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Archives for August 19, 2013

The Maine Jump grows by leaps and bounds

It’s not all fun and games managing a funhouse.

There are some 1,500 bounce-house centers and other family entertainment centers in the United States, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, and business has been steadily growing. But for every two new centers that open up, one might shut down, industry figures show.

The Maine Jump in Bangor managed to be a part of both sides of that equation in 2011. The bounce-house business on Hogan Road closed just two months after it first opened because of a thinning customer base. Within a few weeks, however, it reopened under new ownership. Ryan and Kristen Hatch, a pair of Florida bounce-house entrepreneurs, moved to Maine to take over the failed business. The move was met with more than a little skepticism, recalls Ryan.

“People told us we were crazy. People told us it would never work,” he says.

But two years later, the Bangor business is thriving. In 2012, it earned just under $1 million, and has welcomed close to half a million customers. The couple has also opened a branch of the Maine Jump in Presque Isle and established the biggest bounce-house rental business, based on inventory, north of Virginia Beach. They’re now negotiating franchise agreements in Vermont, New York and Texas.

Getting started

The Maine Jump’s success might look easy when you’re surrounded by people having fun in the Bangor facility, but it resulted from a combination of business acumen, serendipity and many long work days. There are no shortcuts to success, even for something as fun-looking as bounce houses, Ryan says.

“Our business has done extremely well, and we’ve made some substantial sacrifices,” he says.

Before 2011, Ryan and Kristen, who both grew up in Brewer, were raising a family in Florida, far from their families. They had moved down to Florida in 2004, and Ryan became a manager for one of the biggest landscape construction companies in the country, overseeing a $75 million enterprise. But he was looking to make a change in careers to spend more time with his family.

“There was no balance in my life,” he says. “It was just work, work, work, seven days a week.”

After seeing the popularity of a rented bounce house at a birthday party, the husband and wife began to discuss the possibility of starting a bounce-house rental business. Then in early 2011, while Kristen was in Maine visiting family, Ryan bought four bounce houses on craigslist.

“I didn’t even know how to put them together,” he says.

He surprised Kristen with the purchase, stowed in their garage, when she got home. It’s an understatement to say she wasn’t thrilled at first, he says, but she eventually bought into the idea. Kirsten says she trusted Ryan’s business instincts.

“Ryan has always been full of great ideas, and he’s been successful at any idea he has,” she says.

The two began renting bounce houses to friends and neighbors. Word soon spread, and their business quickly grew.

“All of a sudden it just exploded and we ended up buying a ton more equipment,” Kristen says.

Within six months, they were renting out about 200 units to large corporate and celebrity gatherings throughout Florida. Their client list included Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Estefan, the Miami Dolphins and the Bacardi rum company. Ryan had quit his landscaping job and the two were on the road all the time with the rentals.

“At five in the morning, we would pack up our two kids and we would go deliver bounce houses all day,” he says.

Despite the change, they were still longing to move back to Maine to be closer to family and because they thought it would be a better place to raise their children. The Hatches also had a hunch that Maine would be a great place for an indoor bounce-house facility. If the weather turns rainy in the summer, tourists would be desperate for indoor fun for their kids, they reasoned. And in the winter, a bounce house would be invaluable to keep kids from bouncing off the walls at home. They kept their eyes open for the right opportunity.

“Nobody could find a building that was affordable and met the dynamics we needed,” Ryan says.

When a family member told them about the closure of the Maine Jump in Bangor, Ryan quickly negotiated a favorable buyout for pennies on the dollar. He had the leverage to get a good price because the business had already failed.

“It took 24 hours to negotiate and about three emails,” he says.

Initial investment and renovation cost less than $100,000 and the business reopened in October 2011 under the Hatches’ management. Customers began to arrive and two years later, The Maine Jump is realizing profits of 22 cents for every dollar spent on the business, says Ryan.

Riding the wave

The Hatches came into the bounce-house business at a good time. It’s a growing sector of the family entertainment business, says David Mandt, a spokesman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

“We have seen an increase in recent years in bounce-house family entertainment centers…particularly as inflatables have become more elaborate and complex,” Mandt says.

Ryan is trying to stay as ahead of the curve as much as possible. The Maine Jump offers more than just the standard “bounce and giggle” inflatable attractions. There are bounce-house-themed mazes, soccer fields, wrecking balls and climbing walls, and the business’s rental inventory has grown to the point now that the Hatches can continually update attractions at the Presque Isle and Bangor facilities to keep things fresh. When he talks about the ever-changing attractions, Ryan sounds a bit like a kid himself.

“There are just so many cool things out there,” he says. “No one else has what we have.”

They also have enough capital to reinvest in the business. The two invested about $650,000 in the Bangor facility over the past two years. Ryan knows that bounce houses are to this generation what roller rinks were to previous generations, and he knows no amusement fad will last forever. The trick is to continue to provide a great experience for customers and to adapt to keep things fresh.

“You’ll always have new kids, but you’ll always have the next best thing coming up,” he says.

Ryan dismisses the idea that he has some kind of Midas touch when it comes to bounce houses. Instead, he says, his success has come from listening to customer feedback and learning from past mistakes.

“My wife and I have made every financial mistake you can make,” he says.

Those mistakes have come in many shapes and sizes. They’ve bought inflatable attractions that weren’t top-of-the-line to save money, only to have to replace them quickly when they wore out. They’ve also blown their budget at times by overspending on some of the latest and flashiest equipment. The difference between success and failure in these first two years has often been having the financial capital built up from the successful rental business to make sure each mistake is not a deathblow to the company.

“I think what happens in this business is people think it’s going to be a lot less money than it really is,” Ryan says. “People just run out of money.”

Money mistakes are easier to correct than some of the other mistakes the Hatches say they’ve made with family. When they reopened The Maine Jump’s doors, they brought in family members to help. The tension of running a business has led to hurt feelings in the family, and Ryan wishes he could go back in time and do things differently.

“Stay away from having family members work for you,” he says.

The two also have struggled with maintaining the ideal work/life balance. They don’t get to see their children as often as they’d like, and they say it’s been hard to run a business together without it having a major impact on their marriage.

“Even if you want to get away from work, you can’t,” Kristen says. “It’s pretty much like having another baby.”

They both agree that success has had upsides and downsides. They are glad to provide a strong financial foundation for their family and to create real jobs in the Bangor area, where they were raised. Ryan says that while he sometimes lies awake at night and worries about the lack of time he spends with his family, he goes to sleep other nights thinking about the happy times he provides to many Maine families at birthday parties and get-togethers.

“I’m a part of that memory for them, and that’s priceless,” he says. “That’s what keeps me going.”

Article source: http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20130819/CURRENTEDITION/308169994/1088

Lake to Bay Loop will make life easier for Seattle walkers, bikers

SEATTLE — Braving the streets of Seattle by bike or foot is about to get easier as the city develops a new path to get people to and from some of the Emerald City’s most famous landmarks.

Navigating the Mercer Mess on bike can be a nightmare, but city leaders hope to make it easier by implementing a new pedestrian and bike route.

“It’s envisioned to be a delightful pedestrian route full of greenery landscaping places to rest,” said Becca Aue with the Seattle Parks Foundation.

The path is going to be called the Lake to Bay Loop, and will eventually create a safe connection between Lake Union and Elliot Bay.

The 3.5 mile route will form a figure eight connecting landmarks such as Lake Union, Seattle Center, the Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park.

“A huge reason to do this project is, again, reclaiming streets for people, making them beautiful so the journey is just as pleasant as getting to your final destination,” Aue said.

Aue said the city is acting now because the area’s neighborhoods are growing dramatically and are in need of safe connections to green spaces and cultural institutions.

The project is still in the very early stages, but there are already signs of progress, including a new pedestrian bridge that crosses Elliott Avenue at Thomas Street.

“These are just the early steps there’s a lot more work to be done,” Aue said.

The route is owned but the city of Seattle and managed by the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Center and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Article source: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Lake-to-Bay-Loop-will-make-life-easier-for-Seattle-walkers-bikers--220132401.html

Boss offers 500 paid hours to pursue passions

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MINNEAPOLIS – Another summer racing by; so many plans, so little time, but this summer is different for Janie Waldron.

“My neighbor he goes, ‘What did you win the lottery or something?'” she says. “I sort of did. I won the time lottery.”

While her neighbors toil at their jobs, Waldron has been home most of the summer transforming her simple Linden Hills yard into a showplace, complete with rock wall, stepping path and a rain garden.

Now the clincher: She did it while earning her full salary and benefits from her employer.

“Oh, it’s a total gift,” she says. “It’s a huge gift.”

The gift giver seems delighted with the reaction of his employees.

“I think people were stunned more than anything else,” says Stuart D’Rozario, president and executive creative director at Minneapolis advertising agency Barrie, D’Rozario, Murphy.

Last spring, as the agency headed toward a cyclical lull in business, the agency partners gathered their employees and gave them something quite remarkable — time.

D’Rozario’s message to his workers: “You have 500 hours of your life back, figure out what you’re passionate about and go and do it.”

BDM’s workers were told the 500 paid hours were theirs to use. The one option they weren’t afforded was to do nothing. Instead, they were told to seek out something they’d always wanted to do, but hadn’t had the time.

D’Rozario smiles, “That’s like four years of vacation in one Minneapolis summer.”

BDM partner and executive creative director Bob Barrie admits to skepticism when D’Rozario first approached him with the idea.

“My initial reaction was, ‘You’re crazy, right? Are you seriously suggesting this?'”

D’Rozario reasoned the agency had built up a comfortable cash reserve in its first seven years. BDM’s existing clients would still be serviced, but the agency would delay efforts to attract new business until the 500-hour project was complete.

Barrie says it wasn’t Stuart, but his wife, who finally brought him around.

“I said, ‘Why do you think we should do it?’ And she said, ‘Because you can.’ And at that moment I realized that was the best reason of all.”

With Barrie fully on board, BDM employees were off to pursue their projects. One of them was Kim Schmitt, the agency’s finance controller, who grew up in the city always wishing she could be around horses.

With her 500 paid hours Schmitt spent her summer volunteering at Sundown, a shelter in Hugo for horses neglected and abused.

“So why now?” she asks rhetorically. “It’s because I had the opportunity. The opportunity was pushed on me.”

The opportunity was “pushed” on all 18 of BDM’s employees, who spent the summer doing unexpected traveling, making music and putting paint to canvas.

Barrie, the initially skeptical partner, picked up a brush for the first time in years and renewed his passion for painting.

BDM account director Andrew Langdell designed a hands-free dog leash he hopes to market.

Mary Pastika, an agency project manager, made pottery and furniture.

Art and creative director Steve Rudasics — who commutes to the agency from Seattle — instead stayed home for the summer recording on video moments with his three children.

“My project is basically replacing ‘I wish I had, with I did,” he said in video chat from his deck in Washington with a son and daughter by his side.

Rudasics still did some agency work from home. D’Rozario says the expected ratio was 25 percent agency work and 75 percent personal project. In fact, the agency was buzzing only on days when employees gathered to present ideas for their projects and share their progress, which happened every few weeks through the late spring and summer.

A couple of times BDM actually turned down opportunities to make pitches for new business, which Barrie says was difficult, “but we had made the deep dive into this.”

Even BDM’s freelancers were included in the project. Freelancers like digital designer Natalia Berglund were “hired” for 100 hours, only to be given that time back for their projects.

Berglund used her 100 hours to create her first sculpture, using her two daughters as models. Her emotions showed as she spoke of the opportunity given to her by the agency.

“It’s just the generosity,” she said, “trusting the people to do something good with this time.”

D’Rozario spent his 500 hours working on three projects: a squid cookbook, a musical album and a book he’s calling “3 Bits of Advice,” in which he solicits random secrets of success from high achievers in various fields.

“If the only thing that comes out of it is that everyone got time to do great things and have an amazing four months which are the best times of their lives then that would be well worth it,” D’Rozario says.

The 500 hours came to an end the first week in August. The BDM office is again buzzing; the race of commerce back on.

But scattered about are subtle reminders of the rarest of summers — a bandaged blister on a keyboard from landscaping, callused hands on a calculator from wrangling horses and videos of laughing children pulled up on a work computer.

D’Rozario believes the 500 hours will make the agency better, but that was never the explicit purpose.

“Honestly, my big hope for this is now that they’re back, people realize, the things you wanted to do, you could always be doing and find a place for it in your lives,” he says.

Year after year we let the sun go down on dreams because we can’t take time. Maybe it’s time to start giving it.

Copyright ©2013 Multimedia KARE, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.9news.com/news/sidetracks/351034/337/Boss-offers-500-paid-hours-to-pursue-passions

See Kylie Kwong work her magic on a range of insects at her Australian Garden …

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Article source: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/city-east/see-kylie-kwong-work-her-magic-on-a-range-of-insects-at-her-australian-garden-show-sydney-talk-bugs-and-bush-foods/story-fngr8h22-1226699694818

Community effort makes home more accessible

BERWICK, Maine — A community effort has been in the works in Berwick since October 2012 when the Bowie family of 3 Little Harbor Road reached out to their friends and neighbors for help with a special home renovation.

Garreth and Heather Bowie are the proud parents of two vivacious boys, Liam, 14, and Aidan, 12. Raising boys has challenges of its own, but imagine trying to care for a child with special needs in a home that cannot accommodate him safely.

Aidan has epilepsy and an undiagnosed developmental disability that prevents him from being able to speak out loud or walk, eat, or drink on his own.

“We give him opportunities to communicate,” explained Heather who has introduced Aidan to the GoTalk app on his iPad that allows him to select ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers and choose between pictures of different foods and drinks, etc.

“We’re guessing a lot what he’s thinking, but we believe that he’s understanding us. We expose him, we talk to him as if he understands, but we don’t get a lot back from him.”

Ryan McBride/Staff photographer In Aidan Bowie’s room, a large “dream big” painting was created at his Berwick home where he and his family live.

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Aidan can walk short distances with assistance, but relies heavily on his power wheelchair for mobility.

In the Bowie’s small family home, this created some serious accessibility issues. The home simply could not accommodate Aidan’s power wheelchair and it had to be left at the door when he was home. Additionally, the configuration of their small bathroom made him unable to use the home’s shower or toilet because of safety concerns.

Garreth is a skilled cabinetmaker and Heather works part-time, but the extent of the renovations needed to make their home accessible was not something that they could afford.

After collaborating with builder Jason Lajeunesse, of JDL Design Build, in October 2012, they came up with plans that would put the project cost at approximately $75,000.

“We worked with the Bowie’s to understand what they needed and developed a plan that would be the most economical way to pull that off,” said Lajeunesse. “We took feedback from the family and the home.”

Thus began a community effort to make this project possible. Monetary or material donations were given throughout the year, as well as physical labor, and even meals cooked for those volunteering their time to work on the house.

Ryan McBride/Staff photographer Heather, left and Garreth Bowie, right, talk about their son Aidan, who has developmental disability, epilepsy, and complex motor control issues. They raised enough money, with family and friends helping in the process to provide a handicapped accessible home.

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The project was spearheaded primarily by the Bowie’s close family friends Sue Adler and Talley Westerberg.

“I work in the field and I know how hard it can be. I felt like I had a skill that I could offer to make life easier for my little chunk of the world,” said Adler, a special education teacher at Stratham Memorial School.“Most people got on board really quick and nobody said ‘I’ll just do this,’ everyone was really excited about it.”

“It’s astounding how many contractors gave their time and gave materials and just gave, and gave, and gave some more,” said Westerberg, a social worker at Winnacunnet High School. “Everybody helped out in the ways that they could help out.”

“Giving leads to giving,” is what Adler truly believes about charitable work.

Ground broke at the end of December last year and phase one of the project began.

There have been some snags along the way. The original design plans called for a large new addition at the back of the house. “The day that we went to go start digging the foundation we found out that there was an easement on the back of the property that prevented us from building on the back of the house,” explained Lajeunesse. “We had to redesign the addition to provide what the family needed.”

Garreth Bowie, smiling and his best friend Brian Jobin, who gave his friend free electric work for his new addition to the home of Jobin Electric, share an emotional moment at the Bowie house as the building was recently finished, on Sunday afternoon in Berwick.
(Ryan McBride/Staff photographer)

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“He stuck with the original figure, we just moved from the back to the front,” explained Adler about the cost of the project.

During phase one, Aidan’s old bedroom was transformed into a large accessible bathroom, which is now airy and open with a large shower space.

Phase two began in the spring with the demolition of the home’s entrance and new construction on the family’s mud and living rooms. The home now has a covered lift at its entrance that allows Aidan easy access and also to not be touched by falling rain or snow. In the mudroom, framed tiles hang one the wall with signatures from many who were involved with the project.

The living room is now larger and open, with mason work and a pellet stove provided by Abundant Life Stove. A guitar and a drum sit in the corner by the stove next to a big comfy chair. “Garreth plays guitar and Aidan likes to play the drums,” said Heather.

The hallways have been widened, another major benefit to Aidan. “He loves it,” said Heather. “Now that everything’s wide open and has open spaces he can just go.”

Ryan McBride/Staff photographer Heather Bowie explains the old and new bathroom layouts that will help in assisting her son Aidan in the mornings as the family readies for their days in Berwick Sunday morning after the “Bowie Project” finished up.

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The hardest part of the project, according to Lajeunesse, was the coordination of everyone involved. “Coordinating all of the different parties involved, the materials needed, and coordinating all of that to happen as efficiently as possible while working within all of the people’s schedules who are donating time made it complicated.”

“The best part of the job is seeing the project completed and the family enjoying the space,” said Lajeunesse.

“Aidan has loved everyone, all of the people coming into the house. He is very social and loves being around people,” said Garreth.

For Heather, the completion of the project marks an adjustment period. “It’s sort of like the day after Christmas when you’re busy and involved and amped and then it’s like ‘where did everyone go?” she explained. “Now that construction is complete we just get to live in our house.”

Tears fell as family friends and all involved took-in the culmination of their efforts. The one thing that the Bowie’s didn’t think to have handy for the open house was a box of tissues. It didn’t take long to see a roll of toilet paper perched on the shelf above where a YouTube video streamed a compilation of photos from the project. The song used in the video sang of having faith, a theme very near to the Bowie’s. They and many of those involved in the project are members of the Durham Evangelical Church.

“God was good,” said Adler of the project.

In the end, there was a total of $37,000 in cash donated to the project and another $40,000 or so in donated time, labor, and materials.

Although it was Laguenesse’s first experience with charitable giving, when asked if he would do it again he said, “Most definitely.”

The following companies donated their time, expertise, and materials to complete the Bowie House project and deserve recognition: JDL Building and Remodeling, Shea Concrete, Eldredge Lumber, Jackson Lumber and Millwork, Bestway Disposal Services, Middleton Building Supply, Jobin Electric, Hydro Air, Creative Masonry and Design, Avery Drywall, Shanley Plumbing and Heating, Exeter Lumber, Industrial Landscaping, Northeast Electrical Distributors, Hall Brothers Roofing, Abundant Life Stoves, Ironwood Construction, G and B Electric, TLP Painting, Churchills Gardens, and Green Penguin Landscaping.

Learn more about Aidan and the project at: http://teamaidan.wordpress.com.

Article source: http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130819/GJNEWS_01/130819400

In Plain View: Transforming Aldershot

Hamilton Spectator

ByTina Depko-Denver

This is the first of a two-part Burlington Post series looking at the ongoing transformation of the Plains Road corridor in Aldershot from an old highway to a rejuvenated main street.

Twelve years ago, Aldershot’s Plains Road corridor had 11 used car dealerships, seven abandoned gas stations, aging motels, empty storefronts, two adult massage parlours and two adult video stores.

The route, which was converted from King’s Hwy. 2 to a road in the mid-1990s, still had the feel and look of an old highway.

The Aldershot Community Council decided in the late 1990s they had enough and wanted to transform the seven-kilometre stretch of Plains Road between the Royal Botanical Gardens and IKEA.

As a result, the Plains Road Village Vision Committee was born in 2001. The committee combined the passion of residents with the resources of Aldershot businesses, the City of Burlington and Halton Region.

Fast-forward to 2013 and Plains Road is well on its way to becoming the main street the committee first envisioned.

New developments, both residential and commercial, have sprung up with a number of others in the building process. There are areas featuring updated landscaping, flower-planted medians, a gazebo, new sections of wider sidewalks and additional benches.

It’s all coming together and it’s a sight for sore eyes for Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven, who has lived in Aldershot since 1982. He has been an active participant and advocate of the Plains Road Village Vision since he was elected to city council in 2000.

“When you think about what it used to be compared to what it is now, it’s really great what we’ve be able to achieve,” said Craven, who recently took the Post on a tour of the Plains Road corridor.

There are several objectives of the Plains Road Village Vision regarding the corridor’s redevelopment.

Among these are new developments built close to the street, wider sidewalks, increased mixed-use development and retail/commercial space, parking lots at the side or back of new developments, natural-coloured building materials like stone and brick, increased landscaping and more services for residents.

The mixed-use corridor and urban development guidelines established by the city’s planning and development department help ensure builders are consistent with the Plains Road Village Vision.

The area’s redevelopment has garnered the attention and respect of area politicians, such as Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring.

“When you look at what is there now, the improvement is significant,” said Goldring.”We’re transitioning Plains Road from a ’50s, ’60s suburban highway into an urban main street. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the progress has been absolutely fantastic.”

Aldershot is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, with a large seniors population.

The area, which boasts approximately 17,000 residents, has a significant number of homeowners who have owned their properties for several decades.

Bob Meehan, general manager of the Aldershot Village BIA, said there is relatively small turnover of businesses in the area.

The current turnover is often a result of redevelopment, with owners choosing to retire or in some cases, relocating, if new rents are too high, he said.

Meehan said the Aldershot business community is a healthy one, boasting a number of unique businesses, such as bakeries and specialized women’s stores to a fishing shop and a hobby and craft store.

“Many of our businesses have been here a long time and we’ve got some very unique businesses that people come from all over to shop at,” he said.

Plains Road corridor – west

Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Rd. W., is considered the jewel of Aldershot, as well as of Ontario.

The expansive property is a major tourist draw and marks the gateway to the west end of the city.

The facility has been an active participant and supporter in the Plains Road Village Vision. When it underwent extensive renovations of its entrance, it worked with the committee, as well the city and region, on it and streetscaping.

The west end of the corridor is also experiencing significant development.

The last of seven apartment buildings a few blocks west of Waterdown Road is currently being built. The $150-million apartment complex is owned by Drewlo Holdings.

Construction has been going on for 10 years at the site, which features 950 apartments. The Plains Road Village Vision worked with the developer to include 30,000-square feet of retail/commercial space on the site.

“We needed this additional population to drive the local economy in Aldershot,” Craven said. “We have to have a customer base to support our businesses, so this is a very important development for us.”

Next door to the apartment complex is the former Canadian Tire site.

The city has received an application for development for three buildings, including two three-storey stacked townhouse buildings and a three-storey mixed-use development with two storeys of condos and 6,800-sq. ft. of retail/commercial on the ground floor. The development will have an old-factory style.

Construction is well underway on the LaSalle Park Retirement Community at 18 Plains Rd. W., located at the southwest corner of LaSalle Park Road.

The site had been empty for more than a decade.

The six-storey development features luxury rental units for seniors, with 9,000-sq. ft. of retail/commercial space on the main level, most of which will be occupied with services for seniors like doctors, dentists and physiotherapists.

“As far as what I think is an iconic building on Plains Road is the new signature living retirement home at the corner of LaSalle Park Road and Plains Road,” said Goldring. “I think it really helps urbanize the intersection in a very positive way. It makes it more pedestrian-friendly by bringing it closer to the street than traditionally what it would have been.”

The city has approved a $5-million plan to reconstruct the northern side of the intersection and widen Waterdown Road to the new interchange at Hwy. 403.

It is working with Plains Road Village Vision, the Aldershot BIA and the retirement home, which are all contributing money to the landscaping plan for the intersection.

“We’re going to fix the traffic flow here, particularly during the morning,” Craven said.

A metal fence surrounds a site a short distance away at 34 Plains Road E., which is the old retail plaza adjacent to, but not including, the popular Russell Williams Restaurant.

The site will soon feature an upscale, six-storey condominium development called Seasons with retail space on the first floor. Construction will start this fall and is expected to be complete in a year.

Across the street, the city’s only strip club, Solid Gold, is up for sale. It’s one of the larger parcels of undeveloped land along the corridor at three acres. Several developers have come to city hall to talk with planning staff, with some recently returning with more ‘realistic’ plans, Craven said.

“We want to see that site developed and we want to see the strip club gone,” said Craven. “Some (developers) came to us and said they wanted to build higher (than six storeys) and we simply told them no. We’re hopeful the momentum around Plains Road means Solid Gold will be sold soon.”

The Esso at the corner of LaSalle Road/Plains Road is another success story. The building has a side parking lot, shingled pump roof, landscaping, natural exterior materials and windows with screens advertising the Royal Botanical Gardens.

“We called Esso for two years straight to try and get them to come back here and open up their gas station here and finally they agreed to come back to Aldershot,” Craven said. “The new gas station that was built here is entirely consistent with the Plans Road Village Vision, as much as a gas station can be.”

A grocery store is on the wish list for west Aldershot residents. There are six grocery stores within 6.5 kilometres of the intersection of Plains Road and Waterdown Road. However, they are all located to the east.

There are a few hurdles in the way before a grocery store would open in the area, according to Craven. One is that the population base required for a store is not quite there.

A grocery store would also require at least three acres of land, but there is no willing seller of a property that size for a grocery store development at this time, he added.

A traffic light also would be required.

“We can’t just order a grocery store to come to Aldershot, we have to create the conditions that will attract a grocery store,” Craven said. “It will come in time, but we’re not there yet.”

Meehan said high property values in Aldershot is a major obstacle.

“With property values rising in the area, any development on three acres is going to be expensive and put the rents out of the view of most grocery stores,” he said. “Grocery stores will pay $15 a square foot, but in this neighbourhood, a developer is going to have to charge $25.”

Plains Road corridor – central

The centre of the village at Plains Road East and Dovercourt Avenue is marked by a number of newer developments consistent with the vision.

The Dovercourt building is on the old McDonald’s restaurant site. It was an early development in the Plains Road Village Vision. The four-storey condo development sold out in six hours. It opened in the early 2000s.

“You’ll note there’s no retail on the first floor,” Craven said. “That’s OK because our vision for mixed-use doesn’t mean every building has to be mixed use.”

Across the street is the Westwood condo building, which is a five-storey residential development on a former gas station site. It was built in the mid-2000s.

“When these buildings were built, we said to them, you have to respect the church (East Plains United Church), we want the colours to match, we want everything to complement the church,” he said.

Directly across the street from East Plains United Church is a mixed-used development called the Mosaic built in 2006, featuring condos and retail. The sidewalks are wider, with landscaping, benches and parallel parking in front of stores.

Although the retail units are small in size at around 400-500 sq. ft., businesses have moved in.

“We find whenever we build new condos on the Plains Road corridor, seniors who live in bungalows in Aldershot downsize and move into these,” Craven said. “We are now providing that range of housing we did not have a decade ago. What that means is those houses are available for younger families, which will rejuvenate the population.”

As a result of the area’s rejuvenation and the opening of the interchange at Waterdown Road and Hwy. 403 in fall 2010, housing prices have increased in Aldershot. Craven said the average price of a bungalow is approximately $500,000, with condos selling anywhere from the $200,000s to $800,000s.

“Property values have gone up 25 per cent in the past four years, which is higher than the rest of the city and I can imagine we are going to see that happen again when the (King Road) underpass opens,” he said. “We’re trying to create a mixture of houses, but because of the demand, prices are going up.”

For information on the Plains Road Village Vision, visit www.aldershotvillage.ca. To learn more about Aldershot Village BIA, go online to www.aldershotbia.com.

Burlington Post

Clive Edwards and his tips for gardening in December

Make the most of the break in the rain to prepare your garden for winter says Clive Edwards

AFTER the heavy rainfall last week, there’s not much to do in the garden but one of the jobs you can get around to doing is placing a tarpaulin over the area to be dug and securing it to the ground with heavy stones.

Then when the weather does get a bit drier, pull the tarpaulin back and turn over the ground incorporating manure, moving the tarpaulin back a few more yards, and this way you can carry on with your winter digging.

Brussels sprouts should be ready for picking now and if you staked them earlier in the season, check stakes to make sure they are keeping the sprouts upright.

Leeks should also be about ready, just take what you need and leave the rest to stand until required. Leeks are much better harvested from the garden as they are required but in severe weather this can be difficult, so you can lift a few and heel them in on well dug ground as this will not freeze solid.

Protect any outside taps by wrapping insulation around them. Bubble wrap is ideal. If you have a garden hose, take it in and store making sure you drain off any remaining water.

Roses can now be cut back by half or so to stop them being damaged in the wind, any leaves with black spot on can be picked up and destroyed. Do not put them in the compost bin.

This is also the best time to catch up on all the jobs you were meaning to do in the summer months such as clearing paths of moss and lichen, treating timber with preservative, repairing fences and checking sheds. You can clean and repair your garden tools and check the lawn mower. If you have a petrol mower, make arrangements for a service. Any petrol mowers with unleaded petrol should be drained off as unleaded petrol will not last until next spring.

House plants won’t need so much watering now that the days are shortening. Cacti need very little watering or feeding over the winter, just keep them barely moist until spring.

You may be given a cyclamen plant which appreciates a cool, light room. Water into a saucer, not the top of the pot to avoid wetting the leaves and corm, which can easily result in rot and fungal infections.

Christmas cacti may fail to produce flower buds if the temperature is too high. Try moving the cactus into a cooler space away from artificial night lighting.

Hyacinths like a cool, bright space, if it’s too warm you will have more leaves than flowers.

Water azaleas regularly with rainwater not tap water, and keep in a cool room.

Poinsettias are susceptible to the cold. Avoid buying them from outdoor stalls on cold days and keep them in a warm, draught-free room.

Seed catalogues will be dropping through the letterbox, make a list of what you want to grow, have a look at something different or unusual and keep a small area in your flower garden or vegetable plot vacant.

Now is the time to drop hints to family and friends for Christmas presents. A good, warm jumper is always welcome when working outdoors, and a thermal cup to keep your tea warm, or maybe garden centre vouchers.

Ask Clive

Q Are there any garden plants that are poisonous to dogs?

A There are many, many plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and humans, including lots of widely grown favourites. It is perhaps more important to know which are appealing to pets, because they look like they might make a decent meal. So while foxgloves are toxic, dogs are less likely to eat them than a daffodil bulb which looks like a bit of fat or bone. Also watch out for the toxic seed pods of castor oil plants, cherry laurel fruits and lily bulbs all of which dogs might mistake for titbits.

Q Is it OK to harvest rhubarb in its first year?

Rhubarb, like most plants, uses its leaves to produce the food it requires to develop a strong root system. This in turn will encourage the development of lots of tasty stalks. Don’t harvest in the first year and take only a few stalks over a one to two week period in year two. From year three you can harvest regularly.

Quote

Sisters are different flowers

From the same garden

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/welsh-homes/clive-edwards-tips-gardening-december-2012288

Gardening & More: Gardening tips gleaned from local garden walks

BUFFALO — Chatting with gardeners is a great way to get tips you can use, in your own garden. When you go on garden walks, don’t be shy; strike up a conversation with the homeowner. Here are three tips I picked up, on recent garden walks.

Don’t let your coleus plant grow flowers
Luis Martinez and Jeff Wilson of West Delavan Avenue, Buffalo, are among the gardeners who loved using impatiens flowers in shady areas—that is, until the plants were killed last year, by downy mildew.

There is no treatment for that plant disease and it can return for years, so they had to find something different, for those shady areas.

This year, for a pop of color they chose coleus, using plants with colored leaves.

Here’s Wilson’s tip: Don’t let your coleus flower. Pinch off the flower and the plant will get fuller.

Bonus tip: Don’t throw away the part you pinched off. Place it in water or even directly in the soil and it should root.

Get free plants from demolition sites
When a house or other building is being razed, the land is often bulldozed and scraped, destroying wonderful flowers, shrubs, vines and bulbs in the process.

Elise Fila of Williamsville said she doesn’t like to see those plants go to waste, so she rescues them.

“We get in there with our shovels and dig things out before they’re totally history,” Fila said.

She finds out about demolition sites from a friend who does construction, or she simply stumbles across the sites.

Fila always tries to get permission from the construction workers or the owner of the land. Sometimes she is asked to sign a waiver, saying she won’t sue if she gets hurt, while she’s on the property.

“They’re afraid of lawsuits,” Fila said. “That’s all they’re really worried about. They don’t care if you take the plants. They don’t want them. They’re going to destroy them, anyway.”

Take trowels and shovels for digging, she advised, as well as buckets and recycling bins, to hold the plants.

She’s on the beautification committee in Williamsville, so she uses the plants she rescues in the village parks, as well as her own garden.

Choose a color scheme
You can choose a color scheme for your entire garden or just one section.

Barb Rudnicki of Reserve Road in West Seneca planted a patriotic grouping of clematis on her fence. One plant was red, one was white and one was blue. The clematis was blooming just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Note: The blue clematis was purplish and the red clematis was on the pink side, but when you saw them together it was obvious what she was going for.

Consider planting flowers in the colors of your favorite school colors or sports team.

Next time you meet a gardener, start a conversation. You don’t know what great information you’ll discover, that you can apply to make your own garden the most unique display in the neighborhood.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.

Article source: http://www.springvillejournal.com/weekly_features_columns/265-Gardening_tips_gleaned_from_local_garden_walks_.html

August garden and home landscape tips from Master Gardeners

Here we are, it’s already August. Most lawns are still green as we’ve had plenty of rainfall in our area. Crab grass is also growing well in areas with compacted soil or where lawns are sparse. In the past few weeks, our Master Gardeners have had many questions about plant disease and insect pests as well as several calls about pond weed identification and control.

We currently don’t have any confirmed cases of Late Blight of Tomato/Potato in Wayne County although conditions have been favorable for its development. Those growing tomatoes/potatoes should be vigilant. Pay special attention to plants in areas where they stay wet in the morning, near tree lines, or where there is poor air circulation. If you suspect that you have LB please contact us.

Training for our “Class of 2013” Master Gardener volunteers will begin in early September and run through mid-November. Classes will be on Wednesdays and will be held at the experimental station in Geneva. Cornell University staff will cover most of the topics for the training. After completing the training volunteers work out of our office in Newark advising on many different home landscape/garden issues. Some volunteers give presentations while others work in our demonstration garden or answer hotline and e-mail questions. There are always plenty of different opportunities for our volunteers. If you have an interest in horticulture/insects/composting etc. and would like to volunteer or would like to learn more about this program please contact me by Aug. 16 at ljv8@cornell.edu or 331-8415. Please leave a daytime phone number where I can reach you.

Upcoming events

Gardening Hotline: Call or stop in on Tuesdays and Fridays from a.m. to noon to talk with one of our Master Gardeners. Plant and insect samples can be left at our office at other times but should not be left over the weekend. You can also leave a message on our voicemail 331-8415 ext. 107 or e-mail questions to us at mgwayne@cornell.edu Please leave a daytime phone number where we can reach you with any additional questions we may have.

Wanted: Forest Owner Volunteers — Cornell Cooperative Extension is looking for a few good forest owner volunteers to meet and work with their neighbors. The NY Master Forest Owner Volunteer Program is entering its 23rd year with a new volunteer training scheduled for Sept. 25 to 29 at Cornell University’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest Van Etten, N.Y. Volunteers who complete the 4-day workshop will join the corps of 200 plus certified volunteers across the state. Applications due by Sept. 11

Participants can commute daily, or accommodations are available at the Forest. There is a $100 fee that helps defray lodging, publications, food, and equipment costs. The workshop combines classroom and outdoor field experiences on a wide variety of subjects including; tree identification, finding boundaries, forest ecology, wildlife and sawtimber management, communication techniques, timber harvesting, and a visit to a nearby sawmill.

The goal of the MFO Program is to provide private forest owners with the information and encouragement necessary to manage their forests to enhance ownership satisfaction. MFOs do not perform management activities nor give professional advice. Rather, they meet with forest owners to listen to their concerns and questions, and offer advice as to sources of assistance based on their training and personal experience.

Some of the program’s biggest supporters are the volunteers who have worked with the program for years. Give one of them a call to learn of the program’s unique benefits. More information regarding the MFO Program, a listing of current volunteers, a sample training agenda and an application form is also available on our website at www.cornellmfo.info or call (607) 255-2115.

Free Woodlot Visits: Call 331-8415 ext. 107 to schedule a free woodlot site visit. These free site visits typically last up to 3 hours with our Master Forest Owners providing woodlot management information to Wayne County woodlot owners including best management practices for achieving management goals. During the visit our MFO’s can also provide you with   additional sources for assistance and information.

For information and webinars on forest health visit www.cornellforestconnect.ning.com.

Monthly garden and home grounds tips

• To decrease diseases such as Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight on your tomatoes follow a minimum crop rotation of three years if the disease is present. Stake and trellis to reduce soil contact with foliage. Mulch in the rows. Disinfect stakes before the season, or better yet, use new ones. Work in affected parts of the field last. Plant resistance! The new variety ‘Iron Lady’, developed by Cornell professors Martha Mutschler-Chu and Tom Zitter is resistant to Early Blight, Late Blight and Septoria. These diseases move from soil to plant and plant to plant.

• Scout for and remove weeds before they go to seed. Many weeds are forming seed heads now.

• Add mulch to cover bare or thin areas in garden beds and foundation plantings to help retain moisture and decrease weed germination. Mulch should be 2 to 3 inches thick and shouldn’t touch tree trunks or shrubs.

• Harvest onions when the tops fall over and cure in the sun for 3 to 5 days before storing.

• Garlic should be dug if you haven’t done so already. Examine bulbs and only save the best ones to replant in the early fall.

• Remove and destroy or compost fallen fruit to decrease fruit pests next year.

• If plant diseases occur clean up and destroy all diseased plant material. Don’t compost diseased plant material.

• Practices that promote deep rooting of turf are beneficial. Mow lawns high (3 inches) and consider core aeration to help alleviate compacted areas.

• Consider lawn renovation or repetitive over-seeding with appropriate grass variety in areas where turf is thin. Call us for recommendations specific to your conditions.

• There’s still time to plant broccoli (early)*, cauliflower (early)*, bibb and leaf lettuce, beets, Swiss chard, spinach and turnips for late fall harvests. Plant by early August. Use of low tunnels can extend crops as well. *indicates transplants.

Article source: http://www.waynepost.com/highlight/x1815321383/August-garden-and-home-landscape-tips-from-Master-Gardeners

Great Design Plants: Stars Of The Succulent Garden

Each succulent stands out in its own way — the variegated foliage of Aeonium, the size and grandeur of agave, the cold-hardiness and resilience of Sempervivum. Out-of-this-world color and year-round beauty belong to Echeveria.

Read the whole story at Houzz

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/plants-succulent-garden_n_3778951.html