Fabio Costante Windsor

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Conversations with Residents in Olde Sandwich Towne

Friends,

I have recently spent some time in the Sandwich Towne neighbourhood chatting with residents and getting their thoughts on the boarded-up homes issue. Below is a brief summary of my conversations with the residents and general thoughts on the matter. I sent the same to the Windsor Star hoping they will publish it in their editorial page.

Conversations with Residents in Olde Sandwich Towne

I have lived in the west-end most of my life, particularly in the Bridgeview neighbourhood where I currently reside, and about two years in Sandwich Towne when I was a toddler. I love the west-end and believe the area has so much potential.

Recently, I canvassed the Sandwich Towne neighbourhood, chatting with residents about the Our West End initiative that I founded several years ago. Thanks to the recent help of the United Way, we have been able to roll out some very positive initiatives for the community around engaging and empowering residents along with supporting them in making positive changes for their neighbourhood.  

When canvassing in the Sandwich Towne area, naturally, the topic of the boarded-up homes was brought up and I thought it was important that the residents’ voices be heard, especially those who live right across the street from the boarded-up homes and surrounding area. Among all that’s been developing regarding this issue, which has amplified over the past several weeks and months, the voices of the residents directly affected have often been drowned out. It’s important that they be heard as well.

In my discussions with residents who live on Indian Road, Edison and Brock Street, and business owners in the area, the general consensus was that residents do not want the neighbourhood to change and will only agree for some homes to be demolished on the condition that they be replaced with something positive for the area that conforms to the fabric, history and heritage of Olde Sandwich Towne. They expressly stated that they were opposed to a truck plaza, a connector highway, or anything that changes the landscape of the neighbourhood. It is very important to keep in mind that residents were only in favour of demolition if the following conditions were met, otherwise, they were strongly opposed to any demolition. A few residents expressed that no homes should be demolished and instead refurbished.

What residents also asked for was more clarity on behalf of the Bridge Company. In other words, they wanted to see a plan with specifics. They felt there was too much ambiguity, rhetoric and politics involved.

According to a report conducted late last year from Claire Brownell of the Windsor Star, Sandwich Towne lost 1 out of 7 residents over the past 5 years, which makes it the fastest shrinking neighbourhood in the region. For Sandwich Towne to rebound, we must address this issue with the boarded-up homes. Residents clearly want to see a resolution with the matter and do not want to continue with the status quo.

A resolution on the boarded-up homes provides more certainty to the neighbourhood which means more families and business may be inclined to move in. With more certainty and stability in Sandwich Towne, the Community Improvement Plan that was developed many years ago, and all of its incentives, will hold more weight. In addition, there is a lot of promise with the several vacant buildings (Post Office, Fire Hall, soon-to-be jail, etc.) that are ripe for repurposing. If the right strategy is in place, there could be a lot of positive opportunities in creating an historical hub showcasing Sandwich Towne’s history, among other ideas and uses for our valuable assets in the neighbourhood.


Over the years, myself and others fought hard for Olde Sandwich Towne. We fought against the closure of Forster, College Avenue Community Centre, and other vital institutions in the neighbourhood. We will continue to fight. The Sandwich community is resilient and full of great people and these same people must never be overlooked. It is vitally important that not only are their voices heard, but that they are included in the conversation and discussion, because after all, who knows the neighbourhood better than the residents who live there? 

Sandwich Towne's history is rich, and I believe its future can be even richer. 

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