Thursday’s Mississauga News featured a profile of our first Vision Cooksville public meeting:
Cooksville is the latest Mississauga neighbourhood to get a community plan review. There was a good turnout last week for the first engagement session of Vision Cooksville.
It might be a harder community than most to get buy-in from residents for such an exercise, since an incredible 94 per cent of the 11,000 people in the core around Highways 5 and 10 live in apartments. Fifty-seven per cent of Cooksville residents rent, compared with 25 per cent across the entire city. The prevailing wisdom is that renters don’t have as much investment in their community because their roots are shallower.
That may not be as true in Cooksville, where there are many long-term renters.
An amazing 70 per cent of the downtown Cooksville population was born outside Canada.
The community is also a hotbed for small businesses, 600 of them, with many operators also owning the buildings they work in.
Cooksville is smack dab in the middle of an intensification zone that will see an influx of 7,000 more people and 1,000 more jobs in the next 20-25 years.
Sitting in the crosshairs of the Hurontario LRT announced last April and the Dundas corridor, which will almost certainly be getting higher-order transit (and with a GO station) Cooksville will be seeing sharp increases in density and dislocation of many residents who live in much of the deteriorating housing stock that will be replaced over time. Those aren’t the people likely to attend visioning sessions.
Average after-tax household income in Cooksville is $47,444 compared with $79,229 for the city as a whole.
Pino Di Mascio, who is heading the review on behalf of Urban Strategies Ltd. described the pending revitalization as a two-headed monster.
It will bring lots of new development that typically discomfits people. However, it can also trigger key public sector improvements in the public realm to improve parks, bike lanes, services (such as libraries and community centres) and provide amenities now lacking.
“Growth and change can be bad or good,” he said. “If we work together to direct it, it can be a very positive thing.”
Residents suggested, among many other things, that Cooksville needs a community hub, anchored by a big, busy library. The four corners should be active day and night, with cafés and entertainment spots and well-kept stores. A BIA would help beautify the streetscape and co-ordinate marketing, which could include a farmers’ open market.
Former Catholic school trustee Dom Frasca reminded residents that signs leading into the neighbourhood highlight the fact that Cooksville was once the wine capital of Canada. That should be truly celebrated, he suggested.
Although it was traditionally the heart of the city, before a 1969 fire at the Confederation Square municipal offices convinced councillors to accept an offer from developer Bruce McLaughlin to shift the future downtown to Burnhamthorpe Rd. and Hurontario St., some diehards refuse to concede Cooksville’s demotion.
After calling for more walkable space, more active parkland and more community engagement through a BIA, Mark de Pelham blurted out what a lot of long-time residents in the room were undoubtedly thinking: “Everyone knows Cooksville is the real urban centre of Mississauga. You keep referring to the downtown core but you can’t build a core out of farmers’ fields. Cooksville is downtown Mississauga – it’s really the urban centre. We know this.”
For Cooksville residents, no matter what the City’s planning documents may say, the four corners will always be the beating heart of their city.