Downtown Mission unveils plan to move to industrial site

·3 min read

Windsor's Downtown Mission unveiled a plan Monday to sell most of its current properties and move to a former industrial site downtown at a cost of $7.2 million.

The site, located at 1504 and 1540 McDougall streets, would replace the non-profit's current operations at 664 Victoria Ave, 875 Ouellette Ave. and 842 Dufferin Pl. The Mission would still retain the youth centre at 1247 Wyandotte St. E, but could sell it if needed. The new property consists of vacant industrial land and a commercial plaza.

This new property would allow the Mission offer all of its services out of the same location, instead of spread across the city. It would also have transitional living quarters.

An initial proposal to move its headquarters to that location on Ouellette generated controversy, and the Mission ultimately changed plans. Ron Dunn, executive director of the Downtown Mission, hopes being away from Ouellette will satisfy those who were concerned.

He said the Mission expects to make between $2.2 million to $2.5 million from selling its existing properties, including its former proposed headquarters at Ouellette Ave and Elliott St.

The Mission will need to raise the remaining $5 million required for the move from community contributions.

"Five million dollars is a lot of money, we're certainly not taking anything for granted," he said. "But at the end of the day we heard from our community loud and clear that they did not want us on the main street, so we're going to go back to them and say, 'Can you help us not be on the main street?'"

On top of the financial hurdle, the Mission will have to seek a zoning bylaw amendment in order to have sleeping quarters at its proposed new site.

He hopes the Mission can move into the new location by the end of next year, with construction starting in the spring.

Dunn says that if the Mission doesn't get the zoning amendment or doesn't raise enough money, it will have to move to the property at Oullette and Elliott, where it can build cheaper and faster.

Dunn said he's spoken with people who use the Mission's services, and they don't have an issue with the proposed move.

Don Bennett, who has used the Mission's services, is in favour of the move.

"It's a better location," he said. "It'd be great for the people right? Because I think they need it."

Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin, whose ward contains the proposed new Mission site, approves of the plan for now.

"So far I'm supportive ... All in all I see this as a positive step," he said. "I've always taken the position that location isn't the end all, be all."

Bortolin said he believes the new location is better placed to offer quality services while being accessible.

Though he thinks the industrial area offers a buffer from residential neighbourhoods, he said he's already heard from a few constituents who are concerned about the proposed move.

"I will always be willing to work with and listen and bring the residents in the new area to the table, have a conversation so that [Dunn} and the Mission know that they still have to be good neighbours regardless of the new building and regardless of where the location is," he said.

Dunn also doesn't expect many objections from residents in the area of the new location.

"It's a light industrial zone, I don't anticipate many challenges at all," he said.

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

He added that the larger proposed building on the site would allow the Mission's guests to access more and better services.

Though it's a couple kilometres away from the Mission's current services, he doesn't think its users will have trouble getting there or finding it.

"We always talk about how we're a bit of a family here," he said. "And, you know, family will find you."