(WINDSOR, ON) – For years, Chatham Street west of Ouellette Avenue has been one of the city’s loneliest, with an assemblage of closed storefronts and few operating businesses. But now, a local developer has commenced to gutting one of its biggest eyesores, the long-time plywood-clad Loop.
The plans are ambitious and call for a return of the building to its former stature.
Fixing up one building on Chatham Street is a start, but is only one current effort to change the nature of a street down on its luck. Added to this is the deterioration of downtown’s other streets. So much so, a burning issue in the core is whether or not University Avenue, also west of Ouellette, has become the new Chatham Street.
This street hosts the city’s three tallest vintage “skyscrapers”, with each one suffering from empty street level retail space. Last year, the owner of the Bartlet Building told The Square his storefronts remain empty not because no one wants to move in, but rather because no one wants to pay fair market rent. The offers arriving on his doorstep are simply not worthy of consideration.
Downtown’s continual decline is being noticed by city residents.
Stephen Kurtz, in a letter to the editor to the Windsor Star on March 9, called the situation, “both a disgrace, compared to its past, and an eyesore to visitors. It is only likely to go into further decline. It is to weep.”
A problem in the downtown is the continual exit of retailers and offices.
RJ Potomski, in a letter to the editor to The Square, published on February 19, remembered a time when the area was rife with activity. It had, he remembered, “life insurance offices, Ford Motor Company, Windsor Export Supply Offices, a bus depot with a coffee shop, two hospitals in the downtown area with emergency rooms, on street parking, Employment Insurance Office, full service Canada Revenue offices and a population that was considered as having the highest per capita income in Canada.”
Potomski attributed some of the blame to City Hall, observing it is, “taking a hard stand on businesses that want to open in the area.” He asked when, “was the last time anyone spent a day downtown shopping for clothes?”
Except for a few clothing merchants, largely selling trendy unisex garments, there are limited options. And, of course, as Potomski points out, even, “the last hospital is moving out.”
Windsor Regional Hospital plans to decommission the Ouellette Campus and the Metropolitan Campus as soon as a replacement acute care hospital is built on a distant farmer’s field south of the developed area of the city.