Walkerville approved for pilot project to become the Distillery District

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross



Districting, the $5.2-million idea of bringing the history of Windsor’s unique neighbourhoods to life, took its first concrete step Monday as Walkerville was tagged to become the Distillery District.

Council approved the selection of Walkerville for a pilot project and the hiring of a consultant for $100,000 to gather ideas from the public and come up with a final plan to make the neighbourhood “shine even more,” Mayor Drew Dilkens said following Monday night’s city council meeting.

“Once you have the plan you have to build the plan, whether it’s streetscaping, whether it’s signage, whether it’s areas for people to gather, whether it’s the largest barrel in the world,” he said.

“I’ve been really clear from the beginning that I want to create something that’s impressive.”

Council approved $5.2 million for districting as part of its enhanced 2018 capital budget, with the money being spent over the next several years on numerous commercial neighbourhoods. A staff report says the main goal of districting is to strengthen neighbourhoods so they attract more people. These are areas that already have an established identity, like Ford City and Sandwich, which could benefit from further enhancements that tie their themes together.

The report recommends Walkerville going first because it has a head start. It has recently attracted public and private investments that has generated more visitors. And it has a rich distillery history, being founded by whisky baron Hiram Walker, and is currently the home of J.P. Wiser’s and Walkerville Brewery.

“The current collection of retail businesses, cafes, restaurants, strong tourism attractions and unique community identity make it a good candidate to test the districting model,” the report says.

The mayor said Walkerville has all the elements that are authentic and go back to the 1800s “that can be stitched together very, very easily.”

“And places like Sandwich, Ford City, Riverside really have some great pieces as well,” he said. “We’re going to get there … but we have to do one at a time so we can focus our resources, both financial and human, to get the project done.”

Some of the elements that the mayor foresees include the Canadian Club Brand Centre, which he’s been working to save from closure, and the erection of the Hiram Walker sculpture, which is finished and waiting for a confirmed location at Riverside Drive and Devonshire Road.

“We’re going to do some pretty impressive things out there,” he said.

“Everyone has a story about Walkerville. Some go back to the Al Capone days, some go back to Hiram Walker. There have been a lot of things happen in that area of the city,” and the same goes for areas like Sandwich, he said.

Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt said that as long as the Walkerville Business Improvement Association and other stakeholders in the area are included in the discussion, he’s happy with the districting plan.

“Any time you see a municipality and a mayor wanting to invest in neighbourhoods, I’m all for that,” he said. “I just don’t want to impose anything on the stakeholders who’ve already made it a great neighbourhood.”