Downtown Mission kills planned move into former Windsor Public Library Central Branch
Published Friday, February 21, 2020 9:21AM EST Last Updated Friday, February 21, 2020 5:53PM EST
WINDSOR -- City hall is not happy with a decision that saw the Downtown Mission kill its plan to move into the former Windsor Public Library headquarters on Ouellette Avenue.
On Thursday, a hastily called news conference saw Ron Dunn, executive director of the Downtown Mission, reveal plans were off to move into the former Central Branch of the library at 850 Ouellette Ave.
“As you can imagine, it was quite devastating to us all,” said Dunn to the reporters gathered at the Mission’s current location on Victoria Avenue. “This is about living to fight another day.”
Dunn said the property has been sold for the same purchase price tag of $3.6 million to a local developer. The Mission has bought property, with the help of two donors, across the street at 819 Ouellette Ave. for $1.2 million where its new building will be located.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens has taken exception to the Mission’s decision to sell the former city property, suggesting the move was unnecessary.
“At the end of the day, we all want to do what’s best for the community, but this wasn’t the best move,” said Dilkens in a phone interview with CTV News.
Dilkens said council denied a request for an extension past the Feb. 28 closing date for the sale because the city would be saddled with up to $200,000 in maintenance costs tied to the property.
Instead, the mayor said council offered to return the Mission’s $150,000 deposit and allow the shelter to walk away from the deal so the city could find a new owner for the property.
“It was never hypothetical, it was never a maybe, it was an outright, ‘This is what we plan to do,’” said Dilkens.
In his comments to reporters, Dunn alluded to his failed talks with city when he said, “I can’t take ‘might’ to the bank, so we made other arrangements.”
On Friday, Dunn told CTV News the city’s rejection of an extension left the Mission facing few options and little time.
“I really didn’t have a lot of faith in the process,” said Dunn. “I guess what I’m saying is I couldn’t trust the word of mayor Dilkens on, ‘What if I could get you your money back?’”
According to Dunn, despite increased fundraising in 2019, donations did not keep up with the demand for service the Mission has encountered. Dunn says the bank would no longer provide a mortgage for the $10-million purchase and renovation of the former library property because of the Mission’s difficult financial position.
Dunn said the new location at 819 Ouellette Ave. will be mortgage-free and will house the Mission’s counselling offices, dining room and medical treatment area. Construction is expected to begin in August. The new space is next to the Mission’s current property at 875 Ouellette Ave. where it’s been operating since 2016.
According to Dunn, the new developer of the former library headquarters plans to convert the building for residential and commercial uses.
As part of the deal, the Windsor Public Library’s Central Branch moved into its new temporary location at the Paul Martin Building on Jan. 30.