Transit workshop focuses on future of downtown Windsor

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Tue., Jan. 28, 2014
Windsor Town Planner Eric Barz leads a group discussion on Windsor’s mobility issues at a public forum on Jan. 16. Photo by Jennifer Coe.
Windsor Town Planner Eric Barz leads a group discussion on Windsor’s mobility issues at a public forum on Jan. 16. Photo by Jennifer Coe.

A planner’s rendering of the future of downtown Windsor shows a picture of a bustling street filled with businesses and pedestrians. With plans for on-street parking, a new parking garage located behind Town Hall and mixed-use buildings on Mechanic Street, Windsor is looking to capitalize on making downtown appealing to those traveling through town on bus, car or train.

The Transit-Oriented-Development Steering Committee has been reaching out to the public for input over the past year, developing residents’ “vision” for the downtown area. The final Windsor Center Study Workshop was held on Jan. 16.  About 60 people came to participate, looking to be a part of the conversation about how their hometown might develop and grow.

“We’re here to talk about key opportunities that are before us,” said Steve Cecil of the Cecil Group. “You are on a rail-line. If you can take advantage of that rail connection, you can have a stronger economy,” he said.

According to the consultants, Windsor has a lot of positives, besides the rail connection, including a growing need for housing in the downtown area and an excess of roadway. “You have more roadway width than you actually need,” said Cecil.

He also described some challenges that Windsor has in moving forward, namely, the lack of land to develop. Downtown is a “compact neighborhood,” he said. “This was a streetcar community.”

Cecil Group’s Transit Oriented District (TOD) has presented a master plan and redevelopment strategy for the downtown area, which includes 10 “essential components to achieve the town’s vision.” These include: reconfiguring Broad Street, building new housing, redeveloping the area around the to-be-built transit center, neighborhood street-scaping, reinvesting in the Central Street businesses, reconfiguring the former Arthur Drug site, reestablishing the Plaza Building as a destination spot, establishing guidelines for new construction, drawing visitors to Windsor, and adding more parking.

According to the consultant’s evaluation, Windsor is in need of housing for 20-somethings and retired people. “We haven’t built a new apartment building in 40 years,” said Economic Director Jim Burke. Windsor is considered affordable and convenient, and needs rentable units, he said. In addition, the housing which is available in the downtown area does not offer a variety of pricing choices.

Windsor has 1,160 parking spaces available downtown, but only 30 on-street parking spaces connected to the local businesses. Seeing that Windsor will be on the rail-line, additional parking will be necessary.

At the Jan. 16 forum, the residents broke up into three groups, to further discuss economic development, mobility and downtown entertainment. They prioritized their ideas and came up with their top three, short-term goals for each group.

Already in the works, a town-wide façade improvement program has been approved by the Town Council to move forward.

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