Going downtown

The University of Windsor is moving students into the Windsor Star building downtown • photo m.n. malik The University of Windsor is moving students into the Windsor Star building downtown • photo m.n. malik

UWindsor goes all in on downtown campus

Stephen Hargreaves

The University of Windsor confirmed plans to purchase the downtown Windsor Star building last week, to become the new home of the school of social work and Centre for Executive and Professional Development.

The Windsor Star building at Pitt and Ferry streets, which has housed the daily paper since 1927. The displaced Windsor Star will move forward with a proposed move into the Palace Cinema building on Ouellette Avenue following a $3 million renovation expected to take one year.

In an address to the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, UWindsor president, Alan Wildeman called the move, “far more than simply relocating from one site to another.”

“It’s a great move for the institution,” said University of Windsor Students’ Alliance president André Capaldi. “We want to continue to work together to improve the campus.”

UWindsor’s board of governors gave the green light to purchase the building following a feasibility study conducted by Toronto firm CS&P Architects.

“Our downtown location will provide new and distinctive opportunities for our students and a greater impact of our university on our community,” said Wildeman. “We look forward to working with CS&P in envisioning spaces that will enrich and inspire our students, while respecting and celebrating the historical qualities of these landmark buildings.”

“The new facilities will be state of the art and world-class,” said Capaldi. “When you look at the programs moving downtown, there are so many
opportunities for students to integrate and work with community members downtown.”

CS&P Architects will also have the challenge of designing and implementing the renovations to the “cutting edge” new arts department at the former
downtown Windsor Armouries building. The Armouries project, announced this May, involves the relocation of the music and visual arts programs to the Armouries on University Avenue East.

With a pledged $10 million capital donation from the City of Windsor and $15 million from the provincial government, the time line sees first classes taking place for the 2013 school year.

This all comes hot on the heels of Mayor Eddie Francis’ call for “less talk, more action” from Wildeman, during an AM800 radio interview on Nov. 14. During the interview, Francis threatened to revoke the city’s $10 million pledge to the university’s proposed downtown facilities.

The ownership of the Armouries, constructed in 1902, was transferred to the city in October 2004. Since then, the City of Windsor has sought public consultation regarding the best future use of the building, including a year-long feasibility study conducted by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

The two new educational facilities join St. Clair College’s MediaPlex and Centre for the Arts buildings located equidistant from the Windsor
Star building. Wildeman believes that the injection of an additional 2,000 students into the downtown core could transform the image and economy of the area.

The confirmation of the new UWindsor downtown campus comes days after the city’s announcement of the relocation the public library’s Central branch into main floor of the Art Gallery of Windsor building. Downtown’s regeneration also includes a $65 million aquatics centre, announced in this summer and the albeit less exciting $67 million underground storm-water retention basin on Riverside Drive. The gentrification of the Riverside parks are due for completion next spring, a project that included the opening of the open-air stage at Riverfront Festival Plaza.

The mayor now plans to announce a new downtown development corporation with the goal of attracting retail shops and diversifying the businesses

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