My recent post on Derby Road in Crystal Beach ,Ontario attracted a spirited discussion about a new condo tower proposed for a parking lot adjacent to the nearby public beach (which is called Bay Beach and is directly adjacent to Crystal Beach). This proposed new tower has been the source of a huge controversy. Many welcome the investment as a source of new revenue and the promise of added beach amenities in a town which has seen better days. Others (allegedly mostly American beach front owners) have fought it bitterly saying that the tower is completely out of character with the surrounding beach community. Some fear the public beach will become private or severely restricted. I won’t comment much on the tower and its design except to say I am surprised that it took so long for this kind of investment to materialize in this area. With Toronto less than a 2 hour drive away Crystal Beach and this entire area of the Lake Erie shore line are within prime vacation territory for one of the wealthiest cities in North America (or the world for that matter). Yet, this shoreline remains relatively affordable and low-key filled with its original cottages and semi rural surroundings. As Torontonians increasingly look south for bargain vacations this area may lose its sleepy old-time beach feel. That is likely the real heart of the Crystal (Bay)beach condo tower debate. What happens when the quaint dune-side cottages start getting demolished for shiny high-rise towers and beach side McMansions?
This small section of beach where the tower will go is one of the very few Canadian beaches open to the public. It is also one of the very very best beaches region boasting a broad white sand beach and clear water. The beach is also not often plagued by the stinking mat of seaweed that can wash on shore further east. When I was young we would come often to swim here. There was a nominal fee to enter. It had a great atmosphere with boaters pulling in from Buffalo and the sounds from the Crystal Beach Amusement Park wafting in behind the sounds from transistor radios and splashing water. A weathered wood building which housed the food shack and restrooms is still there but has obviously not been used in a long time as its roof is collapsing. I assume it will be removed for the tower.
Even without the burger stand and amusement park this is a beautiful beach. I am on the fence about the benefits of a condo tower here. I have very fond memories of the place and understand what the [NIMBYs] are fighting for. In my mind it is a perfect beach environment. I love the way the cottages are built densely on top of the sand dune known as Crystal Beach Hill . Many of the simple wooden cottages on the hill were originally built to house the carnival workers at the park. They have a time-worn elegance. The way they sit up on the dune creates a sense of intimate space on the beach. The small scale of the surrounding streets and the sandy cottage lined paths to the beach are exceedingly charming. It really is an almost perfect beach setting. One of my favorite places anywhere. Oh who am I kidding – this tower is going to crap up this place…maybe.
Some history on the Tower controversy here and more links here. I am not sure where this issue stands currently. Tower renderings are from the architect’s web site: Karp Namisniak Yamamoto Architects Inc.