Windsor's wrecking ball aimed at commercial properties

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Windsor's wrecking ball aimed at commercial properties

Owners of dilapidated vacant commercial properties could soon be forced to demolish their buildings, now that Windsor city councillors agreed to expand an urban blight program.

Council agreed to look at other types of buildings, beyond residential, at Monday night's council meeting. Staff will now review the blight mitigation strategy, which was adopted in 2011 and has resulted in the demolition of 43 rundown residential buildings.

Councillor John Elliott is one of the politicians who raised the issue two years ago. He wants to see some of the rundown commercial buildings torn down.

"Some of the commercial buildings, they're done. There's no bringing them back," he said. "Can we speed up the process in bringing them down? It causes a lot of problems for those neighbours living near them."

Not all buildings are easy to tear down, explained John Revell, the city's chief building official. Demolishing commercial buildings often come with higher costs. 

"You get into environmental issues, if there are contaminants in the soil or in the building. It can present an issue," he said. "It can drive the cost much higher."

Activists who have been pushing to eliminate the city's blight for years would like to see any dilapidated building to come down. 

Windsor's Vacant Lots and Buildings was launched on Facebook two years ago to document and map out vacant buildings, empty lots and other blight issues.

Kathryn Tisdale, the woman who started the group, wants the city to encourage development on these lots before approving more suburban developments.

"There is still political talk about new development, new sprawl development, while at the same time, we have a core to our urban fabric that looks and feels abandoned," she said. "These two things do not make sense to me and probably to most people who live here."