With a magnificent waterfront and a date with rapid growth, Pickering quietly goes about building a sustainable city
ERNIE COOMBS, KNOWN to generations of Canadian children as
television’s Mr. Dressup, lived in Pickering. So did Neil Young, who says it
was while living in Pickering that he began to focus on rock ’n’ roll.
PICKERING IS THE headquarters of the Municipal Property
Assessment Corporation, the agency homeowners either love or hate. Known as
MPAC, the agency is responsible for assigning property values for Ontario’s
THE PICKERING NUCLEAR Generating Station is the only nuclear
plant in the world to also house a wind turbine.
Pickering has worked hard the past few years to preserve its
Lake Ontario waterfront for public use. The results speak for themselves.
The city lakeshore extends from Petticoat Creek Conservation
Area, across a boardwalk to an environmentally sensitive area at Frenchman’s
Bay, around the bay to a yacht club and several marinas, along a “barrier
beach” that protects marshland from the lake, through Millennium Square and on
to Home Place, a park that celebrates the sculptures of local artist Dorsey
Pickering offers miles of trails that hug the waterfront and
provide vistas across Lake Ontario, as well as opportunities to bicycle,
in-line skate or just stroll along. You can tie up your boat at the sprawling
Frenchman’s Bay, fish and enjoy the many waterfront activities, such as the
annual Artfest on the Esplanade. Later, hop back into your boat and head out
onto the water for amazing views of the Scarborough Bluffs.
Many waterfront spots to love
It’s hard to choose a favourite site along the water. It
might be Frenchman’s Bay, well-sheltered from the storms by a narrow sandbar
named Fairport Beach. The channel entrance was first constructed by the
Pickering Harbour Company in the 1840s. This entrance is protected by parallel
breakwaters that extend 120 metres into the lake.
Perhaps it is Rotary Frenchman’s Bay West Park, a place of
diverse vegetation designated an environmentally sensitive area. This is a
place of outstanding natural features in an urban setting, where the valuable
ecosystem is managed, preserved and protected by the community.
Or maybe you’d choose Millennium Square as your favourite
spot. Millennium Square is the heart of ongoing waterfront revitalization. It
is testament to the hard work of a citizen’s committee that sparked
rejuvenation as a way of transforming an underutilized waterfront into a major
destination for visitors and residents alike. The waterfront’s new vibe has
attracted musical entertainment, including a waterfront concert series, and
Away from the waterfront is the city centre, dominated by
the Pickering Town Centre’s more than 200 stores, restaurants and services.
Then, north of the urban area, Pickering turns into woodlands and charming
Downtown set for major people injection
Downtown Pickering has received considerable attention
recently. The Province of Ontario has identified the core as an Urban Growth
Centre under its Places to Grow program, and envisions attracting 20,000 more
people to the core in the next two decades. This in turn is designed to reduce
urban sprawl by concentrating new development downtown.
The city’s planning department says it frequently fields
inquiries from those interested in taking part in downtown developments, and
expects there will soon be many new residential and commercial projects under
way. Many of the ideas combine commercial, retail and high-density residential
In September 2009, the federal and provincial governments
teamed with GO Transit to announce a $30-million investment to support
intensification, urban renewal and public transit in Pickering’s city core. The
project will include an enclosed pedestrian bridge that will span Highway 401
and connect the Pickering GO Station to a new, 132,000-square-foot LEED
environmentally certified office tower. GO will also build a $20-million,
500-parking-spot structure at the base of the office tower to encourage greater
public transit use.
Emphasis on sustainable transportation
It is hoped these projects will foster sustainability and
create a more cohesive and accessible downtown district. Through GO Transit and
the greater Toronto transportation authority, Metrolinx, the city’s GO Station
and downtown have been designated an Anchor Mobility Hub, with efforts taken to
meld commercial, retail, transit and cultural institutions.
Pickering has also been praised for its environmental and
sustainable growth initiatives. In 2008, it received the Sustainable Community Planning
Award, a year after it became Ontario’s first municipality to establish an
Office of Sustainability. Through its Sustainable Pickering website, the city
advises citizens of the various environmental programs they can access.
Pickering is also one of only a handful of Ontario municipalities to have a
council-approved greenhouse gas reduction target.
In 2009, Pickering had a population of 94,700. It is
estimated that will grow to 132,000 by 2013, and to 141,145 by 2023. Right now,
Pickering’s biggest employer is Ontario Power Generation, which employs 6,000
at its Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.
Pickering residents have a choice of several hospitals in
nearby Toronto and Oshawa. None exists within the city limits, although the
joint Ajax and Pickering Health Centre is right next door in the Town of Ajax.
Scenic waterfront, rural villages attract film crews
The attractive waterfront, and the care with which officials
have tried to preserve Pickering’s many rural villages, as well as establish
the 19th-century Pickering Museum Village on Duffins Creek, have
paid off by attracting several film and television crews and advertisers.
Pickering takes a sophisticated approach to attracting and assisting these
companies, offering location-scouting assistance and making must-know
information on regulations and filming fees readily available.
Creek heritage village in Greenwood has proved popular with those seeking
“period” locations, as have the many country roads, century farmhouses, rolling
farmland, abandoned graveyards, historic homes and wooded conservation areas.
It all began back in 1957 when the joint CBC/Hollywood TV
production of Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans
was filmed in Pickering. In 2003, the two-part
mini-series based on Leamington-born author Nino Ricci’s Lives of the
, co-starring Sophia Loren, filmed
scenes on a Pickering farm. More recent productions have included Degrassi
and the films Traitor
, Diary of the Dead
Lars and the Real Girl
and various TV
Airport expansion would spell boom for Pickering
And what of the future? Since the 1970s, there has been
frequent talk about building a Toronto-area airport to relieve congestion at
Pearson. As air traffic increases and predictions are that Pearson will reach
its capacity some time between 2017 and 2023, attention is again turning to the
nearly 19,000 acres of northern Pickering expropriated in 1972 by the federal
government. If the airport goes ahead, it will be a major economic boon to the
On the real estate front, recent listings for
waterfront property in Pickering included a three-bedroom, two-bath, 16th-floor
condo apartment with views of the lake and Frenchman’s Bay for $198,000, and a
nearby three-bedroom, three-bath townhouse for $334,900. Another listing
featured a three-storey, three-bedroom executive townhome overlooking the lake
and marina — complete with docking at your doorstep — for $505,000.