Province kicks in $20 M for Paul Martin Building conversion for U Windsor law school

The provincial government is committing $20 million to help convert the Paul Martin Building into a law school for the University of Windsor.

City had asked the province for funding in a pre-budget consultation

Paul Martin Building, January 30, 2018. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The provincial government is committing $20 million to help convert the Paul Martin Building into a law school for the University of Windsor.

The university abandoned that concept last year, and was in the process of choosing an architect to design an on-campus law school.

University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman said the investment came "completely out of the blue."

"Something that of course we're very surprised to get, but also pleased that the province now wanted to be a part of it," he said. 

"It was one of the several conditions that were still in the way of us being able to go forward with the project and obviously this was a big one, and we still have got some hurdles to cross."

Alan Wildeman, President of the University of Windsor (Rob Heydari/CBC)

In January  after the renovation plans seemed to be abandoned, Wildeman told CBC News that the university would be making plans for a new law school building on campus because they simply could not keep waiting. 

At that time, Wildeman said if he were told the province had agreed to chip in, he would tell them $20 million is no longer enough because construction costs have risen so dramatically since the proposal was first presented five years ago.

On Tuesday, Wildeman said the $20 million commitment "is what we had always asked them for."

He said the downtown location is back in play, although he still needs to get a funding commitment from the federal government to go forward. Wildeman said he will "double down" on trying to get that in the remaining weeks before his retirement.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development said in a statement that it was informed on May 2, 2018 that the University of Windsor was advised of the Ministry's intention to provide $20 million in funding in 2019-20 to support the law school's relocation.

"The funding was approved as part of the recent Ontario budget process," the statement said.

City also made the ask

During provincial pre-budget consultations in January, the City of Windsor had asked for $20 million to convert the building. 

City treasurer Joseph Mancina asked for roughly $20 million to complete the project and "achieve the desired transfer to the University of Windsor."

The office of the mayor has confirmed that the $15 million the city previously committed to the project is still in effect.

Downtown excitement

Downtown Windsor Business Assocaition chair Larry Horwitz said he and others have been fighting hard for a decade to bring the law school downtown.

"It will become an economic generator, bring millions of dollars to the core area and into the city," he said.

The university already has three buildings downtown, with the old Greyhound building still to be completed. The law school would bring about 700 more students to the core. Horwitz said there is a goal to bring 5,000 students downtown.

"That's the tipping point, that makes it an actual campus in the core area," he said.

He said every time a new building opens up downtown he's on the phone to the city, province and federal governments to convert it into potential school buildings.

"Take it for a dollar. Put all your students downtown. Change the philosophy of downtown from Sin City to Smart City and this is how we did it."


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