Empty Lot Blues: Filling in the Gaps


One of Olde Walkerville's Most Vibrant Commercial Blocks: Wyandotte btwn Chilver & Windermere photo e. weeks

Drive through just about any part of Windsor and you’ll see them. They’re like gaping holes in a mouth full of teeth. Hard to look at and you can’t help but wonder why they don’t get filled in.

Due to the regular periods of recession here, empty lots are a plague Windsor has faced for many years. Many are born when property owners decide to tear vacant buildings down if they have sat empty too long (sometimes years) and there are no buyers. Owning a vacant lot is a lot cheaper than owning an empty building which is costing tens of thousands of dollars in maintenance and property taxes every year.

Fire, of course, is another major contributor to the empty lot phenomenon. The empty lot above, across from a busy commercial block in Walkerville on Wyandotte St. E. between Chilver and Windermere, is one such example.

Below is how the lot looked when it still had buildings on it, abeit burnt ones. This photo was taken by Chris Edwards the day after the massive power outage blacked out the eastern seaboard in August of 2003.

Aftermath: 1700 Block of Wyandotte St. (north side) after Fire, Aug. 2003 photo chris edwards

A burning candle in one of the upstairs apartments had ignited curtains and the fire quickly got out of control spreading throughout the units. Thankfully, no one was hurt but there was extensive damage to the four businesses on the main floor. (Three of the businesses never reopened.) The block was torn down within days of the inferno. (I shot the photo below as the demolition began. The tinting was on purpose, by the way. I think I was going for that end-of-the-world feeling.)

Going Down: 1700 Block of Wyandotte E., August 2003 photo e. weeks

After sitting vacant for eight years, the unsightly gap will be filled. Vito Maggio, owner of Vito’s Pizzeria across the street and the Kildare House, (just down the block), purchased the site and is currently using it for parking, but has other plans for it in the future.

Stay tuned!

(If you like old buildings, you’ll love our new book, “Windsor Then”. Check it out at walkervilletimes.com)

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
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7 Responses to Empty Lot Blues: Filling in the Gaps

  1. ADELE STEINBERG says:

    Having moved here recently from Toronto it will be interesting to see this city resurrecting itself..gap by gap…..it has great potential!!!!

  2. Jeanine says:

    I didn’t know someone purchased it… when??? what do you know Lady Weeks??

    • selainew says:

      Hey Jeanine,
      It was purchased recently and from what I hear they’re going to re-develop it in phases, which will take some time as they have a lot of other things on the go.

  3. Pingback: Photo of the Day – Tuesday March 15th 2011 | windsoriteDOTca - windsor ontario arts, music, hyperlocal news blog

  4. Pingback: Windsor Then Windsor Now, a new Windsor blog | windsoriteDOTca - windsor ontario arts, music, hyperlocal news blog

  5. selainew says:

    The commercial block was not all that attractive (horrible modernizing had altered the facade of the original structure) so in some ways, the loss was not as great if it had happened to the other side of the street. However, the loss of four businesses and several apartments was deeply felt. The businesses in that block were “The Black Opal” a very cool vintage store on the west end, “The Giving Tree Kids”, a sweet little shop which had just opened, a Lebanese grocery store (owner of block) and “The Wood Doctor & Big Fat Mattress Co.” on the east end of the block. The only business that re-opened was “The Wood Doctor” which had been in that block for 13 years and moved across the street to become “The Heritage House”, now the site of “Bump Maternity & Baby”.

  6. Kari says:

    Ah! I’ve always wondered about that empty lot… I had no idea there was a fire there! Can’t wait to see what happens with the space… it’s in a prime spot!

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