If streets could talk: huron Village

Photos by Nick Stanley.

If you take Huron Rd. to where it meets Woodbine Ave. in Kitchener, you’ll come to a roundabout. There, on a very pleasant looking slab of concrete surrounded by a manicured landscape, is a sign welcoming visitors to Huron Village.

 The sign was actually removed by builders who had hoped to modify it amidst the pandemic,  but it was returned following uproar by local residents earlier this summer.

 Like many of our neighbours, my husband—and I made the decision to move here because we thought it would be a great environment to start a family. Prior to that, I had never pictured myself in suburbia.

 After years of living and building a sense of community in the DTK and uptown Waterloo cores, my first night in our new home was met with a deafening silence and an absence of city lights and life that I hadn’t experienced since my childhood.

 It was a strange feeling, but one that I would quickly embrace and find comfort in.

 Surrounded by some of the regions’ most spectacular trails and minutes away from Ayr, it’s easy to forget how close we are to the city. In the few years we’ve been here, we have had our fair share of encounters with local wildlife.一For a short time, my husband befriended a rabbit that was living under our front steps and we once had a family of skunks frequenting our backyard looking for fallen cherry tomatoes in our garden. On one occasion, my friends and I witnessed a pair of deer playing in the field on Seabrook Dr., which has recently been overrun by a new housing development that seemed to take pause for weeks when the pandemic first hit.

 We are moments away from Huron Natural Area and Trussler Farms where we hand-picked a variety of pumpkins, gourds and squash for our front porch last fall.

But despite the abundance of open spaces, Huron Village still offers the convenience of the city.

 The plazas on Fischer-Hallman Rd., Seabrook Dr. and Huron Rd. house a number of businesses, including a gas station, pizza parlours, salons, RMT massage, a pharmacy and a dentist. Roti Junction & Shawarma Place on Seabrook Dr., for example, is possibly one of Kitchener’s best kept secrets.

 There are also a number of independent businesses that operate out of Huron Village homes including childcare providers, aestheticians, alterations and more.

 Those businesses also remained closed for months in and out of provincial lockdowns, with the exception of the occasional underground salon or mechanic. 

The pandemic prompted a modest Halloween celebration that was quickly followed by over the top holiday decorations aimed to lift each other’s spirits.

But one of the more obvious changes to our neighbourhood during the lockdown was felt during the morning commute.

Normally, families flock to Jean Steckle Public School. There’s a sense of urgency as parents and guardians rush their little ones to class with their coffee tumblers in hand. The kids lug their backpacks and catch up with their classmates as they make their way down the street. Sure, it’s a chaotic time of day, but it creates a specific energy—a sense of community. And when students were sent home due to provincial restrictions, that energy was sorely missed.

 Our first impression of the neighbourhood was spot on. Huron Village really is a great place to raise a family. But the social distancing and safety measures COVID-19 imposed have kept our families isolated and unable to fully take advantage of the many perks Huron Village has to offer.

There are multiple playgrounds within walking distance of our house.

 For months during the lockdowns we stared at the empty playgrounds, wondering when we would see kids laughing and playing there again. 

But now our son, who is two, could find his way to the one on Sophia Cres. with his eyes closed, if we would let him. He recently graduated from the smaller green slide to the swirly one that the big kids go on, an accomplishment of which he is very proud.

 On the other side of that playground there’s a little free library and I once again feel comfortable enough to use it.

 The playground has become a safe space for parents and kids alike to connect with one another again.

 When provincial restrictions were lifted following the last lockdown, we slowly emerged from our homes and garages and started to set up lawn chairs, small bonfires and socially distanced gatherings with our neighbours.

 Our neighbour, Sam, has once again started spoiling us with samples of the amazing recipes she tackles. Her husband, Matt, has started blowing bubbles again with our son, who lovingly refers to him as “Bat.”  Other neighbours have taken up playing badminton together in the street until the late hours of the night. You can hear kids laughing and playing on their way into Jean Steckle Public School in the morning again.

 I never imagined a life in suburbia, but here we are—building a sense of community, in this place, on the edge of the city I love.