Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dense residentail housing

Density is the word of the day when it comes to residential housing in London, Ontario. "More residents per square kilometre" is the mantra chanted by city planners. Today's picture shows one response to that oft repeated goal of high density neighbourhoods.

Personally, I prefer a highrise to a townhouse. I wonder how others feel.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Record high enjoyed by London, Ontario

Heavy fog Tuesday made driving to the grocery store in London a daunting task.
Monday it was heavy, wet snow. Today it is fog accompanied at times by pounding rain with thunder and lightening. The cause of this out-of-the-ordinary weather is the out-of-the-ordinary high January temperature for Southern Ontario: Environment Canada pegs the current temperature at 10.5°C. The previous record was 8.9°C set in 1975 and matched in 2006.

Tomorrow should start warm with the temperature surpassing today's high. By late evening sub-zero weather should return along with blowing snow.

[The store pictured is a Loblaw grocery store. The Loblaw chain is owned by George Weston Limited. Along with the Loblaw stores, the Weston folk also own No Frills, Fortinos, Zehrs, Provigo, Maxi, Real Canadian Superstore, Your Independent Grocer, and Extra Foods. And there may be more that I don't know about.]

Monday, January 28, 2013

A good snowfall brings out good neigbours

A snow scoop in young hands quickly clears a snowy drive.
I have a heart condition and all my neighbours know it. Last night a heavy, wet snowfall blanketed London, Ontario. I was not looking forward to starting up the snow blower.

At 8:30 a.m. the front doorbell rang. It was a lad from across the court. "Would you like your walk and driveway cleared?" I answered, "Yes."

I have always found that good snowfalls bring out good neighbours.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Zellers: A bit of Canadian history fades from London

This is the new, soon to open, Target store in Westmount Mall in London, Ontario. Just a short time ago this store was a Zellers outlet. The Zellers chain had a long, rich history in London.

In 1928 Walter Zeller, from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, opened four stores in Ontario, and one of his original stores was in London. His stores were such an immediate success that they attracted the attention of an American firm Schulte-United Ltd. The Yanks bought Zeller out and then the depression hit. The Yanks went bankrupt. Zeller bought back his chain in 1932 and he was on roll that would last decades.

Walter Zeller retired in 1955 at 65. He died just two years later. He was buried in Montreal where he had lived for some time. This is why the Zellers head office was located in Montreal. The years after the death of Walter Zeller were tumultuous ones with control of the chain almost falling into the hands of the American Fields Stores. In the end, Zellers made Fields into its own subsidiary. Then in 1978 Hudson's Bay Company became the sole owner of Zellers.

HBC struggled for years under different owners until in 2008 the U.S. based investment firm, NRDC Equity Partners, bought Hudson’s Bay Co. for $1.1 billion. The Yanks peeled Zellers free of HBC, selling the rights to approximately 200 Zellers’ leaseholds for $1.825 billion to the American Target. All but three of the remaining Zellers stores are slated for closure by March 2013.

By late spring, three Zellers stores, one in Toronto, another in Montreal and a last one in Vancouver, will be the only stores remaining open from the once oh-so-successful Canadian chain.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

London: view from city hall

Two new apartment towers, one still under construction, grace the city's downtown.
Saturday, the City of London held the Build a Budget Workshop. The event presented Londoners with a window into the complex world of city budget development. With many on city council striving to maintain a zero percent budget increase for a third straight year, the budgeting task in London is becoming more and more difficult. City costs go up over time, that's just a fact of life; If a city's income doesn't go up too, cuts or increased borrowing will result.

Session looking at draft budget allocation for city services.
Unfortunately, my health was not good Saturday and I had to excuse myself after attending only one session. I believe the event was divided up into four main sessions with numerous other associated activities available.

For instance, there was a speaker's corner, based on the MuchMusic concept. Participants recorded 30 second video clips in which they presented their thoughts on the budget. The mayor and members of council were encouraged to make short video clips as well. All the clips will be edited together and the resulting video posted on YouTube.

The folk at city hall are certainly imaginative and aware of the strengths of social media. Using a free web-based service, tweets with the hashtag #LdnBudget13 were projected for immediate viewing at the event. Plus, all tweets tagged with #LdnBudget13 were collected for later analysis.

Mayor Joe Fontana at event on left.
Even though I could not stay for the entire event, I left feeling concerned that clinging to an arbitrary 0% budget goal may keep my taxes from jumping this year but it is just putting off the inevitable.  I have always believed that the day will come when one must pay the piper, or the snowplow operator, or the fireman, or policeman or the sewer repair crew, or the street repaving team . . .

Today the public discussion seems to be centred around whether of not to cut Sunday library hours at the downtown branch but there is far more involved. Reserve funds have been fair game in the past and the sale of city assets is again being discussed.

Oddly enough, some costs associated with the mayor's office have gone up by tens of thousands of dollars since the pursuit of a zero increase goal began. Maybe if the mayor were to show some leadership in making the tough economic decisions . . .

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

London, Ontario, igloo

Igloo on front lawn of a home in a London, Ont., suburb.

My granddaughter and I were amazed when a large, white igloo slowly took shape in our neighbourhood. It has now been standing for a number of days. Sadly, it may be in for a hard few days starting tomorrow; Warmer weather is forecast, as well as rain.

I especially like the whale sculpture adorning the entrance.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An urban constant: change

Cities, like everything in life, are not static. How cities, and the buildings within them, change through time has been a topic of interest to many. I gave a book to a friend delving into this very topic. In some cases, it was downright amazing to see a picture of a structure shortly after it was built published beside another picture of the same building a hundred years later. A lot can happen in a hundred years.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

London children celebrate the New Year

Fiona, 3, puts on the hat made earlier.
It is not just adults who enjoy celebrating the arrival of the new year. In London, Ontario, there were are number of celebrations are held about the city aimed at satisfying children ready to party.

The Children's Museum in London held a four hour long event with face painting and new year hat making keeping kids busy while waiting for the 12 o'clock countdown, that's 12 noon and not 12 midnight.

At noon balloons dropped and children screamed: "Happy New Year!" The museum is three floors filled with fun stuff and after the balloons dropped, the children dispersed to all corners of the museum the check out the exhibits.

London Community News found Fiona at Victoria Park.

In the evening, there was a celebration held in Victoria Park in the downtown core. Again, children are encouraged to attend but early in the evening. Since not many toddlers are up at midnight, a truncated fireworks display was presented at 9 p.m keeping the young ones happy.

The local paper (The London Free Press) often runs stories referring to the Southwestern city as boring. Today there are hundreds of young people who would find fault with that description.