when life opens one door it closes another

The Town of Aurora’s current Program Manager of Heritage Planning declared the 2013 Doors Open event a “resounding success” in a August 21st piece in the
Auroran. You can read the full piece here: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=3602

Reading the self congratulatory piece absent of any mention of KPIs it makes me wonder how does one arrive at such a conclusion?

Fast forward one week and some rough numbers were provided in the August 29th Auroran here: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=3689

The article provides the following breakdown with nothing from 2011:

2013 – 3,869
2012 – 2500
2010 – 3,331

The uptick in numbers is attributed to changing up the event to run in August, something the previous Heritage Manager suggested against.

I’m interested to know how they count the exact # of people attending sites, particularly the Farmers market. How can anyone differentiate between general market goers and Doors Open attendees?

You can’t.

The “individual site visits” that were captured are not to be confused with “unique visitors” which would be a more meaningful metric as most likely the majority of those taking in the event visited more than one site. If we were to suppose that the average visitor took in 6 sites, less than half of the total that would put the number of attendees at 600. Not as impressive as 3,800 and that is why I suspect the reason that number was floated.

I don’t believe success can be determined by raw attendance numbers and have found the handling of Aurora’s Doors Open event in the recent past to be amateurish, ineffective, sloppy and void of both passion and focus.

So much so that I delegated before the Heritage Advisory Committee at their June 11th 2012 meeting to state my concerns and wrote a post about it here:

I specifically pointed out the irony in that the majority of sites were not restricted. Something that was not resolved this year although Deputy Mayor Abel
even boasted in one of his tweets that Doors Open 2013 sites of homes and businesses were “not normally open to the public”:

When one consults the 2013 site directory you can see that is a bold faced lie:

17 sites were listed. The Armory that Clr. Abel had added last year was listed, but then at some point, with no explanation given, it struck from the list with a
black sharpie “x” drawn on the printed directory I received.

Of the 16 sites remaining only the following 3 are not accessible to the public:

  • Horton Place
  • Absalom Blaker House
  • Rising Sun Masonic Lodge

The following 10 are businesses or “Public” buildings:

  • Aurora Public Library
  • Aurora Cultural Centre
  • Hillary House
  • Victoria Hall
  • Trinity Anglican Church
  • Aurora United Church
  • The Tailors House
  • Benjamin Stephenson House
  • Wells Street Lofts
  • Charles Henry Sheppard House

The remaining 3 sites don’t have doors. Farmers Market is also a public space, and like a walking tour are they “restricted”.

I noticed that the 2013 website http://www.aurora.ca/doorsopen2013 included the following disclaimer :“or for which an admission fee is usually charged”.

What bullshit is this?

Of the 13 sites listed above that make up the majority of the sites, exactly which ones charge a fee for entry?

We checked out 3 of the 4 “new” sites added this year, there was no reason to visit Wells Street Lofts as they continue to pimp out their over priced condos at every possible opportunity.

The Tailor’s House was significantly disappointing. You walked in the door only to turn around in the 500 sq. ft space to walk right out again. There was absolutely nothing to see which reminded me of this episode of the Simpsons:

The volunteers were not knowledgeable about the site and the small group I exited with were all scratching their heads, one of them claiming “well that’s the worst one yet!”. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Up the street at the Absalom Blaker House we experienced exactly what I believe the spirit of the event is supposed to be.
The Error Banner wrote a small piece on it here


This was a great tour, the house is under renovations with the owners happy to answer questions. It was a well lived in space and very welcoming.

The complete opposite awaited us at Horton Place, not to mention accessibility issues plagued by a poorly maintained interlock walkway.

There was no evidence of it being used as a house as it was obviously professionally staged as a museum with members of the MacInTired Hillary Park scam holding court in the kitchen. Unlike other houses access was restricted to the upstairs. So much for “open doors”.

Another peculiarity was the fact that no photography was allowed. Obviously the intent of several tour goers and photographers that I met this was unexpected and
very disappointing. Both on behalf of the owner and the committee for not mentioning this in the legend of their cheaply assembled directory.

Although the event as a whole was the complete antithesis of “success” I was lucky to get to go on two genuine open door events in town.

The first was to Willow Farm. The second to the site of the town’s Historic pet cemetery which is seeking designation as a National Historic site, and rightly so.

I will be expanding on both of these experiences in future posts as they put to shame the efforts of Aurora’s Doors Open event this year.

It was Alexander Graham Bell that once said that “Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.”

The Heritage Advisory Committee needs to seriously looking at its compliment of sites and stop re-hashing sites year after year and look for ones that are actually restricted. Otherwise 2014’s event will continue to reinforce its moniker as summed up by Dilbert here:


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