rut roh-ra

Take a trip to St. Andrews Plaza and you will feel immediately transported to a ghost town not unlike the ones featured in the classic episodes of Scooby Doo.

On Page 3 of the August 24th 2010 edition of The Auroran Harold Madi declared the plaza to be reaching the end of its shelf life. You can read more of his comments and the discussions surrounding redevelopment as it pertains to the “Promenade” study here:

I think it is safe to say that the plug was pulled on the plaza when Foodland closed down leaving it to resemble sections of Detroit as pictured above.

Here are a few photos I took as recently as last month:

The entrance sign off Orchard Heights claims there are over 40 unique stores, my count was around 30. The empty sign board with accompanying lights is a nice touch too.

For lease signs are posted everywhere:

Of the stores still operating their signage and storefronts are dilapidated and unwelcoming. The bungee cord and footstool propping open a door is a nice touch:

The feeling of despair is thick as you encounter overflowing garbage cans, or bags just left out on the concourse. Shingles are wood are rotted through, and the only thing that remains as a water feature looks more like a urinal:

The best one of all had to be this:

record (21 of 36)-2

Check, check, check and check.

No chance of any of that, the plaza is bereft of life. It’s amazing the difference 8 years makes. In a June 28th 2005 article by Dick Illingworth the Plaza was called “Ahead of its time”. You can find it on page 11 here: along with a photo showing the courtyard water feature that has now been replaced by planters.

Perhaps its decline has something to do with the fact that “many residents don’t even know it’s there.”. Its not as if it has been utilized by, or in conjunction with the town for events.  A shame considering the great internal space and proximity to Machell Park complete with parking.

But it appears St. Andrews is not the only one “ahead of its time” as a 1960’s amusement park in Japan closed down in 2007:

Or how about China’s recreation of Paris that crashed and burned. Details can be found in this Financial Post piece here:

The plaza may be coming full circle as it apparently stood almost empty for two years since it was completed in 1983 due to teetering on bankruptcy.

Having recently filed for Bankruptcy, Detroit is unlikely to return to its former glory. This Globe article lays out some competing visions for the future of the city and can be read here:

Although Ontario isn’t in nearly as bad shape as Detroit the Globe reinforces that we should all be concerned with respect to infrastructure needs in this piece here:

Given that the plaza is a “focal point” of the almighty “Promenade” study, which now has a work plan, what exactly are the town and the property owners doing about revitalizing this site?

Aside from once councilor proposing it as a location for the Youth Centre I haven’t heard a single thing.

The North West corner of Aurora seems to be eroding. King Henry’s Arms was a focal point in the area and it closed its doors last month. With Foodland gone there is no grocery store to service Aurora west of Yonge Street from the North border until NoFrills at the south end of town.

I’m surprised at the overwhelming complacency seeing as the mayor and 2 councilors live close by and no doubt pass the plaza on a daily basis.

The strategic plan emphasizes innovation and sustainability. How is council applying these principles to this property?

I’m not talking about tinkering with an overarching strategy like the Promenade study which has shown to have no teeth, how does this plaza accomplish some quick wins?

We apparently have a staff member tasked with business retention, what specifically has he done with respect to this plaza?

It’s laughable to hear so many blind fools running around this town espousing their “vision” for this that and the other thing, yet when asked if they have an innovative and sustainable business plan you are met with blank stares.

Like Detroit, St. Andrews Plaza serves as a warning to our town.

Vision isn’t everything.

Execution is key.

Anyone can have a vision. It’s the community buy-in that turns a vision into a shared vision.

The fantastical Heritage Disneyland being proposed just south of Aurora Heights Dr. has all the potential of becoming St. Andrews Plaza 2.0.

Make no mistake that is a real-estate deal with the intent to siphon money from Aurora’s Hydro Reserve fund on top of Provincial and Federal funding and they don’t even have a business plan.


Aurora already has an abundant amount of infrastructure it needs to shore up and sustain, there is nothing innovative in building yet another destination for it to be left to crumble and fall apart after 30 years, unless of course the business plan is to turn our town into a ghost town. After all the Toronto Star claims that ghost towns are a huge tourist draw:

If we were remotely serious about incorporating tourism into the town’s sphere, and I’m not suggesting we should, we could take a page out of Detroit’s innovative playbook and turn St. Andrews plaza into a Zombie amusement park:

I’m sure the rights to Scooby Doo could be licensed for a fair price.

Watts on your mind?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s