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Onward Willow – There’s no place like home

Last year, I was fortunate enough to purchase a home.  Major milestone.  I am happy to have a coffee with you some time to explain that story further, but for now all you need to know was this was big move for my family and I.  We knew the criteria was: 4 or 5 bedrooms (lots of kids lets remember), at least 2 bathrooms, a good-sized yard, character, in the Downtown area…….and as inexpensive as possible. Done. I’m a Realtor, and at this point I will just keep my eyes and ears open. Maybe we will buy in a year or so, who knows.  With that idea in my back pocket, I move on with my work in a busy 2016 market.
But while gathering listings to show a client looking for possible income potential, I toss in a 1970’s side split on a cul-de-sac in Onward Willow.  I know the house is vacant so it will be an easy to add to my list of properties, this listing has a ton of potential….and they live in Onward Willow……maybe they won’t care it’s in Onward Willow?.  Lets rewind.  Why should that point stand out?  Why would it matter?  Guelph is widely known as one of the safest, cleanest, best places to live in Canada. But what is the deal with the streets somewhere between just before Woodlawn down to the train tracks running parallel to Paisley, centered between the Hanlon and Edinburgh? Well, it is an old rap sprinkled with a little ignorance.  Heavy word I am aware, but it is true.
But this may be why.
Back in the day, maybe not too way back, Onward Willow meant affordable housing.  If you were on hard times, suffered with mental illness, or a criminal record, you might only be able to afford to live in the Onward Willow neighbourhood. Low income also meant that businesses were not exactly keen on investing in the neighbourhood themselves.  Once upon a time there was a Zellers, and the mall was an interesting blend of stores, that had a regular turn over. Transit was also not exactly the best at the time, and the area did not offer much to attract itself. Now however, Onward Willow awaits a revival. It is happening, and here is some evidence.
Lets take the Willow West Mall, businesses and the plazas first.  Leon’s, Pet Smart, Persephone’s Wardrobe, Bar Burrito and Moore’s Suit Store have taken up residence and made roots. Winners, which draws Guelph residents from all over, has been there for years. The only Value Villiage in Guelph resides nearby and draws thrifters from all over. And they’re not the only heavy hitters that have invested in the neighbourhood  – Dollarama, Food Basics, No Frills, Rona, Burger King, Subway and some smaller local businesses, Hair salons, Nail parlours, jewellery stores, run by local families.  Not to mention the very best Vietnamese food Guelph has to offer. And the best part? Everything is in walking distance.
Now let’s talk real estate, Many of my own neighbours have lived in the neighbourhood since the 1950’s. And when I chat with them, I hear about how more and more young families are moving to the area. My neighbourhood was developed between 1940’s and the mid 1970’s.  Onward Willow is one of the neighbourhoods that you can see its timeline as you drive down the streets.  1940’s one and a half stories, 1950s bungalows, 1960’s bungalows, with separate sheds, and 1970’s side splits.  All on medium to *huge* lots. Did you hear that buyers?
With owning a home as long as some of these residents, you’ll find a lot of pride of owner ship.  When I drive around Kenwood, Ridgewood, Sleeman, Gowdy, Chase, Memorial, Paisley, in that area…..I see cared for lawns, established gardens, new porches, freshly paved driveways, teens cutting grass and more.  Wide streets, big lots, lots of parking, ….and the parks!  We have Goldie Park, Sleeman Park, a stones throw from Westwood & Sunny Acres Park, Exhibition Park & Norm Jary Park.  Norm Jary Park has a beautiful green space, a big fenced in Splash Pad, and large fenced-in basketball courts filled with kids every day in summer camps, I love watching them while my girls enjoy the splash pad. This is all tucked in behind Shelldale Community Centre. They provide family services to families all over Guelph.
Onward Willow Community Group has my heart recently,  and they have been serving the community for 45 years.  They have a space at 15 Willow Road.  They are doing everything they can to provide a sense of community. From running events like – Springflings, Winterfests, movie nights, Summer BBQs to name but a few.  They have begun a program where they accept donated computers to refurbish them and give them to kids in the area who may not have access. They offer a computer lab for kids to use for school, and for adults to look for employment.  They have a community cupboard, with a free clothes, toy, book and hygiene product stock.  They give back to the community in such a dignified way.  Their doors are open to anyone and are making a difference.  I can’t wait to work with them and give back to a group that gives this community so much.
And the Schools! Willow Road School holds its vintage charm and has a large property.  My son loves it there, the kids are nice, as are the teachers. The teachers keep in great contact with the parents through regular emails.  This is very appreciated, and not something I have been used to previously.   GCVI is host to so many great programs including the IB program. The Willow Dale Child Care and Learning Centre looks like something designed from the west coast right in our back yard.   It is another sign that there are big things happening here.
Have I convinced you yet? Well, I managed to convince myself. Fast Forward to my house experience……. I show the house, and my head almost explodes, because it is my house.  BUT It is Onward Willow, I never saw myself living here. We take the leap and we buy the house. My house. And we are so happy that we did. This neighbourhood is beaming with potential.
I have lived all over Guelph and to be honest,  I always thought I would be down town. But here I am, a 15 min walk to down town, 5 min drive to Cost Co, 5-10 min walk to get the best Pho, a 2 min walk from Shoppers Drug Mart, and a 5 min walk to the splash pad.  I can get to any 5 parks in 15 min with my kids, not to mention anywhere else I want to go because I am right next to the Hanlon Expressway.
So to recap, your top 7 reasons to consider calling Onward Willow home:
1.       Businesses are growing
2.       Kids are moving to the area
3.       Baby boomers are moving on
4.       So close to down town where prices are soaring
5.       Close to highway for easy access to 401
6.       BIG lots, with houses with characters
7.       Community group stepping up to bridge the gap & break some stereotypes
Oh Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas any more.


Look out for my next Onward Willow blog……why the numbers work. And hey, in the meantime if you have any questions about Onward Willows potential, let’s grab some Pho. I know a great place.