The streets of Windsor are opening up to pedestrians this summer and not only will the public be able to benefit, businesses believe they will as well.
The Open Streets Windsor pilot project has been in the works for about two years as part of a syndicated project in cities across North America. In Ontario, the Toronto-based organization 8 80 Cities was awarded a grant by the provincial government to establish province-wide Open Streets.
Council approved the initiative Monday, which will stretch approximately eight kilometres across the city both July 17 and Sept. 18. It will run from Sandwich Street along Brock Street, cross to University Avenue West, down Aylmer Avenue to Wyandotte Street East before ending along Drouillard Road at Whelpton Street.
Streets running north to south along the route will still be open to traffic, but the city plans to establish safety measures such as setting up ropes or having volunteers on hand. Windsor Police are also expected to be present at major intersections.
South Detroit co-owner Seth Perera said while nothing has been planned yet in terms of promotions, he’s looking forward to the event.
“If it’s anything new, we should be open to trying new things,” said Perera.
“Hopefully people will see things they didn’t know existed.”
Bringing people to some of Windsor’s major streets is what Jon Liedtke of Higher Limits wants to see happen.
Liedtke said events like this are some of the “biggest opportunities” in Windsor.
“I think anything that gets people out, exploring their communities in ways that they haven’t before is a really good thing,” said Liedtke.
He added his business is willing to donate up to $2,500 to support Open Streets if the BIAs representing the five different business improvement districts the event goes through will match the money, which amounts to $500 each.
The event is not the first of its kind, with Open Streets being found around the world, the first of which began in the late 1970s in Bogota, Columbia. With both dates costing a total of $55,000, the hope of City of Windsor officials is it will hope encourage people to explore different parts of the city, including its businesses.
“Certainly that’s the hope that the event is an opportunity for all those businesses, or businesses elsewhere in the city that want to set up something along the route, to take advantage of people who may be going through a neighbourhood they don’t regularly or have never been through,” said Greg Atkinson, a senior planner in the city’s planning department.
Atkinson said there will also be different stations or “activity hubs” set up about every one kilometre along the route which will offer different themes. For example, one located near the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre will be focused around athletics. Other activities could include yoga, karate and other healthy activities.
Health is another main aspect of the event, according to Cathy Copot-Nepszy, health promotions specialist at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
“It’s important because it promotes healthy community living,” said Copot-Nepszy.
“It enhances the opportunity for socialization in the neighbourhoods. It encourages people to step outside of their homes, explore what’s in their neighbourhoods, what’s down the street and do that actively with their legs, whether it’s walking or with their bike.”
For residents or businesses wanting to learn more about the event, the City of Windsor is hosting an Open Streets Open House Feb. 17 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the aquatic centre.