Despite a final round of emotional pleas from residents and business owners, Windsor city council agreed to add a few dozen parking spaces to the Pelissier Street garage at the escalated cost of $723,500.

The move means sidewalk storefront space will finally be converted into 43 parking stalls, which proponents of the plan say will help meet a growing demand for parking. But critics of the conversion say garages and lots sit half empty on any given day. 

"We don't need parking, we need people," said Kate Isley, who lives across from the garage and gave an emotional argument against the conversion. 

She and many others asked council to reverse its decision from late last year to kill the retail space. The issue was once again before council because costs for the project came in far higher than initially anticipated. 

When council agreed to the conversion, the estimated cost was pegged at $500,000. The lowest bid for the contract came in at $888,000 and has since been whittled down after negotiations with city staff. 

Larry Horwitz

Downtown Windsor BIA chairperson Larry Horwitz says the vacancy rate for the downtown's 4,100 parking spaces is about 50 per cent on any given day. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association made another effort to stop council's plan in its tracks. Chairperson Larry Horwitz criticized the city for not doing a parking needs assessment for the city's core. 

An inventory of parking spaces in the downtown, conducted by the BIA, estimates there are more than 4,192 within the association's boundaries. Those spots are located in three city garages, two privately owned garages, 11 city parking lots and 15 private parking lots. 

"On any given time of day, the municipal garages, municipal and private lots are never at more than 50 per cent occupancy," Horwitz told council. 

Coun. Rino Bortolin made one more appeal to his colleagues as well, asking council to restore retail space in the garage. Despite his lengthy justification, council killed his proposal and stuck with their decision, saying they could not find tenants. 

"It's been brutal to watch because the efforts have not been there," Bortolin said about the city's efforts to rent the space. "We never even had a sign, we never had a lease. It was never listed on the MLS."