Comment 83769

By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 02:19:55

While I disagree with the idea that downtown is not a neighbourhood, Terry makes a good point in that downtown must serve the needs of the whole city. That's something we can all agree on. I often make the point that it's in everyone's interest to have a well performing downtown. At least we can agree on that. The real issue here isn't the semantics of whether someone considers downtown a neighbourhood, but the importance of residential within that downtown to its success.

I wrote the following to Terry Whitehead:

Hi Terry, I'm an active and engaged citizen and business owner in downtown Hamilton and I'd like to address some of your recent comments regarding the purpose of our downtown core.

You said that the downtown must serve the needs of the whole city, in terms of commercial uses, employment and entertainment, to which I agree. It is in the interest of all of greater Hamilton to have a successful downtown, especially for those who work there or enjoy its restaurants and entertainment facilities.

What I think you are missing is the importance of a strong residential component to downtown development. Not only can residential coexist with commercial and entertainment uses, it is vitally important to the success of those amenities which the rest of the city also enjoys. Any downtown has historically been mixed use, from the apartments above storefronts to the condo towers of recent times. This serves an important role in downtown life - to economically support various businesses outside of business hours, and to provide safety by means of more eyes on the street.

In a successful downtown, real estate values are above average as people will pay a premium for the advantages of proximity and walkability. Thus, in addition to higher taxes being paid by commercial property owners, downtown residential development performs better economically per unit area than its suburban equivalent.

Safety is also less of an issue in a diverse and healthy downtown as there are more people keeping watch. The residents feel a sense of ownership and crimes are more likely to be reported. On the other hand, if there are few residents, the streets will be empty after 6pm. People will feel much safer walking back to their car if the streets are alive and lights are on in the buildings. The perception of safety is a large factor in whether people will visit downtown.

These facts have long been known to Hamilton planners and councillors, and that is why our Council mandated planning guidelines have been crafted to encourage and incentivize residential development both within the central business district and the surrounding neighbourhoods. Millions of dollars have been allocated to the downtown residential loans program to make the inner city more palatable to developers. The Downtown Transportation Master Plan, 'Putting People First', emphasizes the importance of livability in transportation planning. The Urban Official Plan stresses the importance of quality residential neighbourhoods.

I live in the Central neighbourhood of Ward 2, and my street has been featured in one of the many national newspaper articles documenting the growing appeal of Hamilton amongst more affluent GTHA communities. We enjoy being within walking distance to all downtown has to offer, such as the Farmers Market, Hamilton Place and Copps Coliseum. Facilities such as those of course help downtown serve the needs of the entire city, but also increase the desirability of downtown living.

Many residents and business owners downtown feel that a casino, unlike a hockey arena, theatre or office building, will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of residents downtown, and by extension, on the vitality of other existing amenities here which serve not only our neighbourhoods, but the entire city.

Thank you for reading, and I hope I've been able to better explain the concerns of those living in and around downtown.

Sincerely, Jonathan Dalton

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