1) It’s location. In the Detroit River downstream from Windsor (29 km away). This is about as far south and west as you can go in Ontario as Lake Erie is only a couple of km away.
2) Island size. 242 acres, 4km long and .8 km wide. Boblo Island is a Canadian island.
3) Most distinguishing feature sailing upriver towards it. A lighthouse built in 1836. Since the late 1950’s it has being nonfunctional and in 1961 this portion of the island was transferred to Parks Canada.
4) Nearest neighbour. Downtown historical Amherstburg – a charming tourist destination. (400 yards away). Amherstburg is also home to a Canadian Coast Guard Station. Amherstburg was recently recognized as being one of the safest towns in Canada in which to live. It’s population is approximately 22,000 people.
5) Travelling time and cost to get to the island by ferry. There is a non stop ferry service and the round trip cost by car is $20.00. Current island residences pay an annual fee for this service and newbies will get a slight discount. The trip each way takes about four minutes.
6) Main use of this 400 yard crossing. It is the main north bound shipping channel of the Detroit River.
7) A brief history of the island. The French used it first followed by the British who stationed troops on the island in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. It was also used as a stopover re: the Underground Railway for many slaves escaping America. An estimated 30,000 people crossed over between 1834 and 1860. Boblo Island was an amusement park from 1898 until 1993. The park also served well the needs of “draft dodgers”.
8) Who owns the island now? It is owned by Dominic Amicone, a local businessman. Google him if you wish. He is working diligently on making this island a place where people will want to live.
9) Present use of the island. It is currently partially developed and has about 150 households (homes, condos and a five storey 37 unit condo building called the “Harbourview Residence”). The island also has a marina, a seasonal restaurant, an ice cream shop, areas of parkland and walking trails leading down to the old lighthouse area. It also has a small beach and there are leftover relics of the Boblo Island Amusement Park. There are for example, the remains of the Boblo Sky Tower and the remains of a world famous dance hall which would hold 5,000 people commissioned by Henry Ford . For a site plan google ” Boblo Island Development Area”.
11) What happens when the river freezes over? This type of occurrence is a rarity. It happened for a period of time of less than a week in the winter of 2013/2014 and the residents on the island survived. The ferries were replaced with other types of people moving vehicles.
12) Other new developments in the area. Upriver will shortly see the start of work on the “New International Trade Crossing” (N.T.C.)
13) Recent awards won by the island. In 2006 the Canadian Home Builders Association named Boblo Island as the best new housing project in Canada at it’s annual awards.
14) How to follow the development of the island. Read the “Rivertowntimes.ca”
15) Individual home owners are not allowed to build docks. Bike instead to the marina.
Spend the twenty dollars and catch the ferry. Explore the remnants of what is left of the amusement park and hike down to the old lighthouse area. Visit the marina and have lunch at it’s restaurant. It’s menu is online. Watch the lake freighters slither by. Check out all the 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 sq ft. “McMansions”. What a great hood in which to purchase a house, a condo or a building lot. The beauty of the island and the river will take you by surprise. What’s more you can enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds of Old World Amherstburg only four minutes away. There are parks, riverside brick walkways, pubs and restaurants and the wonderful Fort Malden National Historic Park ( built in 1796) . Essex County is rich in miles of shorelines, parks, fishing spots, golf courses and wineries. This is after all the banana belt of Canada!
Yet wait. A report in the Windsor Star in the early part of 2014 states that the one condo high rise building on the island called the “Harbourview Residence” is only half sold out after being built well over ten years ago. It also states that only ten new homes have being built on the island since 2005. From a marketing perspective has something gone drastically wrong?
Google “Economy defers Boblo’s big development dreams” a Windsor Star article of May 22,2008. It starts with the following description. “An award winning $2oo million development with 1,300 single homes and condominiums, a marina, yacht, club, fitness center, hotel and boutique stores. What happened to these big dreams? In a blog we posted about Windsor on March 30th 2010 called “The Windsor Condo Market and Cars” we noted Chrysler and G.M. going bankrupt in 2009 and we also noted that in 2010 the State of Michigan had an unemployment rate of 14.3%, the highest of any state in America. In this environment, the concept of building and selling “McMansions” to rich Americans families did not make sense. It didn’t fit the reality of our nation’s pocket books or those of our neighbors across the border.
Now let’s fast forward the clock to 2014. Why is the islands pace of development still stalled out? Well the answer I think now centers in part around the “uncertainty” of how the vacant portions of the island will be mapped out for future development. Dominic Amicone, the founder and president of Amico Property Inc. has now scaled down the size of the remainder of the development scheme to about 209 lots, 160 single detached and 49 semi-detached. This process of remapping the site has being going on for about ten or fifteen years but in only recent months has it come to this potential conclusion. This new plan will hopefully put to rest many of the past fears about “overdevelopment” by the local planning authorities and will help in creating a more sustainable framework for future development.
Is this the end of the story? Well not really. Issues still swirl about policing, fire protection, the expansion of the marina, the future of the old dance hall, the need for a retail component to the site and other environmental issues. Will trees have to come down to make room for this expansion?
At the end of the day is appears that the island is going to be a sanctuary of sort for 300 or 400 families to enjoy. In a strange sort of way it has being a blessing that the Ontario economy was soft for the last ten or fifteen years otherwise the look of the island might have ended up looking very much different. Come and discover this award winning project in a cottage country type setting. There is only one Boblo Island. It’s a new Boblo Island!