St. Thomas Impressive First Impressions

by Dennis Kalichuk

  



If the 25% more campaign was meant to attract new residents, then as it pertained to my family you can say it
worked.  When our little house sold almost four years ago, we started our new home search in and around the “big
city” of London.  The exact type of home we wished for turned up in Jumbo city and here we are.  As someone who
was involved in London as a business owner, a candidate for city council and chairperson of a London Business
Improvement Area, it’s interesting to note the similarities and differences between the two cities.

  Only about 4 minutes to anywhere in the city!  That’s just one of the things I tell our friends that we love about living
in St. Thomas.  And unless you’re looking for something really quite rare, you’ll probably find what you need right
here in our mini city, (big town?).

  It’s easy to take the pluses of where we live for granted, so here’s some more reminders from someone who still
remembers what it’s like elsewhere… and just a couple of suggestions too.

  Living here is comparably safe – unless you’re one of the world’s largest pachyderms and then we’ll run you over
with a train and apparently take home a few steaks to feed the family.  But other than that, I believe it’s an average of
over a decade between tragedies ugly enough that result in actual murder.  Daily crime is occasionally rare enough
that our local rag reports on lawn chairs or flowers being filched from a front porch.  Do I need to mention that the
composter and garbage bag limit program were brilliant and ahead of their time?  It’s good karma being kind to the
environment.

  If you have lived here all your life, then no doubt you’re under the impression that it’s normal having stag and doe’s
that the entire city is invited to.  It’s not – and it’s great!  (In the rest of the world, you usually have to actually know
the couple to show up.)  From a jet plane overhead, we’re barely a dot a little north of a big lake, but somehow one of
North America’s top actors, (Rachel McAdams);  one of the countries best singers, (Aaron Walpole);  and one of the
world’s greatest hockey players, (Joe Thornton) all call or called St. Thomas “home”!  That’s very cool.
Let’s talk about our traffic.  Not really much to talk about is there?  That’s a good thing.  Oh wait – there is one
thing… who’s in charge of the lights on Talbot at Giant Tiger?  They’re totally whacked.  On Fridays it can look like a
parade on Talbot while a car or two enters or exits Giant Tiger.

  Okay, so now I’ve brought up the downtown.  Hey – you know what?  It’s not terrible.  Considering our downtown
strip is about as long as that of cities of hundreds of thousands of people… Talbot doesn’t look that bad.  And you
can park for free! There’s some good and unique retail and service establishments here.  Did I mention the free
parking?  Let’s hope and ensure that our city councils do not contribute to the demise of downtown by caving to
developer zoning demands.  Talbot stretches across the city, so aside from the odd variety store, until the core
vacancy rate is about 4% or better, additional retail out of the core is not necessary.  Zoning and incentives can go a
long way to promoting downtown development.  Hooray to reviving a downtown market!

  Some more goodies.  We actually have a real by-pass!  St. Thomas is packed with enviable gems such as Pinafore
Park;  Waterworks Park;  at least a couple of great eateries;  not a bad new arena;  and a coffee shop on every
corner or so.  We have trails and lakes;  Port Stanley just down the road;  and an active public art gallery and
theatre.  Oh yea, can’t forget the big cement Jumbo monument to help ease our guilt.  That baseball complex is
pretty darn impressive.  The schools actually allow regular citizens to use their tracks here after school hours -
imagine!  (In London they tend to lock them up.  The lawyers are more nervous there I guess.)

  Alma used to be an awesome structure.  Now it’s mostly just sad, but it may be beneficial to note how the London
Armouries Hotel and John Labatt Centre utilized the facades of existing heritage buildings in their design.
But I also read that we can boast to being one of the fattest populaces around.  That’s not good is it?  Did I mention
the running tracks are open and there’s lots of walking trails?  And I think there are more fitness clubs per capita
here than anywhere in the world.

  Yes we do need a workable and enforceable portable sign by-law.  London went through the same thing not too
long ago when they realized the city was looking really ugly because of a plethora of those big yellow signs.  Check
out what they did.

  During last summer’s heat wave, and before the water pad was complete, I saw our local fire department spraying
their fire truck hose in the air to create a sprinkler for the kids in Pinafore Park - truly a Norman Rockwell type of
scene!

  So do we really have to tell everybody about St. Thomas?  Well okay – but how about just the really, really nice
people then?
FOLLOW-UP NOTE:

It's nice when people in power listen and try to make things better...

Those lights on Talbot?  Not long after this article, the politicians were questioning the
problem at council and not long after that, the street was being ripped up.  Timing
switches under the pavement were fixed and the traffic situation there is much improved!

And the local Health Unit sent out a City wide mailing promoting a healthy lifestyle!

On a sad note, of course, Alma burned to the ground so any ideas on that front were
dashed.