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Old Posted Sep 17, 2011, 1:16 PM
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Southwestern Ontario

I just wanted to pick everyone's brains here on as to why I think or you think Southwestern Ontario south of say K-W/Cambridge, has developed at the rate it has. By this I mean slower than one would think and do you agree with my opinion that it's a bit under-developed.

I'm going to use Essex County as my prime example because I am most familiar with it living here, but I would say between here and K-W/Cambridge the growth is relatively the same and it feels slow considering soo many other places in the country seem to be cashing in on a boom.

In Essex County we have the warmest weather in a country known for it's cooler weather, we also get the most sunshine in the country on a yearly basis, and have the longest summers and shortest winters in Canada. We're practially the bananna belt of Canada. I can understand that with our relative flatness in the landscape combined with those two above factors it makes us a prime region for farming and that could be the reason, but I'd still like to explore the idea of why you guys, or anybody thinks that Southwestern Ontario hasn't seem to have grown as much as it seems it could have.

Down here we are surrounded by plenty of fresh water for pleasure seekers and water oriented people.

I know Windsor is perceived as a blue collar lunch bucket auto workers town, but we're also a gateway city.

I know that Toronto is the centre of the universe , but that aside if you look at Windsor, or even London for that matter, we both have good connectivity to the U.S. Windsor is directly across from Detroit, 5 hrs from Chicago, 4 hrs from Cincinnatti, 4hrs from Buffalo, 3 hrs from Cleveland, 5 hrs from Pittsburgh, 4 hrs from Toronto, and even 10 hrs from New York.

Ya I know I got carried away, but my point is depending on how you look at it we're somewhat centrally located and yet for the most part when you come down this way it feels like you're driving on down to the back country and then oh ya, there's the U.S.! I mean if Detroit wasn't there you would almost feel like you're driving to some isolated small city on the tip of an island, the growth just doesn't trickle down here, or if it does it's slow.

I'm just curious on people's opinions on this and why do you think the growth in Ontario is soo centralized? I know we're within X number of hours drive from alot of places, especially Toronto only being 4 hours away, but in a way it feels like it could be 20hrs away at the same time if you get what I'm saying.

Side note: Correct me if I'm wrong, but when the province gave municipalities the ultimatum to merge or annex to streamline municipalities and municipal services (this when places like London saw a dramatic jump from annexing?) from what I've read over the years in our local papers Windsor and it's surrounding neighbours were really the only region that did not merge or annex. We've seen more rapid growth with respect to suburbs in Windsor's outlying towns which practically rub shoulder to shoulder with Windsor than we have in the city and I can't say it feels like it's benefiting the area. If we're less densely populated because we're a farming region than why is the region soo secular and instead of growing a stronger central city in the county are we constantly paving over farm fields and slapping up more and more strip malls?

I just never understood it. It also always seems like the county and city are at odds on eachother and it's city vs. county while the rest of the province has amalgamated into seemingly stronger regions.

Is it like this where you live as well?
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  #2  
Old Posted Sep 17, 2011, 5:07 PM
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it's the forgotten part of ontario pleas don't let it be discovered! I love going back to the small towns I knew growing up, they're so relaxed and quiet. All that farmland is way too valuable to Canada to be paved over.
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  #3  
Old Posted Sep 17, 2011, 6:33 PM
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It's hard for the region to grow maybe because Toronto is not that far away and major companies would rather set up there, plus that's where most of the new immigrants go as well.

But really, I don't want to see the southwest develop any faster. It's more of a wholesome, agricultural area (similar to the midwest US) and yes parts of it are socially unprogressive but it is what it is. Leave the insane development (and all the problems that come along with it) to the GTA.

Regarding annexations, I think the Harris government went overboard (for example merging Chatham with all of Kent County was ludicrous) but in most areas it seems to have worked. Windsor is just a different animal (I think part of this might be because we see the way Detroit's suburbs fight against the central city there). The province won't force Windsor to annex because they would lose too many votes if they did.
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Old Posted Sep 17, 2011, 9:26 PM
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It's not that I want to see Windsor turn into a Toronto, but some interest in development other than a strip plaza or a factory would be nice.

The other interesting thing with Windsor is it's not a quiet town that hasn't changed in a long time that has some decent 'quaint' architecture a lot of the old architecture has been torn down and replaced with tacky stuff from the 1950's-1970's it's very 'bleh'.

What other cities for fun can you guys think of that is predominantly filled with awful architecture from the 50's-70's?
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Old Posted Sep 17, 2011, 11:46 PM
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The downtown part of Windsor might have more modern architecture than most downtowns but there are other parts of the city like Walkerville and Sandwich that make up for it that people forget about (cities like London and Kitchener don't even have neighbourhoods like that, but their downtowns tend to have older architecture).

The thing about Windsor is you really have to explore more than just its downtown in order to appreciate it's entire history. That can't be said for other cities in the region.
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Old Posted Sep 18, 2011, 3:19 PM
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Since I've only ever lived in London and KWC I'm curious to know what makes those districts unique, Blitz.
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Old Posted Sep 19, 2011, 4:52 AM
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Walkerville is a former company town that was built entirely around the Hiram Walker distillery. It's one of the best examples of an old company town in Canada (it was annexed by Windsor in 1935).

Sandwich is the oldest settlement in Ontario and has buildings over 200 years old, including the oldest home in southwestern Ontario. It was also annexed by Windsor in 1935.

London and Kitchener grew outward from one central core like most cities do. Windsor however grew has a collection of small towns that all merged together in the early 1900s...but each of the former towns (including Ford City and Riverside) have held on to their old downtown cores to this day.
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Old Posted Sep 19, 2011, 5:38 AM
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I wouldn't say Kitchener grew from a central city. The entire Waterlo municipality is a hodge podge of different cities that just kind of grew into each other. Remember even Cambridge is the result of the merging of three different small cities....Galt, Hespler, and [I think} Prescott.
London is much more like Hamilton in that it is one large unified city that eventually engulfed much smaller satelite towns ie Hamilton's Dundas and London's Byron.
Actually it's not just a SW Ontario thing as there have only been two main growth areas in Ontario in the last 30 years, Greater Golden Horshoe and Ottawa. Ottawa being capitol almost guarantees it long term growth as government and government organizations are ever expanding and it also gets some immigrants associated with that unique title.
As for the GGH's growth it's almost exclusively Toronto centred with the exception of Barrie {which is a Toronto getaway} and KWC. Hamilton city, Peterbrough, and Niagara have grow very little over the last 30 years. Northern Ontario has shrunk in population and except for Ottawa Eastern Ontario growth in the last 30 years has been near zero.
Windsor did well in the 1990s but with the massive turn down in the auto sector it's economy collapsed and the young left. London has, since the 70s . has always been slow but very staedy growth of about 1% per year. It has also been hurt by the auto sector but London is also the areas regional, governmental, health services, and educational center. It also has a sizeable white collar economy and it is in the strategic heart of Southern Ontario for highways, rail, and passenger transport. Remember London's VIA rail station is the 4th busiest in the country.
Chatham-Kent, Lambton, Huron, Perth have has no population growth since 1980 much of which is due to all immigrants heading to Toronto and the young must leave it they want to go to university and once they are gone they ussually never come back. This in some ways also effects Windsor because for it's 400,000 the U. Windsor is quite a small school. The same is true of Elgin and Oxford but Oxford has been somewhat helped by the opening of the Toyota plant in Woodstock, and Elgin by it's proximity to London so it is getting some commuter growth which it desperately needs as unemployment is very high and still rising. London being home to both a very large and presticious university has benefited from this.
Windsor also has a similar reputation to Hamilton..........dirty, gritty. blue collar place while London has a very positive reputation. Whether these assumptions are still true is not relevant as the stigma remains.
The so called "decline" of SW Ontario is not an anamoly but rather the norm in Ontario as outside Ottawa/GTA/KWC all of Ontario has been on a very slo growth trajectory. London, considering how it has negatively been effected by the downturn of the auto sector has actually done fairly well with it's average 1% population growth per annum.
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Old Posted Sep 19, 2011, 3:38 PM
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An article in the local paper long ago mentioned that when the University of Windsor was conceived the governing board was torn between having the university lean towards medicine or law, they chose law, London went with medicine, look at the 2 universities now..

One of the biggest things I see is that in Essex county, only in the last few years do we seem to be thinking as a region. Growth in the cities suburbs has outpaced growth in the city and I wouldn't even call it quality growth, it's just subdivisions and plenty of strip malls going up over quality peices of farm land.

If anyone were to wonder why downtown Windsor is soo vacant and devoid of business and services they only have to take a look at it's outlying borders with the smaller towns like Tecumseh (see Manning road corrider) and Lasalle (Malden road corridor). They are perched just on the other side of the city boundries, literally on the other side of these roads in some cases. Then when the city proposes building MORE big box stores within city limits but at the border of these towns then these towns cry and say it will kill their business. (proposed big box stores to go up near Windsor Raceway, Lasalle is saying it will kill Malden road area).

So it's everybody VS. everybody here.

Also I'd have to say that big box stores 20 minutes from downtown don't build a city but it seems that's the kind of growth we're saddled with at the moment.
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Old Posted Sep 19, 2011, 10:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssiguy
I wouldn't say Kitchener grew from a central city. The entire Waterlo municipality is a hodge podge of different cities that just kind of grew into each other. Remember even Cambridge is the result of the merging of three different small cities....Galt, Hespler, and [I think} Prescott.
I realize this but I was only referring to Kitchener proper.

The reputations of Windsor and Hamilton as being "dirty and gritty" are really outdated. Yes, maybe in the 1990s they were but not anymore. Since then Windsor has done remarkable things with its waterfront and has dramatically inproved the streetscapes of its major arteries over the past 5 years. Being across from Detroit hurts our reputation no matter what we do though.

I don't think London has the same highly positive reputation as it did in the 1990s either, I currently live there and I like it enough but it's not exactly the affluent banking and insurance centre that it used to be.

UWindsor constantly struggles to increase enrollment because it sits right at the end of the country and can't draw people from further away than Chatham-Kent. UWO has a much larger area to draw from (Elgin, Oxford, Perth, Huron, etc). It's good that the 2 schools have come together to add a medical campus at UWindsor though.

Symz, the problems you are describing in regards to bix box stores have been seen in every single mid-sized city in North America over the past 20 years. It's frustrating but it's really no different in Windsor than it is in London, Saskatoon, or Peoria.

Last edited by Blitz; Sep 19, 2011 at 10:40 PM.
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Old Posted Sep 20, 2011, 5:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Symz View Post
It's not that I want to see Windsor turn into a Toronto, but some interest in development other than a strip plaza or a factory would be nice.

The other interesting thing with Windsor is it's not a quiet town that hasn't changed in a long time that has some decent 'quaint' architecture a lot of the old architecture has been torn down and replaced with tacky stuff from the 1950's-1970's it's very 'bleh'.

What other cities for fun can you guys think of that is predominantly filled with awful architecture from the 50's-70's?
I think that Windsor is not unique when it comes to bad developement in the 50's to 70's era. I've seen many other cities with the same ugly designs, although Windsor does have more than it's fair share. It seemed that any building going up in Windsor during that period consisted of an ugly square covered in brown house brick. London was no better with many of their buildings made of grey concrete slabs, very Communist in style.

It's a crime that Windsor just levelled anything and everything to make room for these developements. Hopefully this way of thinking is gone forever.
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Old Posted Sep 20, 2011, 6:18 PM
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I love looking through 'The Vault' pictures on the Windsor Star because they show soo many old pictures of Windsor and even the surrounding towns from long ago. It looks like there was soo much that could have been preserved and now it's all gone.
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Old Posted Sep 21, 2011, 5:05 PM
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^ I love those old pics too, especially the ones where you see Ouellette Ave filled with shoppers and people going about thier business. So sad that today there is only maybe a fraction of the pedestrians there was back then.

I understand though that it's a different world now, and retail isn't just concentrated downtown. It is possible though to have a healthy and lively mix of shops , offices and entertainment in the city centre, and I think we are on our way to achieving that, albeit very slowly.
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 3:37 AM
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Remember that up until about 1960 Windsor was bigger than London.
I also think the idea that Windsor and Hamilton are dirty and gritty Labatt's Blue kinda places is no longer true but that's not the point. The point is that the stigma still remains. This is similar to the situations of Pittsburg and Cleveland in the US. Both cities have done complete 180s and brought their downtowns back to life and are far better than most US cities in terms of liveability and vibrancy but the stigma remains. Their reputations are there worse enemies and London is the beneficiary of it's "wealthy white collar WASP city" reputation.
It's not fair but that attitude still prevails.
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 2:30 PM
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If Windsor were ever bigger than London, it was only for a very brief period. Windsor is an old settlement, but didn't really become a large city until the older settlements like Sandwich, Ford City and Walkerville started to merge into one urban area, probably around the 1940s or so.
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Last edited by flar; Sep 22, 2011 at 2:41 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 3:40 PM
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Remember that up until about 1960 Windsor was bigger than London.
I also think the idea that Windsor and Hamilton are dirty and gritty Labatt's Blue kinda places is no longer true but that's not the point. The point is that the stigma still remains. This is similar to the situations of Pittsburg and Cleveland in the US. Both cities have done complete 180s and brought their downtowns back to life and are far better than most US cities in terms of liveability and vibrancy but the stigma remains. Their reputations are there worse enemies and London is the beneficiary of it's "wealthy white collar WASP city" reputation.
It's not fair but that attitude still prevails.
This is true, but I think that these perceptions are changing in all three cities, Windsor's and Hamilton's are improving and London's is going down. In the end, hopefully their reputations will all be reflective of their current realities and not some outdated perception.
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 3:43 PM
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The perception is not entirely wrong, Hamilton is still very gritty and there are entire streets with boarded up buildings and downtown is still full of the kind of people who scare suburban types. The problem is that many people think the whole city is like that, but there are many nice areas.
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 5:19 PM
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^ I've never actually been in downtown Hamilton, but I have heard many refferences to dangerous areas and very sketchy people there. I think both Windsor and London also have some of this in their cores, but not to that extent.

I've been hearing more good things about Hamilton recently than bad, which is great for the city's image. I'm sure it has a long way to go to lose that bad rap, but it sounds like they're getting there.

We have a lot of beggars here in downtown Windsor, but we're getting more new startup hi-tech companies opening up in the core, and I think that makes a huge difference in the makeup of who's walking around and how safe people feel.

I know that in London, there is also a percieved problem with crackheads and street people in their downtown, but I have never felt unsafe there, just as I have never felt unsafe here in Windsor.
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 6:28 PM
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None of these cities are dangerous in the least. Too many people are just afraid of anything that isn't familiar and sterilized to comply with suburban middle class standards.
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Old Posted Sep 22, 2011, 7:07 PM
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I agree, if you want dangerous, go to some American cities, they're the dangerous ones. Although even in Detroit I don't feel scared, as long as you know where to go and where not to go, you're usually ok. Now I'm not sure about some of the western cities in Canada, I hear they have a lot of problems with the native populations in some of their downtowns. I know they have an all over higher rate of violent crime than their eastern counterparts.
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