Sunday, December 05, 2010

How to Save London Ontario

First, I don't think London needs "saving." I love it here, and for what it is, it's a great place to live. There is always room for improving it, though, and there is a lot of talk lately about how to do that.

A fantastic project called Redraw London visually depicts solutions to some of London's problems (see also: Kevin Van Lierop's 100 Ways to Improve London project). One example is making Dundas Street car-free where it passes through downtown—a proposition that people have been talking about for years. Brian Frank addresses this in a a recent blog post. He sees Dundas as a sort of canary in a coalmine; if Dundas is healthy, London is (at least perceived to be) healthy. However, he has doubts that getting rid of cars will suddenly rejuvenate it.

So do I. I wouldn't complain about a quirky car-free street in London, but the problem I see is that it's a boring idea. Support for a pedestrian Dundas usually ends in "just like street [X] in [city Y]!" That is, it's been done before. Yawn. We're already named after another city, so let's try to do something else to stand out, eh? We can do better than imitation, because London is full of creative geniuses. I am a creative genius. Here is how to save London:

1. Screw a car-free Dundas; how about a bumper-car-only Dundas? It's transportation! It's an amusement park! It's both! Since crashing is part of the fun, this also solves that pesky drunk driving problem once and for all.

2. How about a street where graffiti is not only allowed, but encouraged? Think of that great new work on Clarence near Dundas, except times twenty, constantly changing and showcasing local talent.

3. How about being the best at something? The world's largest [awesome thing]. The best [awesome food] in the country. We probably already have something like this and just don't know it. It would be nice to have a feature that makes London unique in the world—a symbol other than trees that we can put on our posters and logos.

4. More seriously, how about a waterfront? We've got this beautiful river splashing straight through the heart of the city, and the only place we can see it from is Museum London and the restaurant in it. I like parks and all, but I'd be happy to see half of Harris Park transformed into another type of public waterfront space. Maybe even with a few businesses there. Like small stands that sell food you don't see everywhere else.


5. How about a permanent beaver tail stand?

6. How about the world's best beaver tails?

I've got like infinity more ideas, only half of which involve deep-fried dough, but the ones here already involve a lot of bulldozing so maybe I should stop. If you live in London (and sorry for the boring post if you don't), think of your own ideas. Put them out there. Even the crappy ones can inspire better ones, and the best ones may become reality.

P.S. I already wrote some of these ideas in a drunken comment over on London Fuse.


Laura said...

I've been singing the "we need to embrace our waterfront" song for years! Recreate the Guy Lombardo Wonderland Gardens/Riverview Restaruant idea closer to downtown.
+ Use the Victoria Park bandshell more than 12 days a year.

"...but it'll never happen."

Chris Sinal said...


Anonymous said...

Yum! I don't know if it will help London, but I want to eat whatever that chocolately peanut butter mess is, in that picture!

Forest City Fashionista said...

Definitely agree with the "better use of our parks and waterfront space", and that we should have something unique to promote our city other than trees (real and metal). But what? Perhaps we could start a campaign to promote London as the city with the coolest bloggers?

Johnson said...

You're so right. When it comes to cultural events, London certainly does suffer from "Let's do [thing] just like they do in [larger city]," case in point Le Petit Nuit Blanche. How original. Unfortunately for a long time there have been a lot of unimaginative people making decisions regarding downtown London.
However, while I've been sort of down on London in the past few years as a small(ish) conservative town, it's been encouraging lately to see that there is a little arts community thriving there and that there are still people (like you, "forest city fashionista," the two blogs you pointed, those at LondonFuse et al) fighting to bring some culture to my home town.
London definitely needs to make better use of its waterfront too. The last time I was in London I was lamenting a few massive, beautiful old waterfront homes on Ridout near Blackfriars bridge that are now Frat houses. Such a waste.

Andrei said...

Cool post! I definitely think cities should focus as much as possible on improving themselves instead of just stagnating if there are no obvious problems that need addressing.

One issue: the grimy river flowing through this city STINKS a significant portion of the year. I'm not the only one who has been offended by the disagreeable odor wafting over. That might detract from the appeal of waterfront businesses, no matter how awesome they'd be.

And to address Johnson's concerns: as far as I know of one frat house on Ridout and it's pretty far from the waterfront. Though it would have a half decent view if the thicket between it and the park was cleared away. But it seems a bit far from the water to really qualify as a waterfront.

Tatiana said...

Oh good ideas all I'm sure... :) I've never been to London, but did laugh at the earnest and kind of geeky critique of London by Steve Pavlina when he was through there. Here's the link, it may amuse you.

Sierra said...

Ha ha, you said beaver.