Special Report: Heritage

Demolishing the Future

If we keep making decisions that turn young people away, we will ultimately empty the city of everyone who promises to be a productive contributor to our culture and our economy.

By Sean Burak
Published October 25, 2012

The recent announcement of a development proposal by David Blanchard (through Wilson-Blanchard) has motivated me to consider what constitutes "good development" in our urban environment.

For background on the proposal, please see the first and second articles on the matter by CBC Hamilton's Paul Wilson, and the first and second stories by the Hamilton Spectator.

The summary is that Mr. Blanchard envisions a condo development on the block bounded by King, James, Main and Hughson Streets. The development would include a two-level grocery store on King, facing Gore Park. Above the grocery store would be a multi-level parking garage.

King Streetwall on the south side of Gore Park (RTH file photo)
King Streetwall on the south side of Gore Park (RTH file photo)

After the first announcement, social media networks lit up with discussions about the pros and cons of such a development, with some people hoping for preservation of the facades of the row of historic buildings currently facing King (where the grocery store would eventually stand).

These thoughts were quickly stifled by the followup story at CBC Hamilton:

The developers who own a stretch of historic buildings that face the south side of Gore Park can’t predict the future yet. They’re not sure what they want to build, or what it’s going to look like.

But they are certain of one thing – they want a fresh canvas on their piece of King Street East and truly hope the wreckers can get to work on the first day of next June.

The article goes on to quote another partner in the development, David Miles. When asked about saving the facades, his response was, "You want the real answer, or you want us to fluff it?"

Perhaps it's time we answered a question like that with some questions of our own:

Until we get answers to these, the current buildings should not be touched.

Looking Forward

I have another question of my own, which overshadows all of these and can be applied to all development proposals and major decisions in Hamilton:

Will this decision make Hamilton more attractive to the younger generation?

By this I mean the people finishing high school, college or university. The people just starting down the road of life. The ones opening new businesses or looking for their first "real" job. The ones taking over their family's business.

In other words, the people who are about to make some major decisions about where they will spend most of their lives.

If we keep making decisions that turn these people away, we will ultimately empty the city of everyone who promises to be a productive contributor to our culture and our economy.

The thing is, this generation is looking for something quite different than their parents and grandparents. They are looking for livable cities. Interesting places to live. Historic architecture. Efficient lifestyles. Balance between work and play. Walkability. Cycling infrastructure.

They are looking for safe, lively urban environments that can service them from youth through raising a family through to retirement.

If the city approves a demolition permit here, it's just another chip at the demographic that represents all future hope for this city.

Cheap real estate is only going to attract a limited number of young professionals. If we don't make this city livable - and this includes treating our built heritage with respect - we will never climb out of the hole we are in.

Broken Promises

A problem with proposals like Mr. Blanchard's is that they are built on promises of construction that are often broken. We have seen others try, but somehow, the projects stall at the stage immediately following the razing of the current structures, leaving us with another parking lot.

The easternmost building of the 19th century streetwall was demolished last year (RTH file photo)
The easternmost building of the 19th century streetwall was demolished last year (RTH file photo)

Each time this happens, it makes it a little bit harder for the next development to succeed.

If we let Wilson-Blanchard go down the demolition road, we are taking an enormous risk. Without a promise that they will deliver, we'll be left with another gap in the streetwall - another reason for people to abandon Hamilton.

This will make the successful redevelopment of the Connaught building harder to achieve. It will push the Hamilton Grand proposal back a little longer. It will make other nearby developments less attractive. It will lessen the motivation of the owners of our vacant lots to build something.

The Connaught building sits vacant, waiting for redevelopment (RTH file photo)
The Connaught building sits vacant, waiting for redevelopment (RTH file photo)

I would argue, in fact, that even if this proposal were to go forward 100 percent, a glass facade on the South leg of the Gore would be detrimental to the livability of the street. One of our city's greatest assets is its built heritage, and there is no other place where it is more important to maintain this asset than Gore Park.

A two-level grocery store would be fantastic, but we should insist that it replace a streetwall gap or an oppressive blank wall, rather than a row of three-storey pre-Confederation buildings.

Refreshing Strategy

In 2007, the Spectator quoted David Blanchard commenting on the vacant top floors of the Stelco building. He spoke of his development on Hunter across from the GO station, touting a refreshing strategy:

Take these good buildings, fix them up, keep the city ticking.

If he wants Hamilton to have a bright future, he'll apply the same thinking to his holdings on Gore Park.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.

151 Comments

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By thisishowwefail (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:17:32

Buy a row of run-down buildings. Do nothing to improve them. Wait ten years. Damn, they haven't fallen over yet. Say you can't rent them out and need to demolish them so you can build something new. Demolish them. Grin like an oldschool hockey player.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:22:00

Given that there is a law against demolishing buildings without plans, I believe specifically designed after David Blanchard did this exact same thing on James beside the Landed Banking and Loan Building, I'd be very concerned about letting him do it again.

Plus, even if we have a really nice glass entrance to a grocery store off of Gore Park, has anyone thought about what that parking garage on top of the grocery store is going to look like?

Nothing should be demolished until we see concrete designs and plans. This is Gore Park - It has to look good, not simply be the "back side" of a condo fronting onto Main.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:41:46 in reply to Comment 82182

Given that there is a law against demolishing buildings without plans

That didn't seem to stop Blanchard from demolishing the east building in the row in May 2011. At the time, Councillor Farr said the city had no recourse, since the building was zoned commercial and did not have a heritage designation.

Frankly, I have no confidence that a new construction - especially a new construction that consists mainly of elevated parking - is going to do any kind of justice to the heart of the downtown core.

We've been punishing Gore Park for decades, and it deserves better.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:32:38 in reply to Comment 82182

Not just the parking garage but the glass facade itself. A glass facade is nicer than a concrete wall, and better than a gap. But look at the farmer's market: it looks great but it does not enhance street life. And the entire point - the only point - of Gore Park is streetlife.

The entire perimeter of gore park should be designated immediately. From james to john.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-10-25 12:32:55

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:39:04 in reply to Comment 82185

Oh yes, because we so desperately need to keep that grey decaying box on the corner of James and King

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:31:04

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:34:07 in reply to Comment 82184

Not being able to afford it is a lie. Here's the answer: can't afford it? Don't buy it in the first place.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:52:38 in reply to Comment 82186

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:39:55

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By ThisIsNotJustYourHamilton (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 13:13:25 in reply to Comment 82187

And who are you to lecture from on high about what a "real" dialogue is. You want to talk to whoever, go talk to whoever. But stop telling the people who already care and are already talking that they're dialogue is not "authentic" enough.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:48:37 in reply to Comment 82187

Verry true ... the core needs new blood and if someone is reddy to put some money they should by all means Look south of Gore park then look north of Gore park it needs a seriouse facelift

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By Yorick (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 13:10:36

Whatever happened to 27-45 James South?

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By Insanity... (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:01:41

...is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. The best parts of the downtown core are the parts we didn't demolish but kept and restored and made beautiful and functional, the worst parts are the parts we demolished and put worse stuff in there place.

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By don't shoot the messenger (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:22:45

I am just a little confused here...
Someone on their own initiative is proposing to actually build something in Hamilton, and people are finding only the negatives?

I thought we wanted more residential in the core.
I thought we wanted a grocery store (notwithstanding J.Square proposal).
I thought we wanted a mix of commercial and residential, so people can live near their work, etc.

Let's just pause for a second.

Okay, so yes, we may lose some old building facades - but not everything old is able to be saved. Don't blame owner's becuase buildings were neglected for 100 years unless they were the owners for the whole time(even so, the owners said they would hear proposals with external funding to preserve them)

Why are we spending such energy opposing someone who is attempting to building something (pretty darn near exactly what we need)? Shouldn't we be spending more energy on the people who are continually sitting on vacant land (surface parking lots & derilict buildings) until others (such as Blanchard et al.) raise property values. Those parasitic land owners are the real problem in Hamilton - let's not lose sight of that.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 16:07:37 in reply to Comment 82202

What's stopping them from building something similar to this on the land that's already vacant on that block? Why do they need to put a parking garage and glass wall on King?

I'm not saying they shouldn't build at all. I'm saying that if they cared about the city they'd be excited about bringing the existing buildings back into use and augmenting this with a new development facing James and Main.

Perhaps this is not about a glass wall on King. Maybe it's all a game to generate citizen backlash so that they can get funding from the city to restore those buildings... It worked for Lister.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:35:23 in reply to Comment 82226

Because the existing buildings have uneven floors, are structurally difficult to work with because of their long length, and Blanchard has had incredible difficulty finding tenants to house them and the existing facade, doesn't exactly scream grocery store.

I'm would assume they would open the parking garage on King, given that is now a pedestrian zone, I think that would be incredibly stupid to do. Even if it was converted back into a roadway because that section of King is just so narrow. This parking garage would open up onto James or Main.

One of the articles states using the Bank of Nova Scotia as a (Pedestrian?) entrance to the Grocery store, which makes sense given it's massive interior. Then use the James/Main St Parking plaza for shoppers to access the store, and run underground parking for the Condo Unit, which is another reason to demolish the existing buildings, to make room for underground parking.

That all being said, there is a great deal of speculation in there.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 16:27:38 in reply to Comment 82226

By the way the total parcel is 1.11 acres and .8 acres is already vacant land. That's 72%.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:57:16 in reply to Comment 82227

I think that the vacant land is part of the project. You just can't see it clearly on the rendering, but it's implicit that the connection between James and King is made by dog-legging around One James South. If that's the case, the infill will be aligned with the north face of the Landed Bank.

Interesting to consider sputtering neighbourhood reactions to proposed infill on vacant lots such as the James/Vine and Acclamation proposals. There's no winning, it seems.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 18:37:56 in reply to Comment 82236

Yes, the current proposal includes the vacant land. But it seems to me that converting six streetwall storefronts into a single glass curtain for one store is not efficient use of the King Street facade. And above that a parking garage? If the proposal had street level retail with 2 or 3 storeys of condos facing King then at least I could believe that they cared about utilizing the frontage on Gore Park.

But as it stands, what they are proposing is a development focussed on Main and James, and plunking the ass end of it on Gore Park.

What I'm saying is: build the front, forget the ass, and put those buildings back into use. Or how about building a code compliant rear staircase and converting the upper levels into higher end condos to complement the tower that will face Main?

In other words, how about giving a shit instead of wasting these buildings on the least important part of the development.

Grocery stores don't need facades. It's a waste.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 20:49:56 in reply to Comment 82241

Could use some refining, for sure. I think if the concept was floated without a demolition plan for the Gore streetwall, it would have been differently received. He should maybe just mothball the Gore properties and pursue the practical matters of the southern development, with parking underground. By the time he has a grocery store/new retail next door, the value of that row will have increased notably, and he would have no trouble flipping them to a third party who could creatively repurpose them. (Although I have certainly heard DIYers bemoaning the evils of building codes that are blind to the reality of narrow multi-storey buildings such as these.) I'm in no way encouraged by Blanchard's dalliance with original construction (eg. the mirrored box on Main West a couple doors down from the Visitors Inn). I just think it's imprecise to say that there's no infill going on here when something like two thirds of the project footprint is currently blacktop.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 21:18:38 in reply to Comment 82244

Per the first parenthetical:

http://raisethehammer.org/comment/79587

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 21:41:23 in reply to Comment 82249

I didn't say there was no infill... I said that 72% of it is infill. SO let's just build 72% of the proposal.

The problem here is highlighted by the earlier comment you linked to. We need codes, bylaws and tax rules that encourage adaptive reuse.

We are systematically replacing our buildings with bland boxes.

These are only four buildings. So do we sit back and allow the next four? And the next? and then...? when does it stop?

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-10-25 21:42:09

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 12:50:04 in reply to Comment 82253

I would add it hasn't stopped yet. This is nearing the end game. The last straw will be demolishing the Connaught.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 06:11:27 in reply to Comment 82253

Simply suggesting that the logistics and economics of these things is never as straight-forward as it appears from the outside. Blanchard has shown a notable degree of regard for historic buildings and could be a highly placed and credible proponent of the very changes you seek. I just wonder if a more politic "open letter" paired with a behind-the-scenes strategy might not achieve the same or better ends.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 08:34:41 in reply to Comment 82278

I don't understand this "poor developers" attitude. What if I lived next door to you but did not have the time or money to tend to my house, allowing waist high weeds, letting my downspouts dump onto your foundation, letting raccoons live in my attic, and just being generally neglectful of my property?

Would it be "our poor neighbour has it rough" or would you be on my ass with bylaw?

These people are in the property management BUSINESS. It's their JOB. I'm sorry but if they buy a property that's unmanageable that's not the rest of the city's fault.

People with fewer resources have renovated buildings in much worse shape.

Look at the mark preece family house for example...

preece fire

preece final

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:17:13 in reply to Comment 82284

This is what you call a Heritage building . not somthing like city hall and 18 and 28 king near gore park

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:11:40 in reply to Comment 82284

"Poor developers" was not my intended take-away. Meant only what I said: That it might not be as straightforward as it appeared.

I don't know how much Blanchard has in his war chest, but if, as Miles suggests, this is a $10m preservation task, that is significantly higher than the valuation City places on the properties.

> Gore Building Improvement Grant Program: Max $50K for eligible work

> Hamilton Downtown Commercial Façade Property Improvement Grant Program: Matching funds to a maximum of $10,000 per property for eligible work

> Commercial Property Improvement Grant Program: Max $20K matching funds for properties with a street frontage greater than 25 feet; Max $10K matching funds for properties with a street frontage of 25 feet or less

http://www.investinhamilton.ca/downtownbia/financial-incentive-programs/

Maybe the solution is, as with the Preece house, to go the non-profit route and make heritage preservation a community project. There were a number of downtown donors to MPH (even the oft-maligned Delta Bingo is on the same tier as Margaret & Charles Juravinski):

http://www.markpreecehouse.ca/?page_id=15

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By hammerbooster (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:24:20 in reply to Comment 82290

Those buildings are no harder to fix up than all the buildings on James North that have been fix up by people who took a chance, spent the money and energy to fix them up FIRST and THEN tried (successfully) to rent them out. What has Blanchard done with those properties on King other than let them decay?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 17:59:11 in reply to Comment 82293

None of those people spent 2.5 million on their buildings. And yet they remain standing and function as originally intended.

These numbers are all inflated. It's a huge game to these people. I'msick of the blind defense as if showing us some pictures is supposed to make us swoon to the point of blindness.

We should not abide another gap.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 06:42:31 in reply to Comment 82278

Consider your current campaign to have the LCBO step up with a ritzier outlet. Leaving aside the synergistic benefit that a 24-storey residence two blocks away would have, that campaign is being advanced with a solutions-driven means of citizen engagement, synchronous with a scheduled meeting with an LCBO official. Maybe it's time to use those tactics to save what's worth saving, at risk of reducing the constant need for a stiff drink to counter the angst of living/working downtown.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 08:27:01 in reply to Comment 82279

Well the LCBO did not initiate the discussion by announcing that they were going to replace a store with a coin operated malt liquor dispenser.

On the other hand, this writing is a reaction to the developers' announcement of a sparsely detailed plan. They initiated the discussion by giving us a story which included only one firm date: a demolition deadline. And their announcement is representative to me of all the empty lots left behind as evidence of unfulfilled development dreams.

So it's not meant to be a campaign really. But if you want to get involved in a campaign that would be great. I'm sure over weekend dinners (and hopefully IPAs) some campaign worthy ideas will be brewing!

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:23:50 in reply to Comment 82202

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:32:28 in reply to Comment 82203

The author needs more clients for the $3000 bikes he sells.

Ooh - I can't wait to see Sean's $3,000 bikes. I mean, normally I go in to see his $150 bikes. And his $800 bikes are nice, too.

But now he's got $3,000 bikes! Neat.

Thanks for the very useful information that is also relevant and completely accurate, brodiec.

Comment edited by moylek on 2012-10-25 14:32:48

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 21:01:43 in reply to Comment 82206

Two months ago I went to Bike Hounds and bought a Gazelle Tour Populaire T8 for my father-in-law. It cost $1,500 and was worth every penny.

Why? Because it came with everything needed in an urban bicycle. That means:

*Low-maintenance internal hub gears.
*Low-maintenance internal hub brakes.
*Full fenders and mudflaps.
*Full chaincase.
*Full coatguard.
*Integral rear wheel lock.
*Dynamo hub powered lights.
*Brooks leather seat.
*Rear rack sturdy enough for a passenger to ride on.
*Loud "Ding-Dong" style bell.

Good luck finding a cheap bike with all those necessary items.

This bike gave freedom to my father-in-law, who now travels everywhere using it.

And Bike Hounds provided great service fitting the bike to my father-in-law.

Here's a photo of the bike.

http://www.gazelle.us.com/brands/gazelle-bicycles/originals/tour-populair?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_gazelle.tpl&product_id=421&category_id=65

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:55:58 in reply to Comment 82206

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By up mod (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:31:24 in reply to Comment 82203

So are you saying if someone owns a business, they're not allowed to comment on issues as individuals? It's a real stretch to suggest that Bikehounds has any financial stake in opposing these buildings being demolished. I bet a bunch of new condos would actually result in more customers, not less. Maybe he has an opinion that isn't necessarily linked to his business- is that OK by you?

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:57:33 in reply to Comment 82205

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 18:30:15 in reply to Comment 82215

There's no subtext to the article. Walk through Gore Park and look at those buildings. They are most certainly NOT falling down. Buildings in worse shape have been renovated by people with a lot fewer resources than Blanchard has.

I am advocating for repairing and using the buildings that already exist in the city instead of tearing them down under the pretense of "development" based on a bunch of pictures that mean jack squat without plans, permits and actual investors.

My reasoning goes well beyond pretty facades. It's about the efficiency of reuse rather than replacement. It's about wanting to live in a city that encourages landlords to keep their properties up instead of rewarding them for neglecting them to the point of demolition. It's about having a downtown that offers something for everyone. Not just glass walls and new condos.

If you've read anything deeper from my opinions, I'm sorry that you misunderstood.

If you take offense to the idea that the city should avoid scaring the younger generation away, then I have to ask you: how do you expect any city to continue providing things such as running water and functional roads if we let all of our tax revenue disappear as people retire or move?

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:54:18 in reply to Comment 82205

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 08:04:30 in reply to Comment 82211

It's not like this is an affordable housing project being held up by yuppie preservationists. In fact, there's a good chance it won't even have condos at all.

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By up mod (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:58:57 in reply to Comment 82211

Oh ok. You're the brave defender of the poor, disadvantaged future condo owner. I had you mistaken for a petty crank with nothing better to do but goad people online. MY BAD.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 15:02:31 in reply to Comment 82216

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By Towny (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:14:50 in reply to Comment 82218

"I'm really convinced the hipster hatred is self-pity people have about their station in society. The many of us who've lost work or not been able to find it in tough times. It's a reminder that sometimes really hard work at school doesn't pay off immediately. But I don't really think being jealous of folks who have low-wage retail jobs, expensive fun toys, fashion and a social life is very... adult. I'm actually pretty glad we can still afford that lifestyle for people who still contribute to society. It's not exactly balling." - Brodiec on Reddit, 16 days ago.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:37:39 in reply to Comment 82229

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By Towny (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:40:00 in reply to Comment 82231

I'm sure you'll call me some sort of name eventually.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 15:01:17 in reply to Comment 82216

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:27:48

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By up mod (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:55:56 in reply to Comment 82204

Um, most of the comments that you've had downvoted had nothing to do with "undesirable people"- in this instance, you were simply saying things that were untrue about the author's small business, and making baseless assumptions about his motives for contributing this piece. Maybe if you were to put a bit more thought in to what you contribute, you might not find yourself so stressed out when *GASP* a few people on the internet think you're being a juvenile troll who likes to pick fights.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:34:27 in reply to Comment 82204

I don't know about anyone else but I voted you down because your comments are ugly mean stereotypes instead of thoughtful additions to the debate, I'm not a "yuppie" or an "entrepreneur" or any of the other things you seem to hate so much, I'm just a guy who's lived downtown for years in a city I love and am sick of us constantly bulldozing beautiful old buildings and putting up either ugly garbage or more often nothing at all. I don't know whats got you so pissed but maybe you need to take a breath and chill out a bit.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:40:45 in reply to Comment 82207

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:37:46 in reply to Comment 82207

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 14:55:20

Seem to remember my hometown of London, Ontario running into a similar issue with the construction of the John Labatt Centre and the demolition of a block worth of vacant and beyond repair 100+ year old buildings, including the Talbot Inn. The facade of those buildings were incorporated into the centre. The arena has done wonders in creating an entertainment district around the rink, with OHL games plus concerts bringing lots of folks downtown year round.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 20:55:28 in reply to Comment 82212

The facades of those buildings were not incorporated into the construction of the arena - they were rebuilt.

A facsimilie, not the real thing.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 21:31:16 in reply to Comment 82246

That should be do-able in this case too.

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By Amy Kenny (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 15:07:01

Brodie...take a break from the Internet. You're not doing yourself any favours these days.

Also, the greater point of this piece isn't the "quaint" pursuit of facade preservation - it's that we should be using existing buildings and focussing new builds on already vacant spaces.

Comment edited by Amy Kenny on 2012-10-25 15:16:19

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:39:07 in reply to Comment 82219

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By Amy Kenny (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:51:20 in reply to Comment 82232

You're welcome - will do.

Comment edited by Amy Kenny on 2012-10-25 17:52:24

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 15:36:37

As much as I love heritage, I'd be willing to trade the existing streetwall for another that did the park justice and that "fit" with the rest of Gore Park.

This "proposal" (although at this stage we know so little about it it's hard to evaluate it) seems to incorproate the idea of a large glass grocery store opening, with parking on top on the Gore Park. That's what we'd see from Gore Park - parking and a glass wall. That doesn't fit with the rest of Gore, nor does it sound appealing to me.

I know they've signed up a top notch architect, and I'm hopeful that they'll show some designs that I can throw some support behind and, here's the key, actually build what they design.

But from what I've heard and read so far, this is not a project I can support.

I can get behind some of the other elements, but I don't want to see a parking structure in Gore Park - even if it is on floors 3+.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 21:38:16 in reply to Comment 82220

I agree. While preserving those buildings would be nice, I get the economics of it. I would hope they could instead tailor the facade to either replicate what is there, or present something that blends with the park (though there is a bit of a mishmash along the south leg of King already)

This is still just a proposal so perhaps a re-thinking will happen. Several levels of parking garage above functional floors is only better than one thing: several levels of parking garage that begins at street level.

I would think condo units facing Gore Park would draw a much better price. I don't think placing them on the Main side is a mistake, but when this "proposal" gets firmed up it's stuff like that which should be considered.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:44:40 in reply to Comment 82252

present something that blends with the park

The thing is, look west - the next building is toaster oven, after that is a brutalist highrise, and then across James we have a giant block of glass.

A modern building would blend in just fine as long as it preferred concrete to stucco. My biggest concern is maintaining a welcoming face to the street, possibly cutting a chunk of their entryway into a separate retail or food space they could lease out and basically keep similar usage to what we see now in addition to their new facility.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:20:36 in reply to Comment 82252

I will take a parking plaza any day over street parking. I would assume they would make underground parking for the condo unit and make a parking garage for the grocery store, which is something that would be unique in Hamilton. A free to park interior parking plaza grocery store.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:39:33 in reply to Comment 82271

A free to park interior parking plaza grocery store.

I went to a SuperStore in North York that had the building on stilts looming over the parking lot, so it's not unique.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 23:44:09 in reply to Comment 82296

I did say unique to Hamilton.

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By hammerbooster (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:13:47 in reply to Comment 82296

Yeah, let's model the heart of our urban core on how they're doing it in North frigging York.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 17:39:48 in reply to Comment 82220

I'd be perfectly fine with the parking structure if the facade was nice and there was something tangible facing Gore.

Let's face it, at this point the old buildings are nothing but a facade. The upper floors are boarded up. All we have left of those buildings is the cosmetic feature of the facing - from a functional perspective? When it has parking out front it's effectively a strip-mall - a single-floor building with a drive-through parking lot out front.

As much as I love the appearance of these buildings and loathe the stucco of modern construction, I'll take development first. The only thing I wouldn't compromise on is that a business can't moon Gore Park. I don't care if the city needs the carrot or the stick to get that done, but I just don't want to see the kind of backwards streetwall like we have at Centre Mall on Barton.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-10-25 17:41:22

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:22:19 in reply to Comment 82233

I will completely agree about mooning Gore Park. The back side of these buildings right now practically moons Main St. However, it sounds like in the articles that he'd want to make the large Bank Hall an entrance for such a store.

Pxtl, you just earned some respect points in my book for this post.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-26 00:23:58

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 16:50:38

Heritage reinventions are desirable but can obviously be a mixed bag. Hamilton has come to accept pretty much anything at this point. The Foster/McKay hash is one recent example. LACAC's advocacy work on the Lyric facade is another.

Would that Hamilton were festooned with Feswicks, but it's just not the case. I'd love to be proven wrong. For a city of a half-million, we're lucky if we can find a half-dozen folks up for large-scale labours of love.

The other thing that strikes me about this particular story is that the City now has yet another reason to put off the Gore pedestrianization (Connaught revitalization plans being the first).

That's Downtown Hamilton's narrative arc in a nutshell: Choosing to both burn out and to fade away. Casinofication of the core would be the coup de grace.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 18:24:57

Another thought occured to me on the way home - had someone done this to the buildings of James North - there would be no James North. Think about that.

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By James N (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 10:12:45 in reply to Comment 82237

This did happen on James N. look beside Acclaimation.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 09:00:14 in reply to Comment 82237

Think about that.

No thanks, I try to avoid hypothetical hyperbole.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2012 at 14:37:20 in reply to Comment 82349

It seems to me that an ability to imagine alternatives is a necessary precursor to insight and innovation. Robert D isn't asking you to turn off your critical faculties, he's asking you to consider the role of intact small-scale buildings as a contributing factor in the James North revival.

You may feel that Robert's hypothesis lacks supporting data, but that's no argument against raising it. All data collection, after all, starts with an unanswered but asked question.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-10-27 14:57:53

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By AttentionIdiots (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 20:06:41

Lets reel things back to point. Sean and his bike shop have added a healthy, important role to the area. Step inside sometime and you will see he is rehabbing a building that is in no way as impressive, or in as good a condition as the ones on Gore. He is doing this himself. Lets stop the maddness and destruction of the city and try and do something positive. God give me strength!

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2012 at 20:37:20

Earlier this year I posited the notion 'The problem in Hamilton isn't that we tear down buildings...it's that we don't build anything memorable to replace them.'

So when was the last time something was put up that anyone here has looked at and gone 'Damn! I'm glad that's in Hamilton!'?

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By Messenger (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:40:16 in reply to Comment 82243

Now we're talking! Glad someone else shares the frustration of seeing the bare minimum, cheapest solution being slapped together as "investment in our city"

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:13:09 in reply to Comment 82243

The Chateau Royale, although I believe that was a conversion.

It's too soon to tell, but I'm liking what I see so far from the Federal building development. I'll like it even more if Vranich attracts the LCBO out of Jackson square and makes it a higher volume store then the current one. I'm also hoping the new McMaster campus does the trick. The new mental health facility is up there too.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-26 00:15:21

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 18:04:45 in reply to Comment 82269

Here's my LCBO dream: replace delta bingo. God can you imagine?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 23:45:00 in reply to Comment 82325

You'd be hard pressed to put anything worse then that Delta Bingo.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 22:57:25 in reply to Comment 82243

AGH

Not a "new" replacement, but a big change to an important building.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 22:11:29 in reply to Comment 82243

City Hall

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By Messenger (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:44:05 in reply to Comment 82256

Are you referring to the original City Hall, or when it was first moved to Main St? I could agree with both of those, but I fail to see how spending millions of dollars to replace the cladding with an inferior product on a building that is too small to fit it's purpose is something I should be glad for.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:53:10 in reply to Comment 82298

I was referring to the current city hall when it was built in 1960.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 20:50:23

How about putting the rear of those buildings into the article?

http://maps.google.ca/?ll=43.255208,-79....

They look a lot less pretty and have a lot less supposed heritage from that side, opening up into that glorious decaying parking lot that this development would remove. Which brings us to why I feel this article I find does a disservice to Hamilton and this website. A project comes around that A) Removes a large swath of unsightly surface parking from the core B) Adds further density to the core to better leverage infrastructure C) Furthers the goal of pedestrianizing downtown, as Gore Park, Jackson Square, Copps, THAQ, Hamilton Place and the beloved James St N are all within walking distance D) Is likely to add the presence of a walkable, reachable grocery store E) Likely reasonably priced which young professionals appreciate and F) Adds revenue for our city through a larger tax base and development fees.

However, when a developer who actually HAS a history of preserving old facades and knows the costs and feasibility involved with such work, is willing to put forward the largest development in city history next to Jackson Square, that addresses MANY of the concerns that this website and many others have raised with our core, all out of his own pocket mind you, and has stated he'd be amenable to preserving them with extra funding from the government but realizes it's not likely to happen in these times, and has honestly said he is unsure of the costs that will be involved with such a restoration, but has stated that the buildings are becoming structurally unsound and are a nightmare to continue upkeep is demonized because of why exactly? Because he wants to remove four buildings of dubious worth, and I do mean that.

What actual heritage does this block of buildings have besides that they are next to Gore park, and they've been standing for a long time? Is there is some actual history behind the buildings, like the say the Royal Connaught that hosted the NHL board of governors meetings, was the place visiting teams came to when we had the Hamilton Tigers and was home to the oldest radio station in English Canada? Maybe then, sure there is a case for heritage, but there isn't. Two dry goods merchants living there is history in the same sense that the minutes of city council looking to raise property tax by two cents in 1957 is history. In no way is it interesting, memorable or containing anything noteworthy, other then being a marginal curiosity because it's old.

Moreover, what unique architectural characteristics make these buildings so worth saving? A facade of four inconsistent styles boasting plain, square plain Grey Brick on one end, a middle which at holds the only redeeming feature in my eyes, in the three arches atop of three closely spaced Windows, followed by two, differently coloured and textured dull white, stained buildings, one boasting a bizarre faux brown brick base and the other a selection of pigeon roosts.

Oh right, I forgot, you can't ever tear down a building that has stood for more then 20 years, even if most of it's floors are abandoned, shuttered and unlivable because it's an unattractive, overly expensive money pit to restore, with no free parking, no nearby grocery store and whose main floors can barely attract two respectable (I'm sure well meaning) restaurants, and must suffice with a money mart, a bankrupt clothing store and a low end convenience store. Exactly the place a young professional wants to seek out on his first mortgage.

Sure, keep the good buildings ticking. Show some love to the Apheus or the Centenial buildings along king with their unique stone text, outcropped Window/cubbies and above window arches and vertical brickwork. Do something with the Canon St Mills with it's castle like exterior on Cannon and the large, industrial windows along Mary. Save the city's blatantly stretched heritage budget for projects like the Royal Connaught. In this case though, these buildings are rotten, unsustainable, decaying crap and the sooner we can be rid of them and replace them with new, dense growth, the better. And while you are at it, take down that decayed grey atrocity we call the corner of James and King, opposite to that beautiful, MODERN tower of glass that is Commerce Place, that actually employs hundreds if not thousands of young professionals and businesses.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-25 22:04:09

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2012 at 08:36:16 in reply to Comment 82245

How about putting the rear of those buildings into the article?

Okay:

King buildings slated for demolition, rear view

I'm not an architect or structural engineer, but there's nothing aesthetic about the backs of these buildings that indicates demolition. The problem is not the backs of these buildings, but the surface parking lot between them and Main Street.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2012 at 12:43:39 in reply to Comment 82381

Not to mention, if we determined the value of buildings by the appearance of the back, we'd have to tear down pretty much every retail building in north america and many commercial buildings as well.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 10:44:08 in reply to Comment 82381

I've always liked the back of those buildings -- and, absent the ads, actually think they're more aesthetically appealing than the front. Heresy, I know.

I know it's a long shot but I'm always vaguely reminded of this:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_36SFFFDlygA/TUjQog7W1nI/AAAAAAAALiE/OvhuycybUrc/s1600/Physical-Graffiti-8.jpg

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 10:46:01 in reply to Comment 82389

The stone facades are pretty nice, I will admit.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:10:23 in reply to Comment 82245

Honestly, I don't really care about what minor historical act occurred at a building to declare it "historical", for me it's more about the architecture. The architecture of these facades is worth considering, maybe worth saving... but the developer has some really good things planned for the space, and is willing to save the facades if the city helps him. As far as I'm concerned, he's doing most of this stuff right. As long as he presents something inviting to Gore, I'm happy... although I'd rather if he sectioned it up and made some smaller retail spaces facing out to Gore too.

I gotta disagree about Commerce Place though - while the building is one of the better-looking examples of the Giant Block of Glass style, for me it fails from a functional perspective since it provides nothing at street level. There's an irony in that the Commerce Place doesn't have any commercial frontage.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:23:53 in reply to Comment 82304

A grocery store with multi-level parking stacked on top of it is absolutely not appropriate for the Gore, especially considering the plan to make the south leg of the Gore a pedestrian plaza.

The Gore is a public space. It needs a large number of small, porous businesses opening into it with a large number of people living and working nearby.

I love the idea of a condo - we absolutely need more people living downtown by choice - but the condo is only speculative at this point, and the proposed use of the King facade betrays a frightening lack of comprehension about what makes for good urban places.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 21:17:39 in reply to Comment 82245

Oh, and to add. The facades of these buildings, aren't the original facades from the 1800s and according to the city's Urban renewal director, Glen Norton, he's tried to attract businesses to these buildings for years since 1997, and lo and behold, has found few takers and even had Mayor Wade tour the buildings in 2000

So to answer this questions of this article

  1. More then half a year isn't quickly and he's tried working with them since 1997
  2. On the drafting table of David Premi, a well respected architect
  3. Robert Miles, David Blanchard and his buisness partners
  4. Likely after demolition/building permits have been issued. Mid/end of next June
  5. Several grocery chains who have expressed interest but haven't made themselves know because the project hasn't even gotten off the ground yet.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-25 21:39:28

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By FactCheck (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 22:04:38

Glen Norton has only been with the city 3 years.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 22:51:06 in reply to Comment 82254

And the point would be...?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 22:49:18 in reply to Comment 82254

Yes, and if you can't fill your building as a well respected, successful developer who has put honest effort into attracting people to the building, even after three years, it's time to make some changes!

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-25 23:50:03

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By Shawn Selway (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 23:33:34 in reply to Comment 82258

Yeah, break up that block. He wants people to work for him. As has already been pointed out, James St North is the work of individuals taking on single buildings. At the end of the day, they hold the equity they built- and each single owner enhances the value of their own property and that of the others on the block. Few absentee landlords, no block-busting speculative owner.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 18:25:11 in reply to Comment 82258

What honest effort?

DO you want to see honest effort put into attracting people to a building? Look at the furniture store on james north near mixed media.

You don't attract tenants by declaring that the building is garbage on the day you buy it, and then doing nothing to change that fact.

Honest effort. What is it... are you related to this guy?

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By steponmebbbboom (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 23:08:33 in reply to Comment 82258

What is the difference between these buildings and the Cannon Knitting Mills you are lauding so loudly? Seems to me you are connected with Norton and Blanchard in some way.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 23:30:57 in reply to Comment 82262

A fair question.

The difference is the Cannon Knitting Mills has multiple worthwhile, unique architectural features. You won't find any building with that castle like design at the front on Cannon. Two large square (albeit not exactly symmetrical) towers, beside and almost church like centre, attached to an old multi faceted industrial style windowing, opening up to a nearby park. Industry meeting parkland, it's unique, it's sellable, it's canvas that can be worked with and completely converted into something new since it's industry has long since left and also ample size and room to work with, to build new walls/rooms and garages as needed. Also, given it's size, it's probably possible to reinforce and add structure easily if you wanted to increase the height of the building.

These buildings have a Victorian cornice, that you can find in countless buildings all over Hamilton and Windows that boast arches, which while nice are not particularly unique. Even more so, when you can walk down to Chesters and Fingers, or down James St and see almost the exact same style of building. Also assuming you restored it, it would serve to be...small buisness/small residential apartments that it currently is, and each of these unit's is a small, long stretching separate building, making it structurally difficult to work with, and neigh impossible to link given the existing interior brick divisions between them (that we can see in the currently demolished building) and mismatching floors. Their sizes also do not lend themselves to any parking other then the rear surface parking, which is a blight.

and no, I'm not connected with them. I'm a young professional who resides in Corktown, and would love to be able to walk and do my produce shopping on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays, since I can't with the farmers market being closed those days.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-26 00:11:14

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By steponmebbbboom (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 22:28:00

http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/205/301/ic/cdc/hamilton_tour/youngdrivers.htm
Here's a writeup on one of the buildings, more are available if you navigate the links
Posted because someone calling themselves a hammer (how apropos) pretended to be interested in the answer to what historic value these buildings have. Do some reading and educate yourself.
Hamilton simply has to reach a point where it makes financial sense (or the political will exists to protect these buildings) for them to be repurposed. It happened in Toronto, it happened in Montreal, when it happens here these buildings will be beautiful again. I know it's hard to imagine, but not everyone thinks glass skyscrapers and mr. potatohead architecture is beautiful.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 23:12:02 in reply to Comment 82257

You'll notice, your post notes.

Previous Building on Site: Three-storey building (possibly incorporated into present structure)

Meaning, not original as I stated.

and you'll notice I stated, the only redeeming quality of this building was the Windows.

Architectural Features: Window bays divided by pilasters; projecting horizontal mouldings incorporating pilaster bases and capitals; widely projecting bracketed cornice; original sash windows on second and third floors.

So...the Windows and the cornice which is by no means unique.

Also unfortunately, the Young Drivers of Canada are now based out of 20 Hughson. Someone else whose moved out of this place. A Fur Wholesaler having been there is a footnote. If this was say the first location of the Hudson's Bay Trading Co. sure, but of a long departed fur trading company and as your article puts it "Succession of furriers (up to 1974); then various retail / service businesses" isn't particularly history that needs building preservation, even more so when the buildings now look nothing like they did back then.

Also, how does it make financial sense to spend money out of city coffers, to keep these buildings that have many derelict floors, and even if fully restored, whose size allows, at best attract maybe 16 small businesses/residents and a surface parking lot (that we all agree harms the core) vs a mid sized two storey grocery store and what appears to be a 16+ stories of multiple dwelling residences, all who will contribute vastly more tax revenue, is being done out of pocket by the private sector, who has to pay a development fee to even build?

Explain how keeping the existing density, instead of raising it, discouraging a potential grocery store development and shunning the development of a parking lot in any way improves the livability of the city core?

Also, note, Toronto's downtown core, dominated by highrise. Bay and Wellington, ALL MODERN. Yes there are splashes of historical architecture there, but modern highrise dominates a large portion of downtown Toronto. I'm not saying that there aren't buildings of worth, like Victoria Hall, the Lister Block, Treble Hall, The Right House, the Pigott Building (which this developer purchased and restored) and other buildings I already mentioned, but it must be tempered with modern development. History if fine, but our core deserves to make some new history too!

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-25 23:53:19

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By steponmebbbboom (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 23:28:53 in reply to Comment 82263

Great, you're calling architectural features by their proper names now. (even though you cutandpasted them)
I guess that's a start. Keep at it.
In the meantime I really could give two squirts what someone who doesn't even know what a lintel is deems "dubious" heritage value.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 23:36:53 in reply to Comment 82265

None of which in these buildings is remotely unique in material or design. I also love how you didn't make any counterpoints and instead dismissed me based on vocabulary, and those cornices are pigeon roosts. Pigeons are nesting there, as this post has been made.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-25 23:56:14

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By steponmebbbboom (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:18:57 in reply to Comment 82267

I also love how you have edited every single one of your retorts, voted down my posts and voted up your own. Seriously? Take a look in the mirror if you want to see where the real pigeons are roosting.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 00:44:37 in reply to Comment 82270

Well, as you have clearly shown, proper vocabulary is absolutely vital if you are going to make any argument, explanation or comment, but this is turning into duelling and isn't in anyway contributing to the discussion.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-26 00:45:34

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By steponmebbbboom (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2012 at 23:44:00 in reply to Comment 82267

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By steponmebbbboom (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 01:02:07

Thank you, whomever voted for me. (As an unregistered anonymous user, I cannot vote up my own posts unlike some individuals)

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 08:20:13

There are two opinion pieces in today's Hamilton Spectator about the Blanchard development idea near Gore Park:

"More good news in the downtown core" by Howard Elliott http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial...

"$120-million complex still in diapers" by Andrew Dreschel: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

It is apparent that the project is still in its formative stage. It also looks as though Blanchard and Miles have not completely closed the door on restoring the pre-Confederation era structures facing King Street provided that someone else contributes $10 Million to help make it happen.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:55:00 in reply to Comment 82281

if there's one part of this project that in my mind is a 'must', it's the residential. We need more people living near the Gore.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 18:26:38 in reply to Comment 82301

But sadly, it's the part that is least likely to be built.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:26:58 in reply to Comment 82281

While I'm not normally in favour of the city ponying up money for private development...

If all that they need to save these buildings is $10 million, it seems to me that something could be arranged. This seems like exactly the kind of thing the "Future Fund" might be ideal for. Hmm...now what did we spend that on again?

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By rednic (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:58:23 in reply to Comment 82294

Someone else got the future fund. We tied our entire future to them. Our future now consists of 10 days a year. The rest of the year is not the future it is some thing else.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 08:25:33

As I've said before, Hamilton EcDev captured a snapshot of the downtown demographic in its Aug 2011 marketing materials:

http://www.investinhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/DowntownProfile.pdf

By the City's own estimation, downtown represents about a fifth of Ward 2's entire population, but also overwhelmingly made up of single, childless renters in low-income households.

There are reportedly 23,400 jobs downtown generating an average salary of just under $54K, but only 8,300 residents -- and ~5,300 (64%) of those are LICO.

This wasn't always the case. Change is needed.

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 08:56:33 in reply to Comment 82282

There are reportedly 23,400 jobs downtown generating an average salary of just under $54K, but only 8,300 residents -- and ~5,300 (64%) of those are LICO.

This wasn't always the case. Change is needed.

Even acknowledging that my question isn't 'on-topic', I'd love to hear more about what you've presented. Specifially:

-'This wasn't always the case.' Please expand. What is your historical perspective on what the 'traditional' breakdown has been over the past half-century? (I'm framing this to take into account What Downtown Plans Were Put Into Effect About This Time) Especially given how much (east of James) actually hasn't changed in all this time.

-'Change is needed.' This is a much larger discussion, especially considering that most people are unwilling to take an honest look at the downtown-core's history going back the aforementioned fifty years. a) Please define 'change'; ie, how you'd like to see the area's profile shift, and b) What do you feel has stood/stands in the way of this happening?

Maybe my interruption is in fact germane to this article. Maybe it's actually fundamental to the 'discussion' taking place here: What do you want your downtown-core to become?'

I'm asking this of RTH readers, because it's not news if I say that this 're-imagining' of the area has not been a concern of Councils (and I'm not merely talking about paying lip-service here) going back longer than I'd like to say out loud. This notion of 'increased dialogue', beyond the usual 'developers, architects and monied urbanistas' and focusing on 'average' Hamiltonians is something I've prodded both CBC Hamilton and 'urbanicity' just this week.

To paraphrase the Heinz Beans kid: 'More dialogue, please.'

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:35:04 in reply to Comment 82287

As recently as 20 years ago, there was a better live-work balance downtown, more couples and families, and a less lopsided socioeconomic demographic. That strikes me as a modest aspiration for any city, and certainly a helpful step toward restoring vibrancy to downtown.

The sunniest interpretation of EcDev's numbers suggests that downtown is somewhere people pass through or use for their own ends, but by and large choose not to live. (Ward 2 is home to around 1/14th of Hamilton; downtown is home to around 1/5 of Ward 2's population, so that's roughly 1/70th of the city.)

As you say, this is a much larger discussion and one that isn't as 'on-topic' as it might be (admittedly, I opened a door). Apologies for the diversion.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:58:16 in reply to Comment 82295

does anyone know what their boundaries are for 'downtown'? My neighbourhood is filled with families, young couples, professionals, students, renters etc.... South of me, Kirkendall appears to have an even higher income and professional level. In the 11 years I've lived downtown I've seen a real change in the demographic. Much more mixed now than it was then. I do agree though...more influx of families etc...is needed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:24:00 in reply to Comment 82302

Downtown is usually defined as the area bounded by Queen, Cannon, Wellington and Hunter.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:21:37 in reply to Comment 82302

As visible by the red rectangle in the linked PDF, EcDev's reference point is the Downtown Hamilton Secondary Plan Area: Queen/Cannon/Wellington/Hunter.

http://raisethehammer.org/comment/80910

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By Dane (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 18:22:59 in reply to Comment 82306

That would be the Downtown Improvement Area. Downtown is considered much larger by banks ad insurance companies. I have been told Locke to Parkdale - Escarpment to bay front

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 16:30:10 in reply to Comment 82530

Definitions are certainly subjective, but in the norm you locate something close to a consensus. A frame as broad as "lower city, 403 to Red Hill" seems like a fairly exurban definition to me: Meaningful in a branch office that's assigning risk profiles to broad demographic swaths, but not especially enlightening if you're hoping to meet up with someone for coffee.

The City's Downtown Built Heritage Inventory Project, for example, uses the standard Queen/Cannon/Wellington/Hunter parameters:

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/Divisions/Planning/CommunityPlanning/HeritagePlanning/DowntownBuiltHertiageInventory.htm

So does the City of Hamilton's Downtown Heritage Character Zone, as you might expect:

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/59204A2F-29E2-4345-9534-EC665BCF7560/0/DtwnHertCharZoneMap.pdf

The City of Hamilton's Downtown Land Use Planning Area, does so as well:

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/CED5F8D8-4703-4D19-A8C5-8E90B5827BC9/0/PPFSCHL2.pdf

This is distinguished from other areas such as western neighbour Strathcona:

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/Divisions/Planning/CommunityPlanning/SecondaryPlans/Strathcona/

Or West Harbour:

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/Divisions/Planning/CommunityPlanning/SecondaryPlans/WestHarbour/

One notable departure from a municipal standpoint is the Downtown Hamilton parking lot map, which runs Locke/Duke/Strachan/West (though 16 of the 20 lots are found within the QCVH envelope).

http://www.hamilton.ca/Hamilton.Portal/Inc/PortalPDFs/CarParks/downtownhamilton.pdf

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 12:09:49 in reply to Comment 82306

Interesting. I wonder how much different the numbers would look if the boundaries went from the 403-Harbour-Wellington-Escarpment? Their current boundaries exclude almost all of downtown's immediate residential neighbourhoods.

I always find it funny that in TO you're considered to live in a downtown neighbourhood if you're in the Beaches, Annex or Cabbagetown, but in Hamilton we don't include the West Harbour, Locke South or Dundurn Castle neighbourhoods as downtown hoods.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 16:51:13 in reply to Comment 82317

Subjective interpretations may vary, of course, but eventually a consensus emerges. Wikipedia's downtown Toronto is largely identical to the parameters set out by TorontoNeighbourhoods.net, for example.

Hamilton's official version is fairly common coin. Part of it is literal, based on the sloping topography from Queen toward downtown. Part of it is a reflection of the median height of building stock. And some of it is reflected in the fact that King & James is the city's literal core, the key compass point for the lower city's main thoroughfares.

There are residences immediately downtown. That red rectangle is home to a fifth of Ward 2's population. If you were to expand downtown, I don't doubt that the data would change.

In the spirit of east-west equality, run your sample from 403 to Sherman, Escarpment to Harbour.

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By hammerbooster (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 09:14:56

I come to RTH for civil discussion on city issues, not facebook style drama. Come on people, lets put the playground name calling away.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 12:01:18

:))

“It depends how fast this heritage bubble comes to the forefront,” says Blanchard.


DRESCHEL: $120-million Gore Park complex still a dream in the making By Andrew Dreschel

Fri Oct 26 2012 08:33:26

They’re polar opposites. Good cop/bad cop. An old married couple. All rolled into one.

Developer David Blanchard is dark, slight and soft-spoken.

Rob Miles, his property manager, is big, blonde and blustery.

Together, around their paper and coffee cup strewn board table at 1 Main East, they’re bickering proof that their plan for a $120-million development on the south side of Gore Park isn’t even out of diapers yet.

“This is a condo tower,” says Blanchard, indicating a Legoland-like rendering of the proposed complex for the block bounded by King, Main, James and Hughson.

How many storeys? a reporter asks.

“Well, we don’t know,” says Blanchard.

“I don’t think the condo will be part of the final discussion” Miles interjects.

“Don’t even say that,” says Blanchard. “Don’t talk about it.”

Why?

“Because …” Blanchard begins

“ … it probably won’t happen,” Miles finishes.

“It doesn’t matter, Rob,” Blanchard shoots back. “The point is this is totally an open book. We don’t know what it’s going to be.”

And so it goes. Back and forth, for the better part of an hour.

There’s no anger, no rancour, just two guys sitting on a crucial piece of downtown property who have no defined idea of what’s going in there.

It could be a commercial, retail and residential development.

Or it could be “scaled back” to small boutique buildings for single tenants.

Blanchard isn’t sure if there’s a way to save a couple of heritage buildings fronting King East.

Miles says the real answer is they’ll be happy to restore the facades if someone donates $10 million to the project.

They’re not really open to a casino going in there.

But if someone approached them, they’d look at it.

Make no mistake. These guys are the real deal. One day, something eye-popping will certainly arise on that block.

After all, they didn’t spend something like eight years and $9 million assembling the property to idly sit back and watch it crumble, especially after recently terminating the handful of remaining leases.

But they’ve got no city approvals in place, no tenants lined up, no final design, no concrete plans.

Yeah, they’ve talked to a few grocery stores and office users and they know a bit about the condo business.

But they also know that’s probably kind of premature at this stage.

“There’s no sense in really doing that,” says Blanchard, “until we have a really good plan that we’re all happy with. How do you sell something when you’re vague, when you’re this and you’re that?”

How long before they nail down that good plan?

“It depends how fast this heritage bubble comes to the forefront,” says Blanchard.

For his part, Miles is confident the concept will ultimately dwarf heritage concerns. But he also speaks of the next phase in terms of “if” not “when.”

He wonders how the city is going to feel about a building shadowing Gore Park.

And how will it feel about a truck loading zone and driveway for servicing retail businesses?

“If the city says, ‘No, we will not allow you to have your trucks come off Main Street and load into that garage,’ we’re screwed,” says Miles.

“We can’t do anything with this because whether we have a grocery store or retail, they have loading needs.”

Blanchard says it’s a very important site and they want to do it right, but he agrees there could be “innumerable obstacles.”

No doubt. And now that they’ve gone public, they can add another big one to the list — managing expectations.

...

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-10-26 12:13:44

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 12:05:28

More good news in the downtown core

"Today, we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that Hamilton landlord and developer David Blanchard and his associates want to build a $120-million residential/commercial project on the south side of King Street in an area bordered by James and Hughson Streets on the east and west, and by Main Street on the south." ..."There is time for this and other concerns to be aired. Let’s not lose sight of the good news: $120 million is being invested in a part of the city that needs it." ~ Howard Elliott

... http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial...

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-10-26 12:11:14

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 18:30:12

So now the story sounds more like "Hey, we own some land. We kinda want to build something. Maybe a condo? But probably not. We talked to some people at some grocery stores. Here's a picture of some boxes. Oh one more thing, can we tear these buildings down? We've already started evicting people by the way. So if you don't want us to tear them down, just cut us a cheque. 10 million should cover it."

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-10-26 18:30:49

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 21:08:47 in reply to Comment 82329

I honestly don't get the sarcasm.

Yeah, it's a pretty vague proposal at this point, it may or may not include a residential component, and the hints about the money it would take to preserve what is there have been floated.

But will sarcasm contribute to a dialogue about the best way a private developer can make an investment that complements the desires of those who hope the best for the city?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2012 at 14:51:46 in reply to Comment 82362

It's not really sarcasm. It's basically what they have said so far, distilled into one short paragraph. I did give it a "gee willikers" tone for comedic effect though.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 18:22:21 in reply to Comment 82369

I apologize if I read too much into it, but that's the way it came across to me.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 21:00:22 in reply to Comment 82329

Agreed.

Sounds to me like we're going to be seeing vacant land on that strip of Gore for the next 15 years...

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 16:02:52 in reply to Comment 82336

On the plus side, think of the money we'll save by not having to invest in the Promenade!

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 18:38:05

The best boot-strap restorations on James North seem to be the ones where the owner lives upstairs. It's entirely fanciful but if you were to legislate owner occupancy as a precondition of ownershi, I imagine that the whole of downtown would look very different.

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By Shawn Selway (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 00:04:14 in reply to Comment 82330

Not gonna happen but owner occupancy is very important. I think live upstairs is not the rule on James, although there is some of that. Occupancy by the owner's business is very frequent though. Darrin DeRoches used his View mag pulpit this week to talk about the big demand for live/work space. Can't provide the link because View online seems to have a problem, but he says Hamilton "should focus on the live/work space since we are still an affordable city. A ton of business is being done on the internet but these small business owners still need space to live - create - sell their creations. They are making money and want to be part of a community. Hamilton is the only real city close enough to Toronto..." etc etc

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 07:39:50 in reply to Comment 82344

I was more thinking of the building owners who live upstairs and have tenants below.

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost.php?p=3138215&postcount=2

http://www.thespec.com/living/healthfitness/article/822062--meet-kieran-dickson-a-man-who-lives-clutter-free

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By Selway (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:06:45 in reply to Comment 82347

I know what you meant. Walking down James and looking building by building, owner residence up and commercial tenant down is the exception. Which goes to show that it may be the mix, and the scale of the mix that matters. This model is slightly scalable, but highly extendible- and retractable. In any case those smallholders are the most effective development community in Hamilton at the moment. It would be helpful to have a compare- and -contrast of James North and South, Locke, Ottawa, Westdale circle and Concession ie the Main Streets of Hamilton, to understand more clearly how it works.

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By j (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 09:56:04 in reply to Comment 82347

Someone buying a three story walkup on James N and making commercial space and an apartment above, which they're likely not bringing up to fire code, seems a little different than building a $120 million infill project. Those are pretty much under the radar diy deals; these are political projects to convince lenders, tenants and politicians of the merits.

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By Selway (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:26:38 in reply to Comment 82355

Oh sure they're up to code. Your distinction between the two models of development seems to me correct and elegant. But 'under the radar' is the problem. Small scale incremental improvement is deprecated in favour of the Big Fix. Whatever the financial outcome may be, the large projects are continually degrading the built environment of the city. Yet we know that smallholders doing one three story renovation at a time works- not necessarily for each individual owner, but from the opportunist perspective of the uninvested bystander ie almost all of us, if Raj and Sally fail, and then Sue and Sarah step in and make the building work, we gain in the long run without suffering any of the losses of the short run.

If you look at the overall picture I think our pattern is incremental small scale is saving entire city blocks, building by building, while at the same time entire city blocks which are in the hands of one or a small group of "developers" sit idle for very long periods.

What the current proposal does is to take a block of King on the south side of Gore Park out of all possibility for applying the small scale model to improve it. This is probably a mistake.

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By j (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 12:35:28 in reply to Comment 82357

sorry, didn't mean to deprecate one in favour of the other. But I know for a fact a few James N renos that have not put in the second egress because too expensive, or the wider foyer because too narrow at ground level. These places become really expensive if you mess with them too much and lose your grandfather clause, so many just don' look into it too closely. Doing it right like Feswick becomes extra expensive because of all the retrofits needed.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted October 27, 2012 at 22:30:03

"The thing is, this generation is looking for something quite different than their parents and grandparents."

And yet the buildings we wish to preserve are the buildings of our parents and grandparents.

I think this question is being approached from the wrong direction. To begin, I agree heritage properties should be identified and preserved. But not every old building is of significance and not every old building can be preserved.

The correct approach, in my opinion, is to preserve or recreate a streetscape that enhances and promotes pedestrian traffic, residency, and attracts visitors to the downtown. What I think people are afraid of losing on the south side of Gore Park is not so much older buildings that may or may not have historical or architectural value, but the value of a streetscape still at a human scale.

What I would be concerned about is the lack of a clear plan and vision for the proposed development and on that basis, alone, the city should refuse demolition permits. Reducing that corner to a parking lot for any period of time would be devastating for the downtown and would erode public investments already made.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2012-10-27 22:32:16

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 17:56:36 in reply to Comment 82365

I agree.

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By Bohemian (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 10:30:05

Treble hall is having 1 million pumped into it. That doesn't seem in line with the costs on the Gore.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 11:26:26 in reply to Comment 82367

Point taken, but:

"On Friday, Feswick closed the deal to buy the 131-year-old Treble Hall. It will be a $3 million proposition. He paid $735,000 for the building and will now spend several times that to bring it back."

http://www.thespec.com/living/article/279390--revival-of-a-tarnished-beauty

As president of Historia Building Restoration, there's also a chance that he's getting work done at cost.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 11:54:12 in reply to Comment 82473

3 million is a far cry from 10 million. I wonder how the square footages compare?

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 23:07:02 in reply to Comment 82474

Not sure. I imagine that the buildings may vary (both between the condition and square footage of the John North and King East properties, and between the condition and square footage of the KIng East properties).

Via bbsrealty.com:

28 King East, Ground Floor: 2,375 sq ft
24 King East, Fourth Floor: 2,258 sq ft

22 and 18 King East are obviously cut from a different cloth, and I haven't been able to get any sense of their relative square footage.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 16:56:48

It sure is easy to sit at your computer and decide how to spend someone else's money. So what if you don't have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of. No knowledge of urban planning does not need to slow you down. You know what you want and you want what is best for the city and you should just be obeyed. So what the fools at city hall have gone to school for years and have procedures and plans to follow that means nothing. You just know. You are the best. Right?

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By MR OBVIOUS (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 23:10:32 in reply to Comment 82373

So... I assume this is what the voice in your head said to you in order to convince you to come to this website and barrage us with your blathering.

And it seems you actually believe it.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2012 at 21:21:38

As someone who spends a great deal of my time building things, and tearing things down, mostly in the inner city, I can say with certainty..... sometimes something isn't worth fixing, rebuilding or saving. Sometimes, old doesn't mean its valuable or special or of particular architectural interest. Those buildings have been modified, bastardized, and left unviable for decades. For practical purposes including any sort of adaptive reuse they are a hard sell.
Nothing I have read yet has indicated that Mr Blanchard has asked for any public money. So if he is the only one with skin in the game, if he has proposed multi use, including residential which is exactly what this downtown needs more of. Then godspeed sir.
I'd rather see cranes in the sky than plywood over the windows of those places for ten years.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 09:48:09 in reply to Comment 82377

How about gravel lots for 10 years. 15? 20?

Mark my words we will not see cranes.

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By DowntownDowner (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 08:26:15 in reply to Comment 82377

This is the scorched earth attitude that gets us all the bs in the city now.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 22:47:26

"It sure is easy to sit at your computer and decide how to spend someone else's money."

"Nothing I have read yet has indicated that Mr Blanchard has asked for any public money. So if he is the only one with skin in the game, if he has proposed multi use, including residential which is exactly what this downtown needs more of. Then godspeed sir."

If someone pays property taxes to the City of Hamilton, they "have skin in the game". Anyone who resides in Hamilton, in a home or in an apartment, pays property taxes directly or indirectly. On the other hand, Mr. Blanchard and other property developers have plenty of say in how and where, we, as tax payers, spend our money when his developments require services, both hard and soft.

And in fact, when a government chooses to allow the development community through laissez-faire policies to decide what shape and form the development of the city will take, it not only cedes managerial, planning, and economic control, but it chooses the market's winners and losers by not exercising those same controls.

The role of the municipality ought not to be the economic well being of any one individual or industrial sector, but the well being of the corporation it is charged with managing which is the municipality itself.

And when all is considered, the municipality has a very direct and vital interest in how the corner is to be developed. Cranes in the air that develop another Jackson Square with it's foreboding walls overlooking James St. sheltering public drunks and shunning passersby, is not what the corner needs. Any development ought to ensure the integrity of the streetscape is preserved and that the corner remains a busy place where people gather.

Of course, all of that is my opinion and to express it is my entitlement in a democratic system of government whether I have a direct financial interest or not.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2012-10-28 22:49:27

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:45:04 in reply to Comment 82378

Well said Vienna :)

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 11:51:33

"Below, you'll find all 7,490 buildings of interest plotted on a map.... The properties are not designated heritage properties, which is a legal categorization. Rather, they are of heritage interest. Some are being considered for designation, but the overwhelming majority are not."

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/2152/mapped:_hamilton's_heritage_interest_properties

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 16:57:01

Demographics guru: ‘Big growth is over’
(Toronto Star, Stephen Wickens, Nov 4, 2012)

Excerpt:

"[David] Foot is not predicting a real estate crash, but he says developers have to make big adjustments in what they offer. He also says Toronto's economic health is endangered if we don't act fast on major transportation improvements.

He sees two crucial demographic keys to understanding where we're headed, and again it's boomers, who are nearing retirement, and the echo boom, babies born during a 15-year period beginning in 1980.

The year 2000 "is when the echo kids started leaving home, creating new households," Foot says. But "the birth rate peaked in 1991," meaning 2011 should have been at or near the peak of the market -- at least for small downtown condos.

"things should keep dribbling along, but the drop-off in birth rate after 1991 was significant; the big growth is over," he says, adding that immigration rates could skew things a bit.

But Foot sees opportunities for wise developers and the city. He thinks the urban renaissance will have staying power -- if we finally get serious about transportation problems.

"The children of boomers are starting families of their own, birth rates are rising again," he says.

Simultaneously, lots of boomers who raised families in places such as Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York are moving to the next phase of their lives.

"I sort of say, it's downtown in your 20s, suburbs in your 30s and 40s, and peace and quiet country in your 50s and 60s."

He still holds the concept to be largely true, though he acknowledges many echo families will raise inner-city kids and lots of boomers will downsize to a condo in town because they want big-city convenience, vitality and culture.



As for downsizing boomers: “Get real! They won’t be buying 800-square-foot condos, and developers had better figure this out. At the very least, they better start providing units with knockout walls so they can be joined. The boomers, the ones who want the city and its cultural amenities, they have money and they want room.”

Foot sees demand for large units in new midrise buildings out of the core, along the avenues, above mall parking lots and in largely undeveloped areas around and above existing subway stations -- just the stuff city planners would love to see.

“We’re totally wasting valuable airspace above subway stations and malls, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves on transit,” Foot says. “Lots of these boomers may love city living, but they also have Audis and they increasingly won’t want to deal with the stairs at subway stations, let alone the serious overall inadequacies of our transit system.”

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2012 at 20:45:00 in reply to Comment 82578

I have no plans to spend my 50s and 60s maintaining a rural landscape. I'm thinking this man has it right with the "downsizing boomers wanting spacious condos".

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