Sandwich Towne businesses 'excited' for Gordie Howe bridge construction to start

The Gordie Howe International Bridge construction is set to begin by the end of July and Sandwich Towne residents are excited to see it finally come to life.

Business owners hope for more traffic with construction workers and visitors

Jordan Tough who lives near Huron Church Road in Sandwich Towne says the new bridge will hopefully alleviate some traffic pains off Huron Church. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

With construction on the Gordie Howe International Bridge slated to begin by the end of July, business owners and residents are excited to see some visible progress in the completion of the bridge.

"We've been waiting for this for quite a while," said Jordan Tough, owner of the Dominion House Tavern who lives near Huron Church Road in Sandwich Towne.

He thinks once construction begins, it will bring more people to his business.

"Whether construction workers or other people coming to check out the progress of the bridge, everybody's going to end up coming to this end of town for a bit and that's what we're really antsy for," said Tough.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) announced Thursday that Bridging North America has been selected as the consortium group to build, maintain and finance the bridge. 

It will also be North America's longest cable-stayed bridge, spanning 853 metres, according to Mark Butler, spokesperson for WDBA.

Jim Lyons, the executive director of Windsor Construction Association, loves that it's cable-stayed.

"It's fantastic, it's going to be a wonderful icon for the region forever."

This plan shows where the Canadian-built Gordie Howe International Bridge is slated to be built and where the Ambassador Bridge now stands. (CBC/Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority)

Changes to community

Jenny Sekela with the Sandwich Brewing Company is also happy to see work finally begin on the bridge. The brewery has been around since last November, and she's hoping that once the "nice, new, safe bridge"  with bike lanes is built, it will bring more traffic to the area.

The company will be on a brewing trail in collaboration with Detroit, and she hopes it'll get more people riding their bikes over to check out the brewery and rest of Windsor.

Sekela also lives just outside of the Sandwich Towne area and feels excited about all the new projects happening in the community.

"With our schools getting more populated and our town, hopefully more people will look at Sandwich Towne and come and invest and make some great, cool places that everyone can come and check out."

Jenny Sekela is part of a group of people that owns Sandwich Brewing Company and she's hoping the bridge will bring increased foot traffic. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Community benefits report

The Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition sent an "extensive report" to the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority back in December, said Joan Mavrinac, the coalition's co-chair. The report was put together after consultations with residents in Sandwich Towne last summer.

The report details the hopes of residents living nearby the new bridge, in terms of what they want to see happen in their community.

Part of it were lots of ideas for community beautification projects and opportunities for youth.

"Windsor's west side has suffered considerably in recent years, with the economic downturn in 2008, there are a lot of empty storefronts, there are a lot of neglected buildings in the area," said Mavrinac.

She hopes the new bridge will mean new steps for building up the community in Sandwich Towne again.

"It's just such an exciting time."

Another major focus of the report are new jobs, whether it's construction or the "eventual maintenance of the bridge."

Lyons already sees potential economic benefits stemming from the bridge construction, saying it's comparable to what the Herb Gray Parkway brought to the city.

The construction will bring lots of labour jobs, in addition to giving lots of business to material suppliers and subcontractors for he bridge structure.

"All of that construction is going to be a huge boost, once again, to the economy for probably a long duration, four, five years or so during the entire build," said Lyons.

"Good times ahead for the construction sector, that's one thing for certain."

With files from Katerina Georgieva