Broken and protected. Why is that so? I am referring to a fallen tree still partially alive on the Magna property on Wellington Street, just West of Leslie Street. My friend once told me, it signifies something. She told me Frank Stronach is a nice guy. She implied that I go and talk to him about the tree and perhaps he himself could tell me the story. The fact that it is damaged, still alive, supported by a brace, and is fenced, leads me to believe it probably does signify something. I may never know. I never asked. I am not that brave to come up to someone and ask, “hey Frank what’s the story about the tree?” or “hey Frank what happened to the tree?“
So, who knew that the multinational automotive-parts-maker Magna International, one of the most successful businesses in the Town of Aurora would eventually leave our Town? However, the happy ending is that at least Magna didn’t close its doors to about 400 hundred employees. Envy or not, it is a happy ending for the neighbouring municipality and economy overall. Magna has solid plans now to expand its business in King Township.
“We have the building, parking lots and access to public transportation and highway.”
Was this a clue, Magna’s ecological park gift in 2012? Perhaps they started to liquidate their not so usable lands and perhaps they couldn’t expand on those lands thus the move. But that’s just pure speculation, there is no proof; but it does seem that the donated land may not be suitable for development. If you remember the news, Frank Stronach, Magna International’s founder proposed to the Town of Aurora an over 80 acre legacy ecological park to feature walking trails, natural habitat areas, an educational centre, and soccer fields (not quite sure how soccer fields mix with the eco-park theme?) The following year in 2013 Stronach Group proposed revised plans for this legacy project as reported in our local news The Auroran.
When I reflect on my recent visit to Richmond Hill’s Lake Wilcox Park and recent news about the Urban Park & Waterfront Trail Project in Toronto, I say that we here in the Town of Aurora community are going to have something very attractive, in addition to the existing Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Trails, the Aurora Community Arboretum, the McKenzie Wetland and Atkinson Wetland Boardwalk on St. John’s sideroad, and Ivy Jay Wild Park (in the works). Did I forget the Case Wood Lot forested trail? However, two years passed since the last update and there is no new news on Stronach’s ecological park legacy project to date. The bee hive boxes on Bayview Avenue South of Wellington Street are still there last time I checked.
Nevertheless, you would expect that someone in the Town would have known about Magna’s leasing arrangement with Magna’s own real estate division and most importantly the lease expiration date. In the corporate world lease dates are strategically reviewed on a regular basis, they don’t just renew themselves. Perhaps the significance of this beautiful Vienna style Magna building on Magna Drive was somewhat misleading for the Town of Aurora Economic Development. Who would ever want to move out from such a distinguished facility? The reality, Magna is moving. The building is staying and we don’t know who the new tenant(s) will be. Are you curious? Are you curious if Magna Drive will have its street name changed?
So I am going to dedicate this paragraph to ramble some of my ideas for the building if there aren’t any yet. Perhaps this can become an academic institution. Remember, when the Town was bidding for a University in Town and lost to Markham. Well there you go, maybe there will be another opportunity. We have the building, parking lots and access to public transportation and highway. And if that is a no go, perhaps this can be some kind of scaled down private academic institution, a learning centre focusing on science, engineering and environmental studies along with research and development (R&D) labs. Perhaps even pairing up with the National Research Council (NRC), they already operate multiple government research facilities across Canada. Lots of room for 3D printing labs as well. The capability we currently have in our Aurora Public Library is a good start but is very basic. It’s clear that 3D printing is currently positioning itself to be a real tool for manufacturing. As it was stated in recent news, 3D printers have advanced technologically and can print at much faster rates than the traditional 3D printers and print using different raw metallic materials, not just polymers. The facility can house venture capital start-up companies as well. Our federal and provincial governments support research and development and offer funding opportunities (SRED, IRAP). And I may be over my head on this, but as a last but not least resort, ask Google if they want to move in, the facility is ready to go, and like I said, parking, public transportation and access to highway already available. Just pull over one of the Google street view cars (wink). Opportunities are everywhere, we just need to be more creative and try.
Here is the reasoning behind the above ideas. I believe we need to be looking deeply into attracting more science and technology type industry to our Town. The market for retail business is volatile, we can see that all around us: Rona, Target are some examples; not to mention all the “for lease” signs around town. The retail market is not sustainable if people can’t afford to spend. Jobs focused on fields of advancing technology can be sustainable jobs right here in Aurora. Imagine, it could even help attract and retain people who live in Town to work in Town. It may also be a great investment in the future of our youth. We often forget, but youth cannot travel far for those kind of jobs, and often their opportunities are limited and they end up working local retail jobs that only provide them customer service experience, for example. Technical part-time jobs or summer jobs offer more.
Therefore, in my opinion, economic growth is something our Town needs to wrestle hard, while at the same time remembering that the population growth of Aurora needs to be stabilized. We don’t need anymore residential infills in Aurora or residential developments at the outskirts of Aurora. We may not need more commercial developments either, since we may want to fill the empty commercial spaces first. Having said that, I got a message in the mail about this new petition in Town, Ask Magna Aurora to turn property into greenspace. I thought about it. I signed it because to me it sends a clear message that people of Aurora do not support more development. We have a social responsibility to protect our fragile environment, just like Frank’s fenced fragile tree on Wellington Street.
Anna Lozyk Romeo