Revitalization

Ottawa's Byward Market Demonstrates Urban Livability

By Jason Leach
Published November 30, 2009

Over the years I've written several blogs about the sad effects of maintaining high speed truck routes through the heart of our downtown core. I've also posted several blogs outlining ideas and thoughts for developing a vibrant market district in the area of our current market and adjacent empty land north of the market which could be redeveloped and tied into James North.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll shut up and let a wonderful photographer take us on a tour of a proper market district that thrives with people and is a magnet for new residents looking for a great urban lifestyle.

Actual people, outside, at Ottawa's Byward Market
Actual people, outside, at Ottawa's Byward Market

Please note the restoration of the old building stock. Before anyone thinks that Hamilton's demolition-happy residents might be onto something when they suggest razing downtown, imagine King, James, Main, Queen, Bay and other downtown area streets being restored back to their original beauty with some well-designed modern projects mixed in.

We're spending a lot of money on York Blvd and our Market only to allow semi-trucks carrying steel coils to rumble past at will. Don't expect any nice outdoor tent/market place scenes here unless we're willing to make the basic changes necessary to create a vibrant, business-friendly downtown core.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

15 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By J Morse (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 23:46:13

The potential of the core to grow into something as good as or better than Byward Market is staggering. The first step in growing a place where people will stop and walk around is to MAKE STREETS 2-WAY. It doesn't have to cost much, the return would make it infinitely worthwhile. York, King, and Main, if converted, would set the stage for an attractive urban location. Look at James St. North, look at Locke Street. It's so obvious it hurts my brain to think that it's not being done now! What are we waiting for? Who is preventing this from happening? Don't the majority of Hamilton want to have a downtown that is a destination? All we need is to flip that switch, turn it on!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 09:12:21

"Don't the majority of Hamilton want to have a downtown that is a destination?"

Actually, the majority of Hamiltonians don't really care. In fact, many of them display a marked hostility to anything perceived to be progressive and/or urban. The thing is, most Hamiltonians don't really see themselves as city dwellers, or see Hamilton as a major city at all.

That's what's so frustrating with Hamilton: the small town mentality, but without the small town sense of being in place.

The real job in remaking Hamilton will be in reeducating the citizenry to reconceive of their city as something much grander and more meaningful than they hitherto believed it to be.

I remember reading an article in the New Yorker about Newark's new mayor Cory Booker and how he reinjected a sense of glamour into a once proud and important, but now badly faded, city. That's what Hamilton needs. Bad.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Really? (registered) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 10:38:44

Another great example was Stephen Ave in Calgary over this last weekend. Wow what a crazy place with all the Grey Cup activities!

Can't wait for 2015 Hamilton Grey Cup with the Gore Park Tiger Town District!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JM (registered) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 10:49:02

Jason.... we can only dream. >sigh<

unless you (or Ryan) become mayor!

JM

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By J Morse (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 20:39:42

"The real job in remaking Hamilton will be in reeducating the citizenry to reconceive of their city as something much grander and more meaningful than they hitherto believed it to be. "

This is true. The population at large is educated by the mainstream news media. Local TV, radio, and newspapers could change everything if they wanted to.

Hamilton has a self-image problem. No self-confidence. Cities are like people. They have to love themselves before anyone else will. The resulting confidence is attractive.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 23:00:03

All we need to do is convert the streets to two way traffic and all are troubles will fade away! WOW what an easy way out. NO NO NO the answer is to spend hundreds of millions on transit that is the easy way out! There is no easy way out! I am old enough to remember a strong and vibrant downtown. Movie theaters and restaurants with lineups of people waiting to get in. Stores doing a booming business day after day and all that with one way streets no LRT!

What would make anybody think that there is an easy fix? The deterioration of the downtown is a complex issue that is shared by many cites all over North America most of which have never even considered a one way street system. All cities have commonalities and differences. Hamilton is a very unique place built as it is on the shores of a lake with an escarpment running through the heart of it. The geography just cannot be ignored. Any plan to change the city and/or the downtown must take that into account. Hamilton is a scant hours drive away from the largest city in Canada and one of the largest in North America. As Toronto grows and gets even more expensive more and more people are living in Hamilton and many other cities and commuting to Toronto. If you want to engineer this city better take that into account too.

Urban planners have been trying to revitalize downtown cores all over with very spotty mixed results. Sometimes they get it right and lots of times they do not. If you really think that you with (I assume) little or no education in urban planning, can "fix" Hamilton by converting a few streets to two way traffic or wrecking havoc with the roadways and traffic patterns by spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a huge transit system a lot of people who spent a ton of money and years of hard work are going to be very upset.

There are no easy fixes no simple solutions. It is a very complex issue in many cities caused mostly by the changes in society slowly over many years. The "fix", if there is one, is equally complex and will take time.

Come on guys get a grip!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By J Morse (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 04:57:27

"It is a very complex issue in many cities caused mostly by the changes in society slowly over many years."

What I'm suggesting is that steering the societal changes in a more enlightened direction, through re-education, will help to kindle a renewed interest in the downtown. There may be no easy fixes, but that doesn't mean there are no steps that can be taken. It seems even the idea of wanting to take pride in the downtown is difficult to sell.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 08:38:06

It's important to remember the historic context of downtown fading away.

I've chatted with former downtown shop owners who noticed an immediate drop in income and people coming into their stores after the downtown streets were converted to one-way.

One fella mentioned to me that it took him years to put the two together because the decline was so gradual. Yet even in the first year of high speed one-ways, he said it was clear that the pedestrian realm had been compromised and folks were more comfortable zipping through on their cars instead of strolling downtown.

It took many years, decades in fact, for downtown to deteriorate. When things started getting noticeable, many downtown shopkeepers blamed Jackson Square which was booming.
But having a larger view of history now, those shopowners realize that it was the damaged public realm and the conversion of downtowns main streets from a place that was enjoyable and comfortable to a place that was only for cars. The rather quick demise of Jackson Square further validates this point - less people downtown= bad news whether your shop is on the street or in the mall.

More people downtown will = more shops on the street and in the mall.
That's where two-way conversion and LRT come into play. Both are extremely huge changes that will help to make downtown more people friendly again, along with streetscape projects like York Blvd and Hess Village and better pedestrian spaces like the forecourt of the new farmers market and Gore Park.

There is no magic bullet, rather the cumulative effects of many good changes, big and small.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 09:53:16

The problem with your whole argument is it contradicts itself. Downtown was bustling and busy that is why Jackson Square was built where it was. Downtown's demise has nothing to do with one way streets. If that were the case then Hamilton would be the only city with a deteriorated core. Instead it is one of many most of which have two way streets. Society has changed what people want has changed where people live has changed. Thirty years ago Stelco workers I knew lived on James North, Ferrie Street and Wentworth Street. Now the Steelworkers I know live off Upper Wellington, Upper Gage and in Winona. Though they are different people it is indicative of what has hapin pened. Look at the size of houses built in the fifties and compare that to the size of most new houses today. Our expectations have changed radically.

Hamilton's downtown bustled and grew with one way streets. Changes in society as a whole have lead to many cores falling on hard times. The problem is not the street direction but the cores failure to meet the needs of the populace.

Another example of this phenomenon is our malls. For some number of years the number of malls increased dramatically. Eastgate Square, Limeridge, Stone Road ( in Guelph) Square One (Mississauga) just to name a few. Now malls are not being built. Not just here but all over North America. The current trend is to build Power Centers. This to shall pass and some other style will take its place. Nothing to do with one way streets, everything to do with the demands of the populace and the merchants.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By renew this (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 10:45:07

"Downtown was bustling and busy that is why Jackson Square was built where it was." No, Jackson Square was built there as part of "downtown renewal" in the '70s and '80s by people who wanted to fix up the downtown but had no idea how a city is supposed to work. As a result they made the problem much worse, but it was already a problem, that's what they were trying to fix.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 21:17:33

Jackson Square was opened in the very early seventies. It was a product of the late sixties, a time when the core was a very bustling place even with, or, maybe because of the one way streets. It did well enough that the Eaton Centre was constructed a few years later just in time for the big turn around. I walked along King and Barton and James Streets many an hour. Life is different now get over it. I understand being nostalgic about a different time but ...

I do not remember when the streets were converted to one way but it was quite a while before the late sixties early seventies. Have you driven James South lately? Have you walked there? I drive it almost every day to get up the hill what a disaster it is. Two way street has resulted in cars racing from light to light. Pedestrians crossing when traffic is coming from one direction or the other because there is never a lull. I know you hate the green wave but remember between every green wave was a red wave which stopped virtually all traffic. It is ok to not like one way streets, many people never can get the hang of them and it drives them crazy. (my mom was one)Just do not turn them into something they are not. Address the issue for what it is. If traffic speed is the issue there is no better way to control speed than one way streets. Simply set the green wave for whatever speed the populace wants. Pretty easy is it not? Lets put it to a referendum and see what the people of the city want. I will happily live with whatever the majority decides. After all the city is for everyone is it not? What speed do you think would be the most popular? 25KPH? 30? 35? ...
(no a poll on this blogging site does not count it would not get a valid cross section of the populace)

It is not a problem of one way streets it is a problem that peoples needs are being met in different ways in different places. Look at Hess St how it has developed itself. It was a one way street still is did not stop it from becoming a destination. I am just glad it is not in my neighbourhood.











Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 23:33:25

perhaps we need to do this:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog.asp?i...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2009 at 22:41:16

I understand that this is supposed to be sarcasm but converting the major streets to one way has a lot of merit. Mohawk is 4 lanes make it 3 lanes eastbound and use the extra lane for bikes. Same for Fennel in the opposite direction. Upper James and Wellington seem like ideal candidates for a north south pairing. Stretches of Upper James sure could benefit from a conversion. Probably do wonders for all the stores and restaurants that can be a real pain to get to.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By birdie (registered) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 08:16:37

I understand that this is supposed to be sarcasm but converting the major streets to one way has a lot of merit.

Yeah, because that works.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By cool replica Roger Dubuis watch (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2011 at 05:00:40

nice-cool replica Roger Dubuis watch

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