Commentary

Welcome to Locke Street

Locke Street is exemplar of a specific change in Hamilton: a meshing of sustainability, business, and the social environment.

By Steven Watts
Published November 27, 2013

The city of Hamilton has undergone countless changes throughout history. The people, infrastructure, priorities, and public image are constantly moving in several directions at once. It is difficult to define the city of Hamilton because of the vast diversity in residents, beliefs, and lifestyles.

The streets of Hamilton have witnessed many changes that have shaped the city. Often, each major street has come to represent a "pocket" within the larger Hamilton community.

Hamilton's streets are the links that fasten our city together. Whether it is the local vendors, the industrial sector, or the cultural industry, the streets of Hamilton hold important elements of the city's identity.

Locke Street, in particular, has experienced significant changes over time, leading it to become one of the most vibrant streets in Hamilton today. Home to many niche businesses and services, Locke is proof that cities must adapt as citizens' needs shift.

Several restaurants, like Earth to Table Bread Bar, have opened in recent years (RTH file photo)
Several restaurants, like Earth to Table Bread Bar, have opened in recent years (RTH file photo)

In the 1980's and early 1990's Locke encountered desperate times. With lack of investments, poor livability, and little aesthetic appeal, the area's value was far from what it is today. Now a popular cultural, social, and economic district, Locke offers Hamiltonians an important public sphere.

But what sparked the revival of Locke? Was it a cultural shift? Did it have something to do with changing priorities?

Once labeled as a "steel city," Hamilton's cultural shifts have no doubt changed the city's image. The many businesses inhabiting Locke Street today seem to have a similar vision of Hamilton.

Locke Street is exemplar of a specific change in Hamilton: a meshing of sustainability, business, and the social environment. In saying this, not every Hamiltonian views Locke as a desirable location. Although the commercial and social success of Locke is evident in Hamilton, it remains a complicated space.

Starbucks only moves into markets that can support an upscale coffee shop (RTH file photo)
Starbucks only moves into markets that can support an upscale coffee shop (RTH file photo)

Some businesses on Locke strive to expose Hamiltonians to a sustainable lifestyle. Despite Locke Street exuding a certain aura, the hope is that it can be a place for all Hamiltonians to enjoy.

No matter one's occupation, social status, beliefs, etc., Locke should ultimately serve as a place of communal bonding. Businesses must juggle finding a spot within the mosaic Hamilton has become, while staying confident in their beliefs.

The connection, and almost familial attitude, between the businesses is the epitome of what Locke Street represents today. The network of individuals working towards creating change, attempting something unique, and bettering the community is incredible to see in Hamilton.

A sharing of common beliefs and enthusiastic collaboration has fuelled the success of Locke. Although Hamiltonians may have differing beliefs, there is an ideal that we must remember: this isn't just my city, it is our city. How can we make it better for everyone?

The recent addition of zebra-style crosswalks has improved walkability on Locke (RTH file photo)
The recent addition of zebra-style crosswalks has improved walkability on Locke (RTH file photo)

So go ahead, take a stroll down Locke Street and see what the area has for you. There are a ton of amazing, ambitious, and unique places to visit. Tour the shops, check out some interesting spaces, grab a coffee, chat with other Hamiltonians.

It is easy to spend an entire day touring Locke Street and experiencing all it has to offer. The draw of Locke is evident in every corner, both inside the shops and on the street. Be sure to keep all of your senses open and take in as much as you can- enjoy this gem Hamilton has to offer.

Steven Watts is a local environmentalist who is attempting to raise awareness about ecological issues in the city. His goal it to highlight environmental initiatives around the city and expose ecological concerns that deserve attention.

39 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Hamsterdam (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:11:16

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.

Permalink | Context

By huh? (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2013 at 20:31:44 in reply to Comment 95199

i agree totally. locke street is totally suburban and totally lacks the character of the rest of the city, like the meadowlands. you know, a real community area. or say lime ridge mall. i feel like when i wander those areas i am in the true hamilton.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By FastMan (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:18:14

I hope those who are new to Hamilton and reading this blog do not get the false impression that Locke Street had a seismic shift into what it is today. If you read some history into Locke Street, it has always had a firm root in defining Hamilton: http://www.lockestreet.com/historybytes/index.html
For me, the bigger story is Ottawa Street. How a once thriving textile corridor that saw visitors from as far as Buffalo come to grab high quality fabrics right in the heart of Hamilton's industrial core become obliterated with the rapid loss of manufacturing and the globalization of the textile industries to be what it is today is a true testament of Hamilton grit.
Locke has always had the "privilege" of its Kirkendall residents to ensure its sustainability. Ottawa Street, I would argue, not as much so... With grit, grass root investments and a growing engaged citizenry, Hamilton East around the Ottawa Street corridor and Gage Park is showing a true picture of Hamilton revitalization.
Not to take away from the author, but once you have spent your Saturday on Locke, go to Ottawa St on Sunday to get a feel for all sides of Hamilton's urban renewal.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:40:42 in reply to Comment 95201

One can only do so much in a single article. For what it's worth, RTH recently published an article about Ottawa Street that extols the street's many hard-won charms. As for the inevitability of Locke Street's success, I lived on Locke in the mid-1990s and it was a much different place then. I've written about it in more detail, but Locke was a street in serious decline that has since turned around due to a combination of traffic calming, coordinated reinvestment and community engagement.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-11-27 17:41:44

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 18:58:20 in reply to Comment 95205

Locke was in downright rough shape for many years and became known as a biker hangout. It's a much better street now than it was in the 80s until early 2000's.
Ottawa is also fantastic, with a different vibe. Ole Gourmet and a retro cafe/all-day breakfast diner are about to open on Ottawa St. Hoping for great success there. I was on Parkdale and Kenilworth yesterday and see gobs of potential on those streets too. First off, we need to lose the live curb lane and build permanent parking bumpouts with trees and gardens on both sides. There also appeared to be space for bike lanes between the parking and live centre lane. Remove parking restrictions for development and encourage mixed-use, artists lofts, affordable apartments and condos and I think those streets could resemble Queen East Leslieville in TO or various urban retail hoods through Portland.

Permalink | Context

By Biker haven lol (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 20:14:21 in reply to Comment 95215

Locke street was never a biker haven and it has never been run down. A few of the buildings may have gotten a little tired over the years, but Locke has always been a nice commercial area.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 19:17:13 in reply to Comment 95215

won't let me edit, so here is the rest:

Portland decided years ago to focus revitalization efforts in an incremental manner emphasizing walkability and easy curb-side parking on streets with low slung buildings in various states of repair such as Kenilworth, Parkdale etc.... Have a look: http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/news/20...

Have a look through these many mini-galleries of Portland walk-up neighbourhoods. This could be the future of Dundurn, Parkdale, Kenilworth, Barton, and stretches of Cannon such as between Ottawa and Gage and from Ferguson to Bay.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neighborhoo...

Even little micro-hoods could develop such as this block of retail/infill potential on Melvin adjacent to Parkdale: http://goo.gl/maps/ryFfA

Or this node on Sherman, just north of Barton: http://goo.gl/maps/E8UfF

We've sacrificed all of these former walk-up areas for the privilege of high speed car traffic. Yet, stable dense residential hoods abound all around these streets. Folks would love to have pharmacies, cafes, fruit stands, butchers and mini-grocers to walk to instead of having to drive or take long bus rides to big box grocery stores on the far ends of the city.

My absolute favourite stretch in Hamilton just ripe for a road diet, trees, 24-7 parking and ample bike parking is Cannon between Ottawa and Gage: http://goo.gl/maps/IJrm7

Ranko's Deli is there, Crash Landing, China City at Gage, and a great collection of small storefronts and neighbourhood retail potential all the way from Gage to Ottawa. "Stroll" the street from here at Gage, to Ottawa and look at the incredible potential for neighbourhood amenities and improved quality of life similar to all of those photo galleries from Portland: http://goo.gl/maps/W2ypz

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By brodiec (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:45:18

Remember stuff like Light Computer and the Computer Trade In Post on Locke St? Sorry to be unfashionable but I guess I liked Locke St. in the 90s when it was "desperate" and not selling $30 bars of soap. I guess not all of us have the same definition of "desperate".

Permalink | Context

By bougoise (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 23:08:12 in reply to Comment 95206

This is rich, the master of hating anyone who has a paycheque and god forbid they spend it in downtown Hamilton is lamenting the loss of an Apple computer store!?

Permalink | Context

By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 20:20:42 in reply to Comment 95206

I would give up every cafe and salon on Locke if it would bring back Edible Roots and Ron's Big Easy.

... and yeah, R.I.P. Light Computer, a Locke South pioneer and quiet practitioner of adaptive reuse.

http://www.marketnews.ca/content/index/page?pid=11537

Shame that there isn't enough market demand for an independent Apple dealer in the lower city these days.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 18:54:18 in reply to Comment 95206

Don't look, but $30 bars of soap are for sale now on James N too. Times have changed in this town.

Permalink | Context

By brodiec (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:47:46 in reply to Comment 95206

Love Bread Bar, Locke St. Bagel and stuff too. It's just I guess not everyone is down with the modern Yorkville vibe.

Permalink | Context

By FastMan (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 09:53:32 in reply to Comment 95207

That's a bit much...I could equate Locke now to Bloor West of the mid 90s. Hamilton doesn't need a Yorkville, it has Burlington as it neighbour... :P

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Go Go (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:50:35

Too expensive.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 22:39:09

Locke street with its small scale stores to survive should sell unique staff that big boxes do not sell. When you need some presents/gifts/cakes/cookies etc or original made in Canada things. Those things cannot be cheap. But you pay for something special and unique because there is just as much of them.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 22:53:09

Do Locke Street merchants own their buildings, or are they subject to the whims of landlords? Queen St. West in Toronto became overly corporate very quickly, when independent merchants could not manage large increases in rent.

Interesting that Starbucks is now in Jackson Square. Presumably the arrival of NationsFresh is pulling in the middle-class customers of interest to Starbucks.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By krist (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 00:26:47

Locke Street has what very well could be Hamilton's greatest piece of public art; the walking poetry that is embedded into the sidewalk's concrete. When I was a newcomer to the city, I was lucky in that someone told me that a stroll down the street was a great date, and we spent most of the time staring at our feet reading, rushing to the next plaque. Johnny's cafe is probably my favourite low-key place to relax in the neighbourhood today, and it doesn't get nearly enough credit for the great little business that it is.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By hshields (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 11:45:15

An interesting article but it begs the question what next? Merchants will make business decisions on whether to stay on Locke or move in if they haven't already. What can the City do to facilitate that continued growth? The two things that pop to mind are: a) utility and telephone service ought to be buried when re-surfacing of Locke takes place; and b) parking/cycling/bus attraction. I know Councillor McHattie has been working quietly on the parking issue but that is just one issue that is tied closely to the others. If you want to attract pedestrian traffic you have to make the walkways pedestrian friendly. The crosswalks are a great quick win - let's not stop with that good first step.

Permalink | Context

By begs the question is a logical fallacy (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 12:24:19 in reply to Comment 95250

Can everyone please stop using the term "begs the question"? It doesn't mean "raises the question". If you want to say "raises the question", just say it. If you aren't sure if "begs the question" is correct in any given circumstance, chances are VERY HIGH that it is NOT the correct use. So it's easier to just never use it. Unless you are a logician - or you want to sound pompous (and wrong).

http://begthequestion.info/

Permalink | Context

By beggary (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:53:30 in reply to Comment 95252

"While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight."

Think I'm on the other side of this fight. Usage trumps logic.

Permalink | Context

By DELINEATE (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 22:09:40 in reply to Comment 95258

"I heard a smart person use a phrase once and I don't know what it means but I'm going to use it anyways because I want to sound smart too!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrJYpActs7g

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:58:05 in reply to Comment 95258

Except for the "literally means not-literally" thing. That's just wrong.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:28:16 in reply to Comment 95259

Ironically, literally has been used to mean not literally for hundreds of years. It's not a recent invention.

Permalink | Context

By figuratively speaking (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 22:05:52 in reply to Comment 95265

The only way to make literally sound worse is when it's pronounced "li-tra-lee", which literally makes my ears bleed. Figuratively.

Another word we could just do without. There is literally no circumstance where it's absolutely necessary to use the word literally.

Permalink | Context

By samsonite (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 23:35:50 in reply to Comment 95277

it must be awful to have a conversation with you

Permalink | Context

By s.o.h (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:20:43 in reply to Comment 95282

It's only awful for those who have no sense of humour

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:30:38 in reply to Comment 95252

The correct usage of "begs the question" is one of the most self-contradicting quirks of the English language since the difference between "flammable" and "inflammable". If the dictionary can redefine "literally" as "figuratively" and "because [noun]", then I'm gonna take "begs the question" to mean "raises the question" because sense.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-11-28 13:31:00

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:25:37 in reply to Comment 95254

"Begging the question" is a specific phrase in philosophy. It refers to the circularity of an argument and is loosely translated from the Latin petitio principii, i.e. the conclusion assumes the premise.

For a canonical example, it is begging the question to argue that the Bible proves God exists because it says God exists, and we should believe what the Bible says because it was written by God.

I'm rather pedantic and I don't like the widespread use of "begs the question" to mean "raises the question", but it's not a mountain I'm prepared to die on. Living languages change over time.

Permalink | Context

By ya but (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 22:01:25 in reply to Comment 95262

We already have a phrase for "raises the question". It's "raises the question". It was not so bad in the old days when people used phrases they didn't understand because it was not so easy to find out the true meanings, but really, we have the internet now and it takes 12 seconds to find out that this usage is wrong. Not knowing the difference is forgivable... once. I used to use it, too, before it was so easy to look such things up. Continuing incorrect usage - especially on an internet forum where google is "literally" one click away - betrays one's laziness.

Permalink | Context

By because noun (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:48:41 in reply to Comment 95254

can we stop using "because " too? I know it's officially allowed now but it sounds like a cheese grater going to work on the eardrums. It begs the question: Because why?

Permalink | Context

By because because (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:49:33 in reply to Comment 95255

i meant "because (noun)"

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:26:39 in reply to Comment 95256

Permalink | Context

By snore (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 22:02:20 in reply to Comment 95263

Because lazy

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted November 29, 2013 at 01:56:06

Just the beginning folks... Developments of 101 Locke and Pearl Street bridge on the brink, lets not forget a new coffee house in the church. We are just getting started.

Comment edited by PearlStreet on 2013-11-29 01:56:26

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Who wrote this caption? (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2013 at 23:18:15

>>Starbucks only moves into markets that can support an upscale coffee shop (RTH file photo)

So why, pray tell, is one opening in Jackson Square then?

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 30, 2013 at 11:49:10 in reply to Comment 95333

I wrote that caption. A Starbucks is opening in Jackson Square because the market conditions now warrant it. Related article.

Permalink | Context

By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted November 30, 2013 at 09:47:34 in reply to Comment 95333

NationsFresh in J Square is attracting people that Starbucks wants as customers.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted November 30, 2013 at 10:57:04 in reply to Comment 95353

Based on behind the scenes convos, Starbucks has been eyeing a JS spot long before Nations arrived. There's 20,000 office workers within spitting distance of the Sheraton, along with a very young college/university crowd. Nations is just one of a long series of investments and improvements in that area that is leading to new retailers and groups like Starbucks wanting to located in a downtown that 5 years ago they had no interest in. From the folks in the know that I've chatted with, the 20,000 office workers and upcoming Mac Health campus and new hotels/condos from Hess-Bay has really been the driver behind this.

Also, a Sheraton manager told me last week that along with the Starbucks, which opens on Monday, they are building a new restaurant in the lobby which will either be a sushi bar or oyster bar. They haven't yet decided.

Based on the constant crowds in Starbucks on Locke, and across from Mac and in the new Coffee Culture on King, I suspect we'll see more corporate chains arriving downtown. Those 3 coffee shops are always busy, day and night. I've been pleasantly surprised to see how busy Coffee Culture is late in the evening, every night of the week. I suspect the same will ring true of the JS Starbucks.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-11-30 10:59:23

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted December 01, 2013 at 09:36:36

Personally I try to support an independent coffeehouse, rather than a corporate chain.

If the LCBO in J Square relocated close to the Market, in a much larger space with more products on the shelves, it would be a boon to shoppers and further boost retail spend in the area.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds