While much of the community is breathing a sigh of relief that the Ticats and the City are again talking, no one should celebrate yet, because we cannot be sure that the parties truly understand the consequences of their decisions over the last number of
By Keanin Loomis
Published September 09, 2010
As a relative newcomer to this city, I've been rooting for Hamilton to succeed - not only because it's the type of city to root for, but because it is where I've recently decided to raise my family. The Pan Am Games promise to bring great things to this city, but with the most recent decision to study the Longwood and Aberdeen site, I am left only with disappointment.
I'm disappointed that the vision of a stadium sitting on the shores of the West Harbour will never be realized. I'm most disappointed, however, at how alarmingly and dispiritingly this narrative has unfolded. I'm not at all confident that Bob Young and Council are capable of reaching an agreement that will bring even a modest return on a very significant taxpayer investment.
I supported a stadium at the West Harbour because it represented a fresh start for an area that, due to its proximity to water, is one of the city's greatest assets. That formula has worked time and again in many North American cities.
Thus, no one who supported the West Harbour, especially our political leaders, needs to apologize for believing that it would help transform this city. It's just that some people lack imagination.
The East Mountain was a travesty from the very start, an antiquated notion and a blatant cash grab that produced a refreshingly robust reflex in this city. It worked for narrower interests than civic-minded rooters of a Hamilton renaissance would like, failing the smell test, in part, due to a lack of transparency.
Of course the Ticats need to be able to pay the bills - they just have an obligation to open up their books when they demand so much taxpayer money for a proposition that does nothing for the city except maintain a beloved icon.
The positive development in this saga is that it energized the community and brought city-building issues to the forefront. A strong movement advocating progressive urban initiatives represents a beacon of hope to young professionals who see revitalization of this city's core as a precondition to settlement.
Knowing full well that powerful interests invested in the status quo still lurk in this city, this movement's work is not nearly done as we seek to finally get back to dreaming about a future Hamilton that is worthy of both its proud history and its unbounded potential.
In Longwood and Aberdeen, we now seem to have a compromise on the table, but no one knows quite what to think because the devil remains in the details. To a community that just wants this whole saga laid to rest, the site may make sense not only because it satisfies the Ticats, and thus Hostco, but also because it does so much more for downtown than the East Mountain ever did.
The problem is that the site hasn't been subjected to logistical scrutiny and there is the pesky little fact that we've already pinned our hopes on that area being a jobs generator.
While no politician wants to be associated with the Council That Lost the Ticats, it would be more damaging, though unfortunately less newsworthy, to be the Council that loses an innovation district. Especially one that represents one of the brightest spots in this city.
Whether intended or not, in making the decision to explore this new site, Council and Bob Young are stating that locations suitable for refocusing our innovation employment activities are apparently more fungible than locations upon which we can agree to build a stadium.
That's a dangerous, almost careless, assertion considering how much time, equity and hope has been invested at MIP and how quickly it has become the stadium location du mois.
I work at MIP and it is surely on pace to deliver real results for this community, in part due to its proximity to research and talent at McMaster University.
At this early stage in its development, it is certainly possible that the innovation park can be relocated closer to downtown where it might have more of an impact. West harbor definitely would have to be at the top of the list and that's not a bad view to exploit in recruiting young professionals.
However, our leaders are now blithely suggesting a land swap with McMaster and giving short shrift to the many individuals and entities that have invested tremendous capital over many years in MIP under pretenses that have been capriciously altered in a matter of weeks.
This indicates to me that they truly don't understand the complexities in making this entire deal work and that they really haven't thought this through.
Along Hwy 403, Young would have the accessibility and visibility over which he was willing to jeopardize a city's vision and divide a community. That means he now has to make a statement and make amends.
For allowing Young to exercise a veto that no minority partner should possess, City Hall has to step up too. To those of us that see opportunity in Hamilton's future, both parties have to prove that they have a holistic, credible, inspiring and visionary plan to save a fragile but burgeoning employment district, rejuvenate the West Harbour and reinvigorate our core.
Anything less would be a waste of 60 million Future Fund dollars.
While much of the community is breathing a sigh of relief that the Ticats and the City are again talking, no one should celebrate yet, because we cannot be sure that the parties truly understand the consequences of their decisions over the last number of months.
If I have no job and the city's future no longer inspires, I have no reason to live here.
This article is also published as an op-ed in today's Hamilton Spectator.
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