consultation should be $120,000.

That's lower than the $300,000 originally suggested for the study.

The historic band shell in Jackson Park sits in disrepair.
The historic band shell in Jackson Park sits in disrepair.

The historic band shell in Jackson Park sits in disrepair. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The bandshell played a key part in Windsor's Black history, and at least one prominent Windsor Black activist isn't happy about the outcome.

Lana Talbot said she's feeling skeptical about the study.

"[It's] nice that we're going to look at it," she told CBC News. "But are we actually going to do something? Saying $120,000... $300,000... $100,000. What's the difference if there are only words being said? If there's no action, what are you talking about?

The push to re-activate the bandshell as a performance space has been led by Talbot and Leslie McCurdy, who have spent years advocating that the decaying performance space be resurrected for its historic value.