|Bob Porter is a familiar face around Wortley Village and a long-time OSCO volunteer. As President for the past two years and a director for many more, Bob is known for sharing his passion for old and new. He is championing the charge to establish Old South as a City of London Heritage District and is one of the drivers behind The Power to Lead, a collaborative project to create a solar panel demonstration project at Landon Library.What’s your favourite place in Old South? Landon Library – We are lucky to have our own branch in the Village. By the criteria used today, we should be going to the main branch. The library is a great meeting place to catch up on news with old friends, socialize, learn and have public meetings. And most people can do that without a car.The Red Roaster or the Black Walnut – When I need that cup of coffee and to meet with people or just run into them and chat.All the shops give the Village that small town feel. You walk down the street and meet people you know on every block. Malls don’t have that.The Normal School and village green – one of just four of its kind still standing in the province. If you had a magic wand, what three things would you change right now?Reduce cut-through traffic- a major bane to many areas of the city. This traffic adds to noise, pollution and safety concerns in the area. OSCO worked with the city about 12 years ago to try and find solutions but it is hard to please everyone. A few minor issues were addressed but we still have a great deal of traffic to contend with.Increase tree planting in the area – Old South has many old growth trees. Unfortunately we are loosing many to age, disease and storms. Each year I have seen trees lost on my own street. We lost one this past spring. Last year one and two years ago two. These are not being replaced in most cases. I have embarked on a plan to get new trees planted on my street. I have been going door to door to sign people up for a city tree. Many people do not know about the city tree plan while others just never get around to it. I decided to be proactive and get the trees done now before we few or no trees at all. I hope we can work all of the area this way, one street at a time.The Normal School – I would love to see the Normal School completely refurbished. Phase 2 has been completed and Phase 3 will start early in 2010. I hope to see many diverse tenants move in and not just one major one. This would allow more people to enter and see what a jewel we have. People would also come to better appreciate its heritage value.What’s your vision for Old South?|
That the stability of our residential and commercials areas continues. This is what makes our community what it is and why we want to live here. And why many other people want to come here.
A major concern is that we must retain our neighborhood schools. Our community united a few years ago to block plans to remove students from Tecumseh Public School and annex the building to South Secondary.
These and other issues arise on occasion and the fact we can rally people shows strength. I also hope the diversity of the area is retained. We have a vast mixture of small apartment buildings, cottages, larger homes and multi-unit converted houses. This allows people of many different incomes and family sizes to live here.
This diversity is what makes Old South what it is. It also means that as your needs for larger or smaller living space changes, you can stay here.
What is OSCO’s role in the community?
OSCO’s role is to continue with the things we have done in the past that suit the needs and desires of the area. The annual Gathering on the Green has been a winner for years. We must continue to work with the schools and other community groups. We have financially supported area breakfast programs, environmental programs at local schools and added park benches and planted trees. All noble and should be continued. We need to continue to look for ways to make the area a good place to live, stay alert to issues that may arise — and act.
What are the challenges facing OSCO and Old South?
Cut through traffic will most likely continue and get worse. As development continues on the city perimeter, we can expect more traffic into the city. Most arterial roads are working at or above capacity and most projects to improve these roads are catch-up in nature. People will continue to look for alternative routes to the downtown.
We will need to be diligent to the effects of major housing projects and big-box stores that may want to come into the area. Large apartment complexes can change the feel of an area and large stores can hurt or destroy the mostly independent retailers we now have.
One issue for me is the branding of OSCO in the area. We are better known at city hall than in Old South. OSCO has been around for more than 35 years, working hard to make Old South what it is, yet many do not know we exist.
Are we doing a great covert job and people are happy and don’t know why? I think we need to do a better job of blowing our own horn and also letting people know we are here and can help.