Rural Renaissance: The Small Town is Back


Sponsored // Disheartened by over-crowding, GTAers are chasing a slower-paced life.

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Ready to find your place to call home? Take the quiz and rediscover life in one of Empire’s seven communities in Southwestern Ontario.

It’s a reality most GTA dwellers can relate to: A bright-eyed youth sets out for the big city, maybe for school or their first job, or maybe they’re just after a little independence. Taking advantage of every party, networking event and restaurant opening in town, the GTA offers an endless array of opportunities just waiting to be explored. Fast forward ten years later, and life has gotten real. Lingering student debt persists, marriage and kids come into play and the realities of the 50-hour workweek have them living for the weekend, yet struggling to be able to afford anything.
Suddenly, even diehard urbanites are understanding the appeal of moving out of the GTA to a place where the problems of the city won’t follow. The small town revival is real, and it is their key to true independence – the type they found in the city ten years ago and that they can barely remember now. With average home prices lower than GTA prices by $100,000 or more, these small, under-populated towns give families a chance to invest, to travel and to try new things.
This might be a stark contrast from what the experts tell us – the hordes of magazines, news stories and sound bites we hear proclaiming that millennials are rejecting their parents’ lives. They say they hate the suburbs and want walkable neighbourhoods. They don’t care about children or owning property, they want liberal, shared-space policies. That is, until they don’t. Until they settle down, have a family and finally realize what they really wanted was freedom to actually live their lives, carve their path and choose their lifestyle.
As you drive through the small towns of Southwestern Ontario, freedom is something that you’re barely even conscious of, and yet it’s unmistakably there. Country roads that take you through undisturbed green pastures, downtown blocks of historical buildings occupied by one of everything you may need; a grocery store, a hardware shop, a bank and a medical office. Isn’t this the true representation of the growing minimalism movement that’s starting to take hold? Where neighbours are there for each other, not battling over parking spaces. Where you can still find that artisan cup of coffee or craft beer, and know the person pouring it for you, or believe it or not, the farmer who grew the raw ingredients.
When we think back to what experts say about millennials looking for walkable, urban environments, we can’t help thinking how that model has proven unsustainable time and time again, in some of the most popular metropolises in the world. As we crawl across the inner city highways, we’re seeing communities so dense that neighbours could high five from their balconies (although they mostly just ignore each other) and we can’t help but wonder if this is the freedom millennials were really after, or if the neighbourhood they imagined actually looks very different.
Perhaps a place where they can recreate the very best parts of what they’ve been after, for about half the price and half the hassle. A distilled version; leaving only the stuff they love, like authentic interactions and more face time, a space of their very own and a chance to build something real and lasting. Maybe the small towns of Southwestern Ontario are the place they were really looking for.
Ready to find your place to call home? Take the quiz and rediscover life in one of Empire’s seven communities in Southwestern Ontario.