Scaling Down Windsor, Ontario

<p>City Hall in Windsor and the provincial government of Ontario are following the wrong path to revitalization, argue the creators of an influential website called Scaledown Windsor, who think Canada's 'motor city' needs to be reinvented.</p>
April 23, 2008, 7am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"A city built almost exclusively by and for the premier transportation method of the 20th century, [Windsor Ontario] now faces the 21st century's core socio-economic challenge: the urgent need to move beyond an automobile-centred, gasoline-driven way of life.

Stuck in an outmoded American car with a sputtering engine, Windsor can either continue along familiar expressways until it runs out of gas for good, or it can try to find some other way to get by - on a new, sustainable path. Its salvation, in anything but the short term, will rely on the city's ability to reinvent itself completely.

If this thorny truth is rarely acknowledged at City Hall, it has been fully embraced by an increasingly influential website called Scaledown Windsor, launched in February by prominent downtown restaurateur Mark Boscariol and laid-off Ford worker Chris Holt. Initially hatched as Mr. Holt's personal blog several months earlier, Scaledown is based on the dissident premise that Windsor's status quo is headed nowhere fast.

When Mr. Holt talks about Windsor's salvation, he makes no mention of the assembly line at Ford. He looks instead to a gaping 20-hectare expanse of vacant lots and parkade pavement in the downtown core called City Centre West, a derelict district that has languished in an urban-renewal stasis of big ideas and bureaucratic bungling since it was annexed by the city in 1990 with the intent (since abandoned) to build a hockey arena there.

In 2006, City Hall endorsed a plan, whose champions included Scaledown co-proprietor Mark Boscariol in his role as president of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, to turn it into a mixed-use "urban village" - a New Urbanist design built to human scale. The plan contrasts starkly with the megaprojects - a $400-million convention and resort complex currently being fused to the mammoth downtown casino, for example - traditionally favoured by the city's leaders."

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Published on Saturday, April 19, 2008 in The Globe and Mail
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