By my nature, I’m the type of person who takes a great interest in the goings on in my neighbourhood. I love a good old fashioned town hall meeting and here in The Ward they are usually held at the Italian Canadian Club. There haven’t been many lately but when the massive condo developments were first proposed after the trashing of the WC Woods plant, there were plenty of meetings. They really need to come up with another name for a meeting where you’re pretty much being told what is going to happen. It’s more like a lecture and a formality really, for not once in this town have the concerns of the citizens altered the end product of a development. Don’t insult our intelligence by handing out chart paper and getting us to write down our ideas like it’s Grade Six again. The second time that happened, I bailed for the pub. Stick your Sharpie up your ass, buddy. This is obviously a done deal.
(A future Scotty Hertz (played by Ed Norton) watches a condo fire caused by unattended scented candle in an English major’s investment condo flat in Condomania 2. He’s perfect for the role, Ed Norton is exactly two days older than me)
If you can point out an instance where a mass community anti development outcry truly won out in this city, I will gladly retract that last sentence. Sure, there will be concessions to the people like a small public square, coffee shop or access to the river, but somehow developers manage to get exactly what they want, every single time. There may be delays, such as in our famous epic Wal Mart battle, but The Big Box was built regardless. The Jesuits, curlers and thousands of happy-ish Wal Mart shoppers coexist in the burgeoning northern retail hub without conflict. The world did not end. Concerns were raised about the 18 story Tricar tower and it’s twin across the tracks. They’re going in, unaltered. Good thing we didn’t buy the dump of a house we looked at on Sussex Street, I’d be buying 10,000 helium balloons like the old man in Up and hitching a ride out of there post haste. It’s more likely I’d be rhyming off daily complaints on this blog until I died of pure exhaustion.
(Next stop, Owen Sound)
I sympathize with the citizens in the south end who have valid concerns about their new neighbours, the HIP Solstice condo developments. South enders have paid a shedload of cash to live the suburban dream and are now having visions of driveways littered with red Solo cups and puke accented by general dumbass yelling between 12-3am, Thursday through Saturday. Most people accept that towns and cities need development and that it will happen eventually. You don’t really see people lying in front of bulldozers anymore, with the exception of incidents like the Hanlon Creek Business Park standoff. They are sticking a townhouse development over there as well, because business isn’t exactly booming. No word yet if it’s going to be called Jefferson Salamander Estates.
(Heavy equipment prepares the grade of the Hanlon Creek Business Park for empty space)
Solstice are in essence building the new university residences, so the U of G doesn’t have to. I’m not implying they are in direct cahoots but at this rate, you will never see another student dwelling being built right on campus. They should actually be called Symbiotic condos. There is an info table in the University Centre promoting living at Solstice regularly. MacDonald Hall, a classic early Edwardian gem, has been cleared out and is being converted into the consolidated College of Economics. Private money built it; it’s named MacDonald after the tobacco giant that funded it, a fact conveniently lost to time and likely be lost in the reno. So Moo U is now missing a residence. Where do all the students go? They have to live somewhere and enrolment isn’t increasing. Many of them will end up in the investment condos off campus, conveniently situated on the bus route for which they all get a really cheap pass. Symbiosis in action.
(The abdicator Edward VIII shares a smoke and a joke with the ladies on the steps of MacDonald Hall, Guelph -1919. His grandad lends his name to all things “Edwardian”)
In the south end, what initially started out as a condo for “upper income retirees” has evolved into two projects. Both are investment condo properties geared to students, with a chunk of wetland, 1,000 trees and a church getting smoked in the process. Add in the other on going developments (Coltara, Arkel Lofts) and you have what my colleague Guelph Politico has aptly named Condo Central. A junior version of the boom we’ve seen all across the GTA and every boom goes bust eventually. It’s the part of the capitalist mechanism that no one really wants to discuss until everything turns all 2008. Boom, bust and bailout.
If we see a similar, larger economic collapse, I will predict in spooky futurist fashion that under the guise of the University, the province will take over Solstice condos and run them. By that time we will be downloading lectures directly into our brains, the library will be run by robots who have all media ever created in their flash drives and the developers will still be getting exactly what they want, every single time.