Windsor Council presses pause on Riverfront Festival Plaza canopy decision — for now

·2 min read
The proposed canopy over Riverfront Festival Plaza is shown in an illustration created by architecture firm Partisans. (Windsor City Council - image credit)
The proposed canopy over Riverfront Festival Plaza is shown in an illustration created by architecture firm Partisans. (Windsor City Council - image credit)

Windsor City Council has held off making a decision on a project that's being boosted by the mayor — a $32.5-million upgrade to the Riverfront Festival Plaza that includes a large canopy.

Following the passing of a motion to defer the decision on Monday, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said he thinks the project will be referred back to council sooner than later.

In an interview with CBC Radio's Windsor Morning the day after the meeting, Dilkens suggested that the vote wasn't a referendum on the project as a whole, because it still would need budgetary approval regardless, but a starting point for the conversation.

"Obviously it has a high price, but you have to give council and the public something to look at in order to start the conversation, so that's what yesterday was about," Dilkens said on Tuesday.

At Monday's meeting, the motion before council asked them to endorse an architect's design and refer the project to next year's capital budget.

Instead, Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac requested that council refer the plaza proposal, along with the Celestial Beacon streetcar project, back to city administration. It narrowly passed in a six-to-five vote.

The deferral was to allow for a detailed report on how both projects could be linked to the new city promenade.

Council voted to commission an architect to prepare plans for the Riverfront Festival Plaza back in 2018, Dilkens said.

The canopy is intended to enhance the riverfront area by providing relief from what Dilkens called an asphalt "heat island" next to the stage. The canopy would have a capacity of 5,000 people.

Overall, the plan to revitalize the area will cost an estimated $32.5 million, with the canopy itself coming in at $13.5 million.

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

In the interview on Tuesday, Dilkens defended his support for such projects, which critics say fall outside of core municipal responsibilities like roads and sewers.

While defending his record on taxes and the budget, Dilkens said every mayor should want their city to have the best.

"I'm going to push for the best and I want Windsor to shine," Dilkens said.

He said it's a "false narrative" to suggest the city isn't also focused on the basics and pointed to its $1.6-billion, 10-year-infrastructure plan and spending on affordable housing and alleviating homelessness.

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