There's hope that a new public dock and terminal in downtown Detroit will revive cruise ship tourism on the shores of both Windsor, Ont., and its U.S. neighbour.
Officials offered up a tour of the new home of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority on Tuesday. The $22 million dollar facility called Port Detroit will be able to accommodate cruise ships, ferries, tall ships, and naval vessels.
It will also house a public lounge and reception area, Port Authority offices, and customs and border protection services agents to handle the possibility of international cruise ships docking there.
Port officials on both sides of the border said they are interested in revitalizing the Great Lakes cruise trade that withered after 9/11.
'We'll be marketing it more aggressively since we now have a facility that we can attract vessels to which we didn't have before,"' said Steven Olinek, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority spokesperson. "You can only do so much of that without a place to bring them."
Windsor-Detroit as cruise ship destination
Olinek referred to Dieppe Gardens as a similar destination on the Windsor side of the river. He said that Windsor-Detroit is considered "on of the high points" by tourism operators surveying the Great Lakes region, and he's got support from his Canadian counterparts to try and inject some life into the tourism trade.
"We really hope it will end up creating some synergies, and that Windsor and Detroit will become more of a destination for cruise ships," said David Cree, CEO of the Windsor Port Authority. "We're hoping that the combined amenities of both cities would just generate more of that kind of business."
Possible ferry service
The Windsor Port Authority will undertake a market study in the next couple of months to determine if a ferry service might be viable between Windsor and Detroit.
Cree said it's not the first time the idea has been tossed around in the last three decades, and that the major challenge to creating a ferry service is the sizeable cost of maintaining customs on both sides of the river - something that would have to be factored into the feasibility of the project.
"That's a very significant amount of money on a yearly basis," Cree said.
The other factor to consider is the city of Windsor. Cree said the only logical place for a ferry terminal is downtown and the city owns all the riverfront land.
Construction almost complete
Construction crews were still pouring cement along the 305-metre Riverwalk stretching in Front of Hart Plaza and the GM Building in downtown Detroit on Tuesday morning. The construction manager said the port will be a continuation of the existing Riverwalk with great views of the river.
An offshore wharf to accommodate a vessel as long as 137 metres was also under construction on Thursday.
Officials hoped that the new terminal would open to the public on June 1.