Neighbourhood News: Oakville is a Safe Harbour

 Checking out the lighthouse at Lakeside Park.

Tim Fraser for National PostChecking out the lighthouse at Lakeside Park.
Everyone wants to love their neighbourhood. It’s about more than the streets you use to get home after work, more than how far you are from transit or the dentist. It’s about connecting with the place and the people. This multi-part series explores some of the many vibrant neighbourhoods in and around the GTA and what makes them thrive.

Oakville, the suburban town in Halton Region, has a population of 182,520. At least half of those people wear yoga clothes, own hale dogs as well as a panoply of flat-screen TVs (that they don’t watch because they’re busily huffing it in sneakers down by the lake).

All this is conjecture, of course, gleaned one Sunday afternoon while on a reconnaissance mission of Oakville’s main drag, Bronte Village and the real estate on the treed pockets around the Lakeshore. Who lives in these capacious, character-filled houses, where birds caper on the front lawn like a montage out of a movie?

In answer: CanCon musician Tom Cochrane, NHL hockey players, Ron MacLean, CEOs.

They’re joined by more than 300 companies, such as Ford and TDL Group, headquartered in the town founded by William Chisholm in 1837 and named for its majestic oaks. Here, 58% of residents hold a post-secondary education — a level 38% greater than the provincial average, according to the Town of Oakville. (The über-posh Appleby College is here on rolling fields that recall the film Dead Poets Society.) Meanwhile, Oakville Real Estate online reveals the average median income is $105,563 with an average house value of $720,943.

That society’s players reside in this squeaky-clean suburb with its pristine lakefront is no surprise. But dig deeper and there’s more to the story: Oakville has a thriving cultural scene, including theatres and art galleries. And shalom, there’s even a synagogue called Shaarei-Beth El that’s run by a rabbi-wife team in a town not exactly revered for its diversity.

It’s also not heralded as a spot for singles. Vanessa Head, 39, shares her townhouse with Bella, a miniature shih tzu, instead of being part of Oakville’s stereotypical upper-crust family of five. “I’ve lived in Oakville since 2001,” says Ms. Head, a spiritual practitioner and 20-year sailing nut (she mostly races, as opposed to cruises). “I love it for its small-town feel and it’s so beautiful — the green space is incredible.”

(To give you an idea: Oakville has 420 hectares of parkland that make up 200 parks — 31 are on the waterfront — 150 kilometres of trails and two harbours.)

Tim Fraser for National Post
Tim Fraser for National PostVanessa Head — also known by her sailing moniker, “Tripcy” — walks among the still-drydocked boats at her sailing club with her dog, Bella, and friend Maureen Bell.

Ms. Head is known in the sailing community by her nickname Tripcy. “It stands for Triple C — the coolest chick in Canada,” she says. “Twenty years ago, I was the only girl with all guys on a boat. They all had nicknames. This guy, Dave, came up with it. I had it tattooed on my back next to the butterfly.”

Ms. Head learned how to steer a boat in Cobourg, after reading Sailing for Dummies. “Experienced sailors say it’s an excellent book for rookies. I read it cover to cover. I impressed them when I showed up on the first day and said, ‘I don’t want to be deck fluff.’ That’s the girly-girl who doesn’t want to mess up her hair or break a nail.”

Eventually, Ms. Head moved from Cobourg to Oakville for work. “I was thrilled because there were limited yacht clubs where I was before. We have three different awesome ones here: My club, the member-run Oakville Yacht Squadron; Bronte Harbour Yacht Club; and the Oakville Club. It’s got the tennis courts, fitness and other amenities.”

Ms. Head says it’s a misnomer that sailing is a closed sport. “People think if you don’t own your own boat, you can’t do it, but a lot of people with sailboats are looking for a crew. There are tons of organizations and regattas. You can sail seven days a week on Lake Ontario.”

If this talk has you seasick, the town’s grounded activities are also pretty sweet. Oakville Galleries, a not-for-profit contemporary art museum with two locations (in Gairloch Gardens and Centennial Square), offer educational programs geared to children aged six to 12, summer camps and afterschool and weekend programs.

Tim Fraser for National Post
Tim Fraser for National PostEngagement photos being shot at Lakeside Park.

“For example, in March we partnered with [the Museum of Contemporary Art] for the Art Bus,” says Jennifer Bedford, the communications officer. “The tour started there, then you get on a bus to tour the Art Gallery of Hamilton then Oakville Galleries. There’s a public reception, food and beverages. It’s a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” she says. “We ask for a donation of $10. We’ve had Whole Foods sponsor us. People get a boxed lunch as well.” (All this for $10!)

But is interest in the arts growing? The answer in Oakville is a resounding yes.

Ronnie Brown, the co-ordinator of marketing at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, has been working at the theatre for 14 years.

“There’s been absolutely a big change in terms of how many people are coming to the theatre,” he says of the theatre that stages 260 performances a year. “When we started hosting bigger artists, the perception of the Oakville Centre — originally built for community groups — started to change.”

In the past, in addition to the usual comedies and tragedies one would find in a theatre, the house has welcomed Bill Cosby, Tower of Power and Serena Ryder. “We get people from all over, from upstate New York to Pennsylvania and Ohio for those shows. Boyz II Men were just there, which was a big draw.” (And no, it wasn’t tween central, Mr. Brown says. “They attract all age groups, mostly women.”)

Kristen MacEachern lives in Oakville, and enjoys the cultural scene, as well as its recreational activities. The dietician who travels by train to University Avenue during the week to get to her job at Mount Sinai Hospital says, “The commute is long, but I like where I live so it’s worth it.”

Ms. MacEachern lives in one of the newer subdivisions in Westoak Trails with her husband Chris Ellen, who works in sales. “We back onto a big pond where we see ducks, geese, possum and rabbits. We can even skate and cross-country ski on the pond,” she says, noting she also enjoys Midnight Madness.

Tim Fraser for National Post
Tim Fraser for National PostDuke takes a breather outside the Green Bean.

In its 36th year, the splashy food-filled affair is Oakville’s largest retail shindig, taking place on July 19 and 20, along the downtown stretch of shops and cafés. Last year, it drew 50,000 people. (This strip is lined with wonderful food spots, such as Just an Olde Fashioned Butchery and Seafood, known for its spiral honey hams and grilled sausages flaming away on the outdoor barbecues; the chic herringbone-floored Marilyn Monroe Café and Stoney’s Bread Company.) Another draw is Oakville’s 20-year-old jazz festival, on this year Aug. 9 to 11.

But, really, everyone knows the best gatherings are those where the dogs outnumber the humans: Labrapalooza, (which welcomes all breeds) is run by Laura Johnson of Labrador Retriever Adoption Service. It’s on Sept. 29 at the two-acre Kingsford leash-free park.

“Last year, 125 Labs and friends came out,” Ms. Johnson says. “There’s a vet [on-site] for medical chats, two trainers, a canine nutritionist. We had an OPP canine presentation and an agility course,” she says. “Really, it’s one big party. We have loads of fun and raise awareness for adopting a Lab and attracting foster homes.”

Michelle Salvia is a Web designer who gets 12,000 to 15,000 hits monthly on her site, developed as a resource for families. She is continually “impressed by the number of events that happen in Oakville.”

Tim Fraser for National Post
Tim Fraser for National PostGroundskeepers at the Oakville Lawn Bowling Club get the green ready for the spring season.

Ms. Salvia lives with her husband, Domenic, and their two boys, ages five and seven. “I’ve been living here since 2002, since we’ve been married. I used to live in Bolton, but [my husband] had property and his whole family is here. I instantly fell in love with it.”

Her family lives in the north end, close to the new hospital being built on 50 acres at Dundas and Third Line. The facility is working toward a Silver LEED certification, the highest standard to be achieved by an Ontario hospital. When it’s completed, there will be ample parking, more single-patient rooms and an overall better, modern design.

“This is a multi-million dollar facility,” says a long-time Oakville resident who asked that his name not be used. “Oakville-born people are contributing to it. Mattamy Homes donated $10-million on it. This is a close-knit community, where we don’t mind paying higher taxes because you get beautiful infrastructure, high-end recreational facilities and amazing fire services and ambulances.

“Everyone shares the same ideology. In Toronto, there are constant complaints,” he says. “Your incremental gain for each tax dollar isn’t there.”

But it is here — and then some.

Source: National Post l Iris Benaroia




"Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain" ~ anonymous

Toronto is officially North America's 4th largest city

Toronto has supplanted Chicago as North America’s fourth largest city, the City of Toronto announced today as it presented its annual Economic Dashboard report.

The city’s population, according to the most recent Statistics Canada Census, is 2,791,140, besting Chicago’s 2,707,120 by approximately 80,000 denizens.

“These population figures are another sign confirming Toronto’s steady growth,” Mayor Rob Ford wrote in a statement. “Toronto is a desirable location for people to live and work. We are attracting people from across North America and other parts of the world.”

Toronto now sits behind Los Angeles, which handily beats Hogtown with its population of 3,792,621.

It’s still a big win for TO, as the city has long been in a friendly competition with Chicago.

According to the Toronto Star, neither Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, nor the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, chose to comment about Toronto overtaking the Windy City. Sore losers? Maybe they just have better things to do…

Toronto Skyline Krazy Diamond Flickr

Source: l   

Staging 101: Tips on Preparing Your House For Sale


  1. Disassociate Yourself With Your Home.
    • Say to yourself, "This is not my home; it is a house -- a product to be sold much like a box of cereal on the grocery store shelf.
    • Make the mental decision to "let go" of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.
    • Picture yourself handing over the keys and envelopes containing appliance warranties to the new owners!
    • Say goodbye to every room. 
    • Don't look backwards -- look toward the future.


  2. De-Personalize. Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers can't see past personal artifacts, and you don't want them to be distracted. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can't do that if yours are there! You don't want to make any buyer ask, "I wonder what kind of people live in this home?" You want buyers to say, "I can see myself living here."


  3. De-Clutter!People collect an amazing quantity of junk.  Consider this: if you haven't used it in over a year, you probably don't need it.
    • If you don't need it, why not donate it or throw it away?
    • Remove all books from bookcases.
    • Pack up those knickknacks.
    • Clean off everything on kitchen counters.
    • Put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.
    • Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.


  4. Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets.Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors. Think of the message it sends if items fall out! Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if she sees everything organized. It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well. This means:
    • Alphabetize spice jars.
    • Neatly stack dishes.
    • Turn coffee cup handles facing the same way.
    • Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.
    • Line up shoes.


  5. Rent a Storage Unit. Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage. Since your bookcases are now empty, store them.  Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger. Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room's purpose and plenty of room to move around. You don't want buyers scratching their heads and saying, "What is this room used for?"


  6. Remove/Replace Favorite Items.If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now. If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down. If a buyer never sees it, she won't want it. Once you tell a buyer she can't have an item, she will covet it, and it could blow your deal. Pack those items and replace them, if necessary.


  7. Make Minor Repairs.
    • Replace cracked floor or counter tiles.
    • Patch holes in walls.
    • Fix leaky faucets.
    • Fix doors that don't close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.
    • Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls. (Don't give buyers any reason to remember your home as "the house with the orange bathroom.")
    • Replace burned-out light bulbs.
    • If you've considered replacing a worn bedspread, do so now!


  8. Make the House Sparkle!
    • Wash windows inside and out.
    • Rent a pressure washer and spray down sidewalks and exterior.
    • Clean out cobwebs.
    • Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks.
    • Polish chrome faucets and mirrors.
    • Clean out the refrigerator.
    • Vacuum daily.
    • Wax floors.
    • Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.
    • Bleach dingy grout.
    • Replace worn rugs.
    • Hang up fresh towels.
    • Bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows.
    • Clean and air out any musty smelling areas. Odors are a no-no.


  9. Scrutinize.
    • Go outside and open your front door. Stand there. Do you want to go inside? Does the house welcome you?
    • Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer.
    • Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.
    • Make sure window coverings hang level.
    • Tune in to the room's statement and its emotional pull. Does it have impact and pizzazz?
    • Does it look like nobody lives in this house? You're almost finished.


  10. Check Curb Appeal.If a buyer won't get out of her agent's car because she doesn't like the exterior of your home, you'll never get her inside.
    • Keep the sidewalks cleared.
    • Mow the lawn.
    • Paint faded window trim.
    • Plant white or yellow flowers or group flower pots together. White is nautral and satisfies everyone. Yellow evokes a buying emotion. Marigolds and impatients are inexpensive.
    • Trim your bushes.
    • Make sure visitors can clearly read your house number.


"Life has two rules: #1 Never quit, #2 Always remember rule #1." ~ unknown

Be Positive

Fact: People give up so fast because they tend to look at how far they still have to go rather then how far they have already gotten.


"Success isn't an event, it's a lifestyle" ~ anonymous


"If you love what you do, the path to success is simple" ~ Michelle Power


"Mistakes only cost you when you don't acknowledge them" ~ Russell Simmons


"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." ~ Dr. Seuss