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Burlington – engaged in development

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Burlington – engaged in development

Long gone are the days when Burlington, a city of about 185,000 off the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario, was a sleepy suburb on the outskirts of the GTA. Expansion in highway and transit infrastructure, economic and employment growth and new housing development are all contributing to what today is a booming, and self-sustaining, destination.

It’s all coming together nicely for Burlington. For some, perhaps, maybe a little too fast.

But more on that later.

Blessed location

Blessed with an outstanding natural location close to the lake, the QEW, Dundas Street West and Hwys. 403 and 401, getting to and around Burlington has never been a challenge. But recent improvements to transit service and highways have afforded even easier movement for businesses and residents.

Such growth has contributed to an increasingly diverse economy, strong in automotive and manufacturing, but not overly reliant on any one sector. Some of the city’s largest employers include Cogeco Cable, ARGO Land Development and the Joseph Brant Hospital.

Besides being close to Lake Ontario to the south, and the Niagara Escarpment to the north, Burlington is also home to the Royal Botanical Gardens. It boasts more than 2,700 acres of gardens and nature sanctuaries, the world’s largest lilac collection and three on-site restaurants.

Down by the lake, the recently renovated Spencer Smith Park hosts an array of annual free festivals, including Canada’s largest Ribfest, the Sound of Music Festival, Children’s Festival and Lakeside Festival of Lights.

Engaged in development

With so much in Burlington’s favour, it’s no surprise that more people are moving here – particularly those looking for more affordable homes than in Toronto. Indeed, it’s a nice compromise: Oakville to the east, is now one of the GTA’s priciest housing markets; Hamilton to the west, is more affordable but still considered an area in transition.

Nor should it come as a surprise that Burlington residents are engaged in their community development, and took the opportunity in the October 2018 municipal elections to vote for change. Journalist and city councillor Marianne Meed Ward became the city’s first female mayor since 1978, replacing two-term incumbent Rick Goldring.

“Burlington residents have consistently raised concerns about over-intensification and development in our city,” she said after officially taking over in December 2018. “During the election, they made their voices heard and clearly indicated the need to review the scale and intensity of planned development, especially in the new Official Plan.”

To that end, Meed Ward says she plans to take a close look at development, specifically in downtown, and has launched a Red Tape Red Carpet task force to address permitting and approvals. She also campaigned on tackling traffic congestion, tax reform, building trust with the community and protecting greenspace.


Location, location, location

• Population 185,000, located in Halton Region at the northwestern end of Lake Ontario

• Distance from Toronto, 60 km; 21 km from Oakville; 15 km to Hamilton

Key landmarks

• Royal Botanical Gardens

• Spencer Smith Park

Select upcoming housing developments

Provenance by Beachview Homes – Townhomes

Valera 2 by Adi Development Group – Condominiums

Burlington Condos/Towns by National Homes – Condos and townhomes

Odyssey Condos & Towns by Rosehaven Homes – Condos and townhomes


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Local Focus – Burlington

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Local Focus – Burlington

Living History

The area, which was covered by the primeval forest that stretched between the provincial capital of York and the town of Hamilton, was home to various First Nations peoples. The first permanent settlements in Burlington were made beginning in the 1780s by United Empire Loyalists, who sought escape from prejudice and political pressure in the United States.

In 1792, John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, named the western end of Lake Ontario Burlington Bay. By the time land beside the bay was deeded to Captain Joseph at the turn of the 19th century, the name Burlington was already in common use.

With the completion of the local survey after the War of 1812, the land was opened for settlement. Early farmers prospered in the area because of the fertile soil and moderate temperatures and the lumber business boomed. In the latter half of the 19th century, increased wheat production from Western Canada convinced local farmers to switch to fruit and vegetable production.

In 1874, Wellington Square and Port Nelson were incorporated into the Village of Burlington. However, the arrival of large steamships on the Great Lakes made the small docks of the local ports obsolete and the increased use of railway to ship goods marked the end of the commercial wharves.

In the 1800s, the area witnessed an influx of immigrants, mainly from Scotland, Ireland, and England, but it also welcomed escaped slaves from the United States arriving on the Underground Railroad.

Farming still thrived and by 1906 the town boasted its own newspaper as well as a town library and a local rail line that connected Burlington to Hamilton. In 1915, Burlington was incorporated into a town.

As more settlers arrived and cleared the land, cash crops replaced subsistence farming. Gradually, mixed farming and market gardens became the dominant form of agriculture, and in the early 20th century the area was declared the Garden of Canada. The first peaches grown in Canada were cultivated in the Grindstone Creek watershed, which is located in the southwest part of the city. The farming tradition has passed down through the generations. Today, over 40 per cent of the Grindstone Creek watershed is still devoted to farms, orchards and nurseries.

Following the Second World War, cheap electricity from nearby Niagara Falls and better transportation access due to the new (1939) Queen Elizabeth encouraged both light industry and families to move to Burlington. The population skyrocketed as new homes were built, encouraging developers to build even more new homes.

On January 1, 1958, Burlington officially annexed most of the Township of Nelson, as well as Aldershot. By 1967, the last cash crop farm within the city had been replaced by the Burlington Mall.

In 1974, Burlington was incorporated as a city. Continued high rates of growth are forecast as farmland north of Dundas Street and south of Highway 407 is developed into more suburban housing.

Brant Street in Downtown Burlington

Housing Options

The city has historically been a destination with a high quality of life and in 2011 was named by MoneySense magazine as the 2nd best city in Canada in which to live. Lakeshore Road along Burlington’s waterfront is chock-a-block with stately historic homes on large properties overlooking Lake Ontario. As the city continues to grow, there are many new housing developments and condos going up.

Leisure Pursuits

Burlington is home to the award-winning Royal Botanical Gardens, which has the world’s largest lilac collection. It features over 2,700 acres of gardens and nature sanctuaries, including four outdoor display gardens, the Mediterranean Garden under glass, three on-site restaurants, the Gardens’ Gift Shop, and festivals.

The Royal Botanical Gardens

The Art Gallery of Burlington houses the largest collection of Canadian ceramics. The gallery’s exhibition spaces, which feature new exhibitions every eight to 10 weeks, are fully accessible and are free of charge to visitors.

The Joseph Brant Museum has ongoing exhibits on the history of Burlington, Captain Joseph Brant and the Eileen Collard Costume Collection, as well as featuring a visible storage gallery.

Ireland House at Oakridge Farm is a history museum depicting family life from the 1850s to the 1920s.

The Performing Arts Centre is a 750-seat facility that hosts a number of performances of varying styles and offers many children’s activities.

In Spencer Smith Park, the sculpture “Royal Canadian Naval Association Naval Memorial (1995)” by Andre Gauthier is a cast bronze statue of a WWII Canadian sailor in the position of attention saluting his lost shipmates. A monument commemorating the Korean War was erected in the summer of 2014 to mark the 61st anniversary of the armistice to end the war.

Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park is also home to Canada’s Largest Ribfest, the Sound of Music Festival, Canada Day celebrations, Taste of Burlington and the Lakeside Festival of Lights.

Brant Street Pier at Spencer Smith Park.

The Brant Street Pier, opened in 2013, is a destination attraction at the Waterfront at Downtown Burlington. The pier extends 137 metres over lake Ontario and provides views of Burlington’s shoreline.

Parks & Rec

If you are an active hiker, this is the area for you. The Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, runs 890 kilometres along the Escarpment from Tobermory in the north to Niagara in the south. The section of the trail from Milton to Grimsby runs along the ancient shoreline of Lake Iroquois.

Several conservation areas feature year-round activities. Mount Nemo Conservation Area has paths that lead to the Bruce Trail and rock climbing areas. Bronte Creek Provincial Park features a campground and recreational activities and event throughout the year.

Paletta Lakefront Beach

The Bruce Trail also runs through Kerncliff Park and at many points runs along the edge of cliffs, providing a clear view of Burlington, the Burlington Skyway Bridge, Hamilton and Oakville.

Burlington has 115 parks with 580 hectares of parkland in the city. On the shore of Lake Ontario, Spencer Smith Park has been renovated with an observatory, outdoors pond, water jet play area and restaurant.

School Days

Public elementary and secondary schools are part of the Halton District School Board and the Catholic elementary and secondary schools are part of the Halton Catholic District School Board. French public elementary and secondary schools are part of the Conseil scolaire Viamonde and French Catholic schools are part of the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud. Several private schools are also available in the city. Burlington is home to the McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Ron Joyce Centre, which offers MBA and executive management programs. Burlington has a campus of Trillium College.

Sound of Music Festival

Essential Service

Joseph Brant Hospital provides health care in Burlington while policing is provided by the Halton Regional Police Service. The city runs its own fire department.

Retail Therapy

Burlington has a lovely downtown with a large selection of boutiques, restaurants, cafés and salons. The Mapleview Centre and Burlington Mall are the destination shopping centres and Appleby Mall has recently been renovated as an outdoor box store centre.

The 1958 decommissioned roadside lighthouse once guided mariners into Hamilton Harbour through the Burlington Canal.

Easy Access

Transit is a clear option. Burlington Transit connects with Hamilton and the city has several GO Transit stations, including Aldershot, Appleyby and Burlington. There are also GO bus connections at the 407 Carpool Lot. The area is served well by highways, including the QEW and Highways 403, 6, 8 and 20, making commutes into the Niagara Region or the GTA simple.


Royal Canadian Naval Association Naval Memorial


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