Land Use History


The City of Windsor, Canada's southernmost city, is situated on the south shore of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. The city is strategically located at the centre of the Great Lakes basin directly across from Detroit, Michigan. As the chief port of entry between Canada and the United States, Windsor is an international gateway for people and commerce.

Windsor is the main employment, population and cultural centre in the Essex Region consisting of the City of Windsor, Essex County and Pelee Island. As such, the well being of the region is closely linked to the activities that occur within Windsor.

Windsor's relatively flat topography lies with the Little River, Turkey Creek and Detroit River watersheds. The mild climate of the area provides Windsor with a natural environment of Carolinian forests and prairie ecosystems that is unique in Canada.

Recognized as one of Canada’s most diverse and multicultural communities, our city was developed on land that is the traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg people of the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa). Before Europeans arrived, the land along the Detroit River was referred to as Wawiiatanong by the Indigenous populations. Due to Windsor’s unique location along the Detroit River many different groups have called this area home including: Haudenosaunee, Attawandaron (Neutral), and Huron (Wyandot) peoples. Today, many indigenous people and Métis across Turtle Island call this area home.

Windsor is the oldest continuous European settlement in Ontario, with roots going back to 1728 and the founding of a Jesuit mission near present day Assumption Church. From these beginnings, Windsor grew from a collection of French farmsteads along the Detroit River into four major communities. Museum Windsor details this history in exhibitions at both the Chimczuk Museum and the François Baby House, including through the Original Peoples Culture & Legacy Gallery and the Windsor’s French Roots exhibitions (  

In 1797, the original townsite of Sandwich was established as the new British seat of government and courts for the region. By 1836, regular ferry service from Detroit to the foot of present day Ouellette Avenue led to the development of the area's second community, the Village of Windsor, which rapidly overtook Sandwich as the largest community in Essex County with the arrival of the railroad in 1854. To the east, Hiram Walker founded Walkerville in 1858 as a company town complete with a distillery, farms, stores and houses. Less than 50 years later, the Ford Motor Company of Canada created Ford City just east of Walker's distillery establishing Windsor as the automotive capital of Canada.

The City of Windsor currently covers approximately 145.3 square kilometres. The present boundaries of the municipality are the result of amalgamations and transfers of land from adjacent communities, principally in the 1930s and 1960s as well as the recent Tecumseh land transfer of 2003. Windsor is a city of well-defined neighbourhoods with greater future opportunities for community development.

To facilitate future planning within Windsor, the municipality is currently divided into a total of 19 planning districts. The 19 existing planning districts range in size from slightly more than 200 hectares to almost 1,135 hectares. These planning districts or parts of them, and the newly transferred lands will provide the basis for developing more detailed planning policies. The recently transferred lands from Tecumseh (2,532 hectares) fall under the jurisdiction of the former Official Plan for Sandwich South. It is expected that a comprehensive Official Plan amendment will be prepared in 2004 to bring the new land under the guidance of the City Official Plan.

Key Trends and Forecasts

A number of trends and outlooks provide the basis for this Official Plan and will continue to significantly influence the development of Windsor throughout the 20 year period of this Plan and beyond. They are summarized as follows: 

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The City of Windsor's population was 197,694 in 1996. Between 1966 and 1996 the city's population remained relatively stable averaging slightly more than 195,000 persons. The 1996 Official Plan projections for the year 2016 anticipated the total projected population to reach between 209,674 and 220,972. The 2001 population for the City of Windsor is 208,425. The growth is higher than the 1996 Official Plan High Growth Population Projection Scenario, which projected the 2001 population to be 205,260. There are a number of factors that influenced this higher than projected growth, such as higher international migration into the City, good economic conditions, and a more diversified employment base.
The recent transfer of approximately 2,532 hectares of land from the Town of Tecumseh into the jurisdiction of the City should allow for additional employment lands and enable growth to continue. The recent 2003 population projections for the year 2021 anticipate the total projected population to reach between 244,811.
Windsor's share of the census metropolitan area's population has gradually declined since 1966 as the other metropolitan municipalities have developed. Over the next twenty years, however, Windsor's share is anticipated to stabilize as the surrounding CMA municipalities, accommodate peripheral growth, particularly in the Towns of LaSalle, Tecumseh and Lakeshore.
The estimated largest segment of Windsor 2001 population is between 25 to 44 years. By 2016, it is projected that the majority of Windsor's population is expected to be between 40 to 59 years.
The percentage of children in Windsor aged 0 to 14 years has decreased significantly over the levels experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. The only moderate growth in this group occurred during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Proportionately fewer children are anticipated to reside in Windsor from the turn of the century onward due to the combination of low fertility rates and the aging of the population. However, the recent influx of international migration into the City, a more diversified employment base providing a range of job opportunities, new residential development and a variety of competitive housing opportunities closer to the City employment activity centers, may result in some significant demographic shifts in various areas of the City, which in turn could show moderate growth similar to the period between 1980 and 1990.
The number of Windsor residents between the ages of 15 to 24 has dramatically decreased since the mid 1970s. Moderate growth in this age group is anticipated over the next twenty years as the children born in the later 1980s and early 1990s enter into adolescence. It is estimated that, as a result of higher immigration than expected, the decrease in the 15 to 24 ages perhaps may not be as dramatic as anticipated in 1996.
The number of people living in Windsor in the 25 to 44 age group has steadily increased since the 1970s. The numbers within this age group are expected to decline over the next twenty years as Windsor's "baby boomers" are replaced by the much smaller generation behind them. However, as there has been a significant influx of international migration into the City over the past 5 years, the decline of the 25 to 44 age group may be softened in years to come. The 2002 forecasts indicate a major shift from the 1996 Official Plan Population Projections. The age groups of 15 to 29 in the year 2016 indicate an "echo-boom". This "echo-boom" appears to be the result of a combination of the off-spring of the baby-boomers age group 45 - 64 and the high international immigration which occurred between 1996 and 2001.
There will still be substantial growth in the 45 to 64 age group over the next twenty years. Significant growth in Windsor's senior population will become more and more evident by the year 2010 at which time the first of the "baby boomers" will be entering the 65 plus age group. 

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As of 2001 approximately 49 percent of housing in Windsor was constructed prior to 1960. These homes are being maintained or renovated to ensure that they continue to provide adequate shelter for many years to come.

The average number of persons per household in Windsor has decreased from 3.0 in 1976 to 2.5 in 1996. This change is primarily a result of a decrease in the average number of children per family and an increase in the number of single parent families. Over the next twenty years, it is projected that the size of households will decrease slightly to 2.4 persons.

In 1996, the total number of available dwellings in Windsor was approximately 80,009, and by 2001 it was estimated that the number of dwelling units increased to 86,815. It was projected in 1996 that an additional 10,950 dwelling units would be required to accommodate the projected population for the year 2016. Between 1997 and 2002 approximately 8,286 residential building permits were issued. To date 75% of the projected need for the twenty-year planning period has been built - a clear boom! The higher than expected growth has resulted in the necessity for the projected Housing Demand to change. It is estimated that by the year 2016 there will be the need for 96,000 dwelling units. Approximately 71% of all required units are projected to be low density, 17% medium density and 12% high density.

Windsor is the major employment centre for the census metropolitan area, averaging more than 90% of the jobs over the past twenty years. Over the next twenty years, Windsor will continue to provide a significant amount of new employment opportunities within the census metropolitan area.

Windsor is the centre for Canada's automotive industry. While this sector will continue to provide numerous jobs within the Essex Region, Windsor has also had considerable success diversifying its employment base, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector. Significant employment growth is anticipated to occur in both of these sectors with total employment expected to be closer to the 1996 high projection of 134,553 jobs by the year 2016.

Major employers within Windsor are clustered in manufacturing and commercial nodes across the city. It is anticipated that this trend will continue with additional nodes being developed to accommodate new and expanded employers particularly in the Forest Glade and Devonshire Planning Districts. The addition of the transferred lands from the Town of Tecumseh in the southeast should result in the establishment of a major new area of industrial and commercial development.

Land Supply

The City of Windsor had approximately 2,058 hectares of undeveloped land in 1996. Of this total, 1,214 hectares were designated for future residential use, 606 hectares for industrial use, and the remaining 238 hectares for open space use. As a result of the projected positive population, housing and employment growth, Windsor's land supply is expected to decrease over the next twenty years. The Municipality identified the need for future adjustments of the municipal boundary to address this and other related planning issues. It is anticipated that the recent land transfer of 2,532 hectares from the Town of Tecumseh will accommodate land supply needs for both employment and residential land use in the coming years.

In 1996, housing projections identified residential land needs in the range of 390 to 476 hectares over the twenty planning period. Windsor's residential land reserve was expected to satisfy residential development needs in the short terms (i.e. 5-10 years); however, it was determined that Windsor could not be able to accommodate the demand for community scale development, (i.e. that which occurs at or near the size of a Planning District) as there were no remaining large vacant tracts of land to be developed. The addition of the transferred land from the Town of Tecumseh will alleviate the pressure for residential land and will allow for community scale development.

1996 employment projections identify employment land needs between 243 to 514 hectares over the twenty-year planning period. At the time, the land supply provided a satisfactory range of small and medium scale development opportunities. Windsor however, did not have a sufficient reserve of employment lands to accommodate a large scale manufacturing operation such as an auto assembly plant. The addition of the 2,532 hectares of transferred land from the Town of Tecumseh should alleviate some of the pressure-secondary planning and servicing strategies - will be a major undertaking over the next few years. 

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For general information, please call 311. For detailed inquiries, contact: 

Planning & Building Services Department
Planning Division
2nd Floor, 350 City Hall Square West
Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9A 6S1
Phone: (519) 255-6543
Fax: (519) 255-6544