As part of his vision to “take the waterfront back and make it part of the public realm”, Peterborough developer Paul Bennett has a dream to build a 100-unit high-end condo development for Crescent Street on Little Lake near the Art Gallery of Peterborough. He’ll soon be submitting his plans (the building is designed by Lett Architects) to the city for approval.
In this guest post below for PTBOCanada, Bennett—President of Ashburnham Realty, one of the Co-Founders of VentureNorth and interim chairman of the DBIA—writes about his vision for the waterfront and this proposed waterfront property (for years, he’s been buying up enough properties along there to make this happen)…
Lett Architect rendering of condo unit proposed for Little Lake
This project has been many years in the making, and I think it will be a real catalyst to help our City develop in a positive way. We have a very large list of people who are interested in living close to the core in high quality suites/residences.
This is very exciting for us as we strongly believe in a more urbanized Peterborough that promotes a healthy, active and fun lifestyle. Peterborough is a very special community that we love, and we are looking forward to celebrating this idea of community more with this project and another one we have coming up next year in East City.
Our waterfront is truly one of Peterborough’s greatest features and up until now it has lacked the attention it deserves. The vision for this project started 12 years ago and aims to take the waterfront back and make it a community asset by eliminating all traffic and creating trails, landscaped areas, art installations and gathering nodes along the Trans Canada trail.
Larger Cities like Chicago showed proactive and smart planning by keeping the waterfront public and their City has greatly benefited from this vision. We have that same opportunity here—especially once the City is able to complete the full trail loop over into East City.
This coupled with the potential of a Del Crary park rejuvenation and a new world class Art Gallery makes the Little Lake area an amazing location for increased residential density. Our goal is to make Peterborough the best place in Canada to live and we feel this project will help us take a step in this direction.
The Crescent St building itself will be approximately 100 suites (depending on the final mix of suites and whether clients decide to combine suites). They will be both private residences and luxury rental suites, and there will be a mix of many styles of suites (townhomes, lofts, penthouses, etc.).
The building will have amenities that will make it Peterborough’s first true luxury community that will cater to those in our community that are looking for high end suites, beautiful views, walkable central location and building services that have yet to be offered in Peterborough. Our City is in drastic need of housing across all spectrums. This building looks to satisfy one of the markets that we see a large demand for.
We do, however, need to find solutions to the apartment affordability issue. We are working with a local housing provider to create a cool affordable project close to the core. We hope to announce this project and timing before Christmas.
We are all members of this community and we need to find ways to help this City grow in a positive way that includes finding options across the whole housing spectrum. We hope that our upcoming projects will help address many of the areas of the demand.
Below is a quote from Michael Gallant, who designed the property for us. I think it does a great job of capturing the initial vision I went to Lett Architects with years ago…
"Peterborough is changing. The Ashburnham Crescent street development is responding to the growing desire for housing options that cater to a more urban lifestyle in a central location. The design is inspired by its proximity to Little Lake, with plans to reclaim a section of Crescent street to provide new public park space, trail connections, and the potential to naturalize the shoreline. Many of the units are designed to encourage a relationship with its surroundings, embracing what’s best about Peterborough: its community, its waterfront, and its central area.”
—guest post by Paul Bennett for PTBOCanada
Learn more about Bennett’s vision for Peterborough, the downtown and smart, sustainable growth in this interview he conducted on our show PTBOCanada earlier this year…
On Episode 22 of PTBOCanada, new Peterborough Police Chief Scott Gilbert talks about his 38 years policing in Toronto and his excitement for this opportunity to come to Peterborough and help this community.
Chief Gilbert on "PTBOCanada"
In the wide ranging interview, Gilbert discusses everything from mental health initiatives to cold cases to social media to his Spider Man comics. Watch the episode below...
Watch past episodes of PTBOCanada show here in our Video section.
In their 2nd Annual Report of the friendliest towns in Canada, the travel site Expedia has ranked Peterborough as the No. 12 friendliest in the nation.
To create their second annual report of the Top 25, Expedia took a look at hotel review data from 2017 and found the highest-rated service scores. These ratings indicate the most "helpful, dutiful and welcoming experiences across the country."
"Kayaks, breweries, and history museums all make Peterborough, Ontario, a dynamic place that’s more than happy to share the happiness with travellers," Expedia writes, citing the Publican House Brewery, Ashburnham Ale House and the Canadian Canoe Museum.
Bintou Cherif remembers the time her brother improvised while cooking their favourite dish, Jollof.
Sharing good food with people is important to Bintou and her sister Aicha.
Aicha Cherif and her sister Bintou engage in life-enriching programs at the New Canadians Centre
Growing up in a refugee settlement in the Ivory Coast of Africa, they learned to cook Jollof—a rice dish made with peppers, onions, and tomato paste—over an open fire.
Living close to the ocean and spending most of their days outdoors, they had access to fish, which they would add to the one-pot meal.
“It didn’t taste very good,” Bintou smiles, as she recalls her brother’s experiment.
Bintou is speaking to the crowd of people filling the St. James United Church auditorium for a community dinner. Having completed the Food Handling Course, Bintou and Aicha have been busy volunteering in the kitchen prepping and cooking for the community meal.
“I really hope you enjoy the meal—and don’t worry, we used tomato paste, not ketchup,” she says laughing wholeheartedly, and the community gathered in the gym, along with her.
Bintou Cherif, pictured with NCC Settlement Worker in Schools Coordinator Jess Devlin, and Aicha Cherif attend the ESL program at Thomas A. Stewart
A few weeks after the dinner, Bintou and Aicha look forward to the public reception and sharing their photographs at the Newcomer Youth Photography Project exhibit of the SPARK Photography Festival.
How is it possible for Bintou to share her story with such confidence when just eighteen months ago she spoke very little English?
How is it possible to grow up without running water, electricity or any modern conveniences and learn what it takes to prep and cook a meal for more than 100 people?
“It’s our job at the New Canadians Centre to provide our clients with the tools they need to be successful,” explains Jessica Devlin, Settlement Workers in School (SWIS) Coordinator.
“It’s up to them what they do with these opportunities. I’ve seen the changes in Bintou and Aicha since they arrived in Canada less than two years ago. They participate in several programs and are often the first to volunteer for every activity. Their confidence is building and so is their capacity to achieve success. They’ve been given a chance, and they’re running with it.”
Participating in life-enriching programs like the Food Handling Course and the Newcomer Youth Photography Project, Bintou and Aicha are building skills and confidence so they can secure summer employment and feel confident about their abilities.
Due to the support they’ve received from our community, they have the opportunity to express themselves in ways that are meaningful and positive.
Bintou Cherif (l) with sister Aicha in front of the "Be Alive in Peterborough" community mural
Knowing they have the skills to achieve success, Bintou and Aicha build capacity for higher learning and are empowered to pursue their dreams of becoming a lawyer and a doctor.
The friendships they have made by participating in outreach activities are invaluable as they continue to grow and develop a sense of belonging to the community they now call home.
Eager to give back to a community that’s supported and welcomed them, Bintou and Aicha are often the first to take advantage of volunteer opportunities at the New Canadians Centre. “We like volunteering because it’s fun and we get to meet new people.”
The New Canadians Centre welcomed more than 800 clients from 79 different countries from around the world last year. That number has increased by more than 38% since 2016.
Learn more about Bintou and Aicha's story in this video...
The Nourish Project—a local food-based collaborative that is part of a broader movement that seeks to give food more importance in our communities, our economy, and our everyday lives—has recently launched a neat Community Cookbook project.
Community Harvest dinner put on by Nourish Project
Since food can be an important and vital part of feeling a sense of belonging and connecting as a community, Nourish Project is asking Peterborough (and County) residents to submit a recipe that signifies belonging, such as a family recipe or a potluck favourite.
As an example, Nourish Project posted here about the inspiration for one submitted recipe, "Italia's Petelli", that they sampled.
Sampling Italia's Petelli
If you're interested in submitting a recipe to this cookbook project, you can submit to this online form or do so by email here. They ask that you include photos of either the final recipe, ingredients or and/or preparation.
Nourish Project will reach out to you (by phone, in person or email) about your submitted recipe and what belonging and your passion for food means to you. They will then create a "story" to attach to the recipe.
In many respects, Peterborough is in a renaissance right now—with all of the amenities of a modern city and then some. As the city continues to evolve, it is attracting more young families to live here, tourists to visit here, and retaining more talent coming out of Trent University and Fleming College. In no particular order, here are signs Peterborough is going all downright cosmopolitan and chic...
1. VentureNorth building—the hub where entrepreneurs start-up, grow and thrive.
Housing the Innovation Cluster, Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development, Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism Visitor Centre, JA-PLM and more, this integral building in the heart of the city symbolizes change, progress and momentum in Peterborough.
2. New modern Peterborough Public Library
After a 18 month renovation, this library has been transformed into a beautiful, bright modern library. "The roles of libraries have changed over the years and this new space is designed to meet the changing needs of our community,” says Peterborough Public Library CEO Jennifer Jones.
The downtown has never been more diverse and electic with its wide range of restaurants, pubs, cafes, bars and retail shops—not to mention the thriving theatre and entertainment scene (think Gordon Best Theatre, Showplace, Market Hall, The Theatre on King, Peterborough Theatre Guild, etc.) and festivals (Pulse, Hootenanny on Hunter Street, Peterborough Folk Festival, Peterborough Musicfest).
Jeff and Joyce O'Connor were enjoying a relaxing, peaceful Christmas Eve meal with some family at home when their 7-year-old daughter, Madison, came into the room and said, "Mommy, why is the laundry room steaming?"
Everything changed for the Giles Avenue family in that moment, which was shortly after 7 p.m., as Joyce upon quick investigation realized a serious fire had begun in the garage adjacent to the laundry room.
Grateful O'Connor family: Jeff, Joyce and Madison at fire station
Within an instant, a neighbour who had spotted the fire—the garage door had buckled from the heat and flames were shooting out underneath—was pounding on their door yelling, "Fire!", and soon the family was outside with nothing but the clothes on their back.
Minutes later, multiple fire crews had arrived and worked to quickly extinguish the fire but the damage was significant and the O'Connor family and their dog Callie now found themselves displaced from their home on, of all nights, Christmas Eve.
Madison and Sparky at fire station
What touched the O'Connors that night and in the period since then has been the outpouring of support from neighbours, family—and those firefighters. The swift reaction of firefighters on Christmas Eve (five apparatus and 15 personnel) not only saved the house from burning down, but also Christmas.
Indeed, the firefighters retrieved all the presents that night and brought them out to the family to have on Christmas morning at Jeff's parents, who live nearby and have been a rock for Jeff and Joyce and their granddaughter Madison (aka "Maddie").
"What the firefighters did that night, we just have such gratitude for," Jeff tells PTBOCanada. "They took time away from their families on Christmas Eve to salvage Christmas for us. Basically, they saved Christmas for our daughter. They had the mindset to go find the presents and save them. It was a beautiful thing."
It was also their neighbours who were heroes for them that night.
Like the one neighbour who literally banged the door down after calling 911 to warn them, the neighbour who invited the family in during the fire and kept them warm while they waited for Jeff's parents to come and collect them, the neighbour who gave Jeff a winter jacket as he was standing out on the street, in shock, surveying his house on fire. And it was Christmas Day when other neighbours arrived with two full boxes of clothes for Maddie, including snowpants and boots.
But the story gets even better: On Boxing Day, Peterborough Fire Services contacted the O'Connor family and arranged a time for them to come down for a tour of their headquarters on Sherbrooke Street on the following Saturday.
They gave Maddie an award during her tour day (see pictures throughout this post) for being so brave, for bringing attention to the fact something wasn't right that night to her parents in those crucial moments where seconds can make a difference. She got to meet them, learn about the fire services, and hug the mascot Sparky. And Maddie lost a bike in the fire that night that was in the garage. So the firefighters presented her with a brand new one as a present.
Jeff, who broke down several times during the tour seeing the firefighters again who were there that night, says the kindness of those firefighters and others was something they will never forget. "No words can truly express what our friends, neighbours, family and fire crew did for us," Jeff tells PTBOCanada. "They have made a pretty horrible situation tolerable."
There are, of course, a lot of What Ifs about that night as one can imagine. Like, what if Maddie hadn't spotted that "steam" from the laundry room? And what if the neighbour hadn't banged on the door in time? And what if the fire had started late at night when the family was asleep, instead of, at 7 p.m. when they were sitting down to dinner?
For now, the O'Connor family is just grateful to be alive. And they will be grateful when their house is fixed and ready to live in again—and it will be many months—so they can really begin to piece their life back together.
But most of all, they will never forget this Christmas Eve of 2017 and the kindness and empathy of a community that touched them in ways they are really only still digesting.
At the end of 2016, my wife and I left our apartment in Red Deer, Alberta for the greener pastures of Peterborough, Ontario. But before I jump into my thesis of why we chose Peterborough, first I need to give some context.
WHERE WE CAME FROM
When I finished my graduate degree at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario at the end of 2011, I had zero job prospects, anywhere (what do you do with a degree in rainbow trout behaviour and physiology?). As such, I packed up my basement apartment to move into my parent's luxurious basement (having someone do your laundry counts as luxurious, right?) in Red Deer.
I left my then girlfriend/future wife behind where she was in her final year of dental school in London and we did long distance until the Rocky Mountains started calling her name. I would like to think she moved to Red Deer for me but she’s a hardcore downhill skier so the epic slopes of Lake Louise brought her to Alberta. I didn’t mind.
Siam Grobler pictured at The Silver Bean Café in Peterborough
The following three years, we worked hard and played hard. Most weekends in the summer, we were hiking and camping in Rockies, and in the winter we skied like possessed people. It was a great situation being 90 minutes away from the mountains.
With a population of 100,000, we had every amenity available to us, and could move across the city fairly quickly. Plus, Edmonton and Calgary were equally far away, meaning we had two international airports to choose from. Not to mention my immediate family was near-by (parents in Red Deer, my sister and her husband in Edmonton) and most importantly for us, the Rockies were accessible. Like I said before, it was a great situation and we were very happy.
Like most places in Alberta (especially at the end of 2013 when she moved), development in Red Deer was at an all time high due to the high crude oil prices. It felt like the city was bursting at the seams with people moving from across the country for work. Entire neighborhoods were being build at break-neck speed which resulted in cookie cutter homes, small property lots and tiny trees.
This development also lead to a lot of big box stores and chain restaurants popping up on every corner. Optimism regarding life was at an all time high with the perception that high crude prices were here to stay for the next 10 years (this was the conservative estimate).
Having people move to a city for just work means that there is nothing binding them to the community. A common perception was: “I’m here to work because there is no work where I would actually want to live.” While not everyone who moved to Alberta has this opinion, it was common enough that most people would be living two simultaneous lives: a work life where they put their noses to the grind stone, and a relaxing/enjoyable life, where they would go home.
At this junction, let me just say I love Red Deer and Alberta. Not only is the place easy on the eyes, provides opportunity in spades and is home to my beloved Oilers (my man crush on Connor McDavid is slowly fading due to the fact that I can’t stay up that late to watch him produce magic and that hurts my soul), Alberta is also a welcoming and progressive place.
We both loved our time there so much that when we decided it was time to think about expanding our family and try another city, Banff was a serious contender. Only Peterborough topped Banff.
Siam visiting High Falls near Peterborough
WHY PETERBOROUGH WON
Since my wife is a dentist, she can work almost anywhere in Canada. And so, once it was decided that we needed a change of location, we tackled the challenge of where to move in Canada with scientific rigor and patience, coming up with lots of pro and con lists for each potential place in this beautiful country. Here are the six main reasons we picked Peterborough...
1. Beautiful. Really beautiful: As far as the eye test is concerned, there aren’t many places as scenic as Peterborough. Having lived in multiple provinces (and countries for that matter) and driven across the country several times, I am convinced that Peterborough is a beautiful gem. The city has hills, a river that runs through it, a lake, big trees and old homes. When I tell new acquaintances that I meet in Peterborough that this was the main factor for us choosing this city, they are surprised. I guess if you have been here for awhile, you take the beauty for granted. And just outside the city, you have rolling farm land and cute towns.
2. Excellent for work-life balance: To go along side the beauty, Peterborough has a lot of green space that is easily accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. This is a big draw for young couples wanting to expand their family. These trails are good for our souls, good for our health. I don’t think people here understand how special Jackson Park and the Parkway Trail is. Lots of places around the globe are figuring out how to incorporate more green spaces into their communities but Peterborough already has it. This city-wide pedestrian trail makes Peterborough very unique.
Siam pictured at The Silver Bean Café with Otonabee River as backdrop
3. Did I mention water?: With the Otonabee River running through the city and Little Lake being in the middle of the city and the multitudes of other lakes in the area, there is no shortage of water access. My wife grew up on Lake Scugog so being close to water was always important to her. No matter how often I told her, “Man, we could live in the Rockies!” her reply was always the same: “Yeah, but it’s not water…” We haven’t bought a canoe or kayaks yet, but have gone canoe-camping in Algonquin and Kawartha Highlands and I must admit, being on water is freakin' sweet.
4. Lift Lock (Lock 21): I almost forgot the Lift Lock. Here’s how I describe the Lift Lock to anyone out West: "So there’s the LOOOONG canal (called the Trent-Severn canal) that was built in the 1900s to take ships from Lake Ontario into the interior of Ontario and the canal passes right through Peterborough. At one section (which is in the city), the canal is 20 meters above/below you depending on which direction you are going, and there is a Lift Lock to get you to the other side. This Lift Lock is TWO GIANT BATH TUBS THAT MOVE HYDRAULICALLY DUE TO GRAVITY WHEN THE TOP TUB IS FULL OF WATER, PUSHING THE BOTTOM TOP UP. It’s so cool. And the Trent-Severn Canal system is part of The National Parks System, which is also freakin' cool."
Sian's view doing work at the Silver Bean Café
5. Established: Since I did not grow up in the area, the above mentioned points I noticed when we drove into Peterborough to visit my wife’s Aunt and Uncle many years ago. What was also obvious at that time is that Peterborough is its own thing. It stands on its own. It is self-sufficient. Sure, you can get to Toronto if you have to but Peterborough is far enough away that it has its own identity and heart. This appealed to me as it is not influenced by the Big Smoke. It is its own community. It is Peterborough.
6. Big Town: Coming from a place that has a fairly large population (100,000 in Red Deer versus 80,000 in PTBO), we knew the benefits of choosing a town of similar size. Firstly, you are not in a large city which is great. Secondly, it is large enough that you have access to every amenity and there are lots of places to eat and drink. There is life and activity and action. Thirdly, since it isn’t so extremely large, it feels like a town where people know and care about each other.
7. Family: My wife’s family is nearby, which was important in our decision to move. This isn’t to say that her family is better than my family; it’s just that her parents are still on Lake Scugog with the rest of her family close by. My family in Red Deer rocks, too (just so that everyone knows).
SOME THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT PETERBOROUGH
In the few months that we have been in Peterborough, I have learned a few additional things that were not obvious at first glance:
-> The entrepreneurial scene is strong and booming: There are so many organizations that help nurture and develop small businesses in town that I still do not fully understand and comprehend the network. All I know is if you want to start your own business, Peterborough has amazing people that will go out of their way to help you be a success.
-> People want to help: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point but I cannot stress it enough. Instead of local businesses being cut-throat towards competitors, everyone is supportive of each other. I know this as I have had many informational interviews with the cities’ business people and they recommended that I go speak with someone else—sometimes even their direct competitor. It has been a fantastic experience so far.
-> There are a lot of restaurants: There are so many fantastic places to eat. It is going to take us a long time to eat at all of them… Also, the downtown core is bumping!
The City of Peterborough is developing a Community Brand with BrandHealth that defines what is unique about Peterborough. They want to hear from the public about a proposed tagline "Where roads and rivers meet."
Photo by Patrick Stephen
The City of Peterborough says that "during our community consultations, we heard that Peterborough is unique because it is a thriving city that is close to major urban centres, yet has nature at its doorstep. Peterborough is where the two worlds meet."
So what do you think about "Where Roads And Rivers Meet" as a tagline for the community? Give your input here.