WINDSOR, ONT. -- Two weeks ago, the City of Windsor laid out plans to spend $7 million dollars to build a shelter and showcase for the Streetcar 351 project at the Celestial Beacon site along the Detroit River.

But ahead of a council vote to approve the location — at the foot of Askin Avenue and Riverside Drive — neighbours are expressing concern over the scope and cost of the project.

“I would say there is widespread support for this project,” says Mayor Drew Dilkens. “There are folks, of course, who live across the street who don’t want any change to their view, and I respect that.”

One of those folks is John D’Angelo, whose main concern is obstructed sightlines of the Detroit River and Skyline from his Riverside Drive home. He believes the project would be better suited a few blocks east, where it would sit in front of a city park.

“We were kind of blindsided by it,” D’Angelo says of the process, noting he never received any literature from the city in his five years living across the street from the proposed location. “I kinda had a feeling it was coming close to here, not quite exactly where, and the scope, the size of the building, we knew nothing about.”

He’s not alone. His neighbour, Jaz Morneau, believes the project is much bigger — and at $7 million — more expensive than many neighbours expected.

“I think it’s very frustrating that we have to have this conversation in a pandemic, and again, where funds can be facilitated in better aspects,” Morneau says.

Down the block, Chris Asmar believes the beacon project will be a target for vandalism and would be better suited at a downtown location where there’s more parking.

“If it fit, it would fit. The sculptures fit, the streetcar doesn’t fit,” Asmar says.

He points to a survey conducted by the city ahead of a 2018 council vote which gathered 314 responses about the desired location. Only three respondents, or less than one per cent, believed the celestial beacon site was the best choice.

“That is the most irritating aspect of this whole thing,” Asmar says. “The previous council voted to put this on consent, no discussion at the council meeting, and if they even look at the survey they would see that the overwhelming majority does not want it down there. And they just ignored it!”

Parks and Rec director Jan Wilson said there was no clear indication from the survey where it should go but there was data to support a location on the riverfront. Wilson said administration also had to consider replacing the aging bathrooms and consider the space requirements for the streetcar enclosure and event space.

“All factors were used to determine celestial beacon,” Wilson says. “The survey was part of it, but it was one part of the decision making council had to make to consider the best location.”

Mayor Dilkens says the streetcar must be part of the beacon project to qualify for a Canada Heritage Grant that will chop $3 million of the overall price tag.

He’s confident the city meets the criteria to get federal funding — and has spoken with Windsor-Tecumseh MP and former Windsor councillor Irek Kusmierczyk about supporting the project.

“It’s a wonderful project and it’s one I’ll be very happy to advocate for up in Ottawa,” Kusmierczyk says.

Dilkens says the cost may seem big, but when you consider the grant application, the work required and the $750,000 already invested in the restoration of the streetcar, the expected $4 million outlay from the city is a responsible expenditure.

“I would be the last one to bring this forward if I thought this was some superfluous project that we should consider cutting,” says Dilkens. “I would be the last one to bring this forward.”

This item is scheduled to go before council Monday, June 15.