By Ryan McGreal
Published August 30, 2012
An August 27 column by Bruce Stewart published in Troy Media takes a hopeful look at Hamilton, the often-overlooked and much-maligned city on the bay.
Sketching a century of the city's history in a few brush strokes, Stewart manages to pinpoint some of our biggest urban blunders:
Hamilton's city fathers ... fell into a common trap in the 1960s and 1970s: redevelopment of the downtown core with megablock structures. Jackson Square, for instance: a shopping mall, office towers and lots of parking underground, the type of structure that kills the streets outside (and indeed the historic centre of Hamilton, King St. and James St.) by its foreboding, inward-facing structure.
Oriented toward cars and driving in and out, there was little reason to drive to downtown Hamilton. Malls in upper Hamilton would do just fine. The stores, after all, were all chains, and therefore one outlet was as good as another.
But the city's future looks brighter, and Stewart points out some of the indicators: a renaissance of artists, an influx of Toronto expats, and a steady, block-by-block revitalization of urban hot spots like James Street North.
However, there are still obstacles to further revitalization that need to be overcome:
Hamilton depends - as do many mid-sized communities - on a one-way street grid to keep traffic flowing. As Vancouver learned with its Yaletown neighbourhood, where one-way streets were converted back to two-way, you don't pick up a lot of traffic issues with the conversion, and the neighbourhood becomes far more liveable.
Two-way streets make it easier to run a better transit network, make for safer sidewalks, increase the opportunities to discover new things by increasing the number of routes. The slight slowdown in traffic pace actually increases business.
Given that Hamilton is now served by expressways, and the province no longer considers Highway 8 through downtown Hamilton a provincial route, it's time for Hamilton to consider changing its one-way streets too.
Isn't it remarkable that visitor after visitor tells us the same things about what we're doing wrong, yet our civic leaders stubbornly refuse to listen.