I've been in cities as diverse as Capetown, Bogota, Veracruz, Montreal and Portland and always end up bemoaning the lack of patios in Hamilton compared to those cities.
By Jason Leach
Published April 06, 2010
In an otherwise upbeat Spectator article on the economic improvements in local business districts since 2002, I came across this gem:
Joe Catanzano, owner of Jimmy Gringo's Burrito Factory in Westdale, says he decided to locate there about 18 months ago even before knowing McMaster University was nearby.
"We love the village and we love being here but it's tough to run a business here."
He said he and his business partner have been repeatedly frustrated by city officials as they try to get licences for an outdoor patio and to serve liquor.
"We almost have to close our doors ... everybody says the city should be supporting you but nobody here wants another Hess Village."
Hamilton's annoying new NIMBY rallying cry: We don't want another Hess Village.
So now anytime someone proposes an outdoor patio, it's automatically equated with Hess Village?
I've been in cities as diverse as Capetown, Bogota, Veracruz, Montreal and Portland and always end up bemoaning the lack of patios in Hamilton compared to those cities.
Even if there's just room for two small bistro sets with a total of four chairs out front, they do it in those cities.
I remember sitting outside in Bogota thinking, "even a city in Colombia with a bad rap is totally kicking our butt".
Hamilton is so out of touch and so closed for 21st Century business it's not even funny.
Perhaps someone needs to tell the folks at City Hall there's a reason why patios on Augusta and Hess are jammed anytime it's nice out - the lack of options elsewhere!
We live in Canada. The second it gets sunny and warm, we want a patio to sit on.
It may seem like a small issue, but it's just one more indicator of how far behind we are and how very little chance we have of succeeding in the 21st century where cities are going to be magnets due to the fun, vibrant, cultured, green (I'm talking about literal green, tree-filled cities here, not hybrid Hummer 'green') people-friendly, enjoyable neighbourhoods they provide.
Not by how many Wal-Marts they can cram into a square kilometer or how many small patios they can shut down due to NIMBYism.
From where would you like to live within a five-minute walk to unwind on Saturday morning?
Montreal, McGill College Avenue (image source: Flickr)
Cafe, Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal (image source: Flickr)
Main Street traffic tunnel (RTH file photo)
By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 12:24:48
No kidding how come we can't have nice stuff :)
I love sitting on a patio but all the ones I know of face a parking lot or a busy nasty street. I can't breathe the air at street level it physically hurts due to the number of diesel vehicles going by. One of the nicest things about visiting other cities is sitting at a NICE patio, chatting with locals, getting a small and sadly temporary taste of what I wish life was like here. But as much as I'd like to leave I'd prefer to see this city improve as well.
By Anders (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 13:50:22
I agree 100%. Canada's liquor laws and attitudes towards public drinking are insane. That we can't take a bottle of wine to a park on a sunny day just kills me.
By JM (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 13:59:33
It looks like the new Milestones restaurant up at the Red Hill and the Linc (Heritage Greene) in Stoney Creek is building a patio.... looks pretty close to the Kelseys patio across the parking lot.
Someone better complain before THAT becomes another Hess Village!
By Lucers (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 15:12:56
We were walking down King William the other day and noticing the sidewalks are amply wide enough for patios in front of all the restaurants, but I've only ever seen one at Sky Dragon. It's just silly.
By MarkWhittle (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2010 at 15:40:15
Welcome to Hamilton, downtown red-tape we got. Up here on the mountain, booze drenched patio's abound, free parking too, just so you know. Sunshine is also free, no matter where you grab it. City policy is the architect of the downtown's demise, that's obvious.
By g. (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 16:59:35
i envy all of you the luxury of not knowing the dark side of outdoor patios when located near to residential areas. they can work well and be frequented by quiet respectful patrons and run by conscientious management BUT they can also be a nightmare for people trying to sleep. people talking loudly at night outside your home is unbelievably annoying. people yelling and partying is beyond intolerable.
with not an ounce of hyperbole i say, i wouldn't wish a bar patio locating next door on my worst enemy.
the rights of homeowners to enjoy their homes should not be trumped by a businesspersons desire to make money. i ask any of you, would you want a 25 person patio next door to your home or in your backyard? then think about the people who do. i can guarantee that joe catanzano does not live above his establishment. would you live in hess village?
i envy all of you your innocence.
By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 18:43:25
I think one point of Jason's above piece is precisely that we should not be thinking of "Hess Village" every time someone proposes a restaurant patio. That Hamiltonian residents and city administrators have such difficulty conceiving of a middle ground between a deserted highway arterial and a free-for-all (albeit a worthwhile one) like the Village is obvious.
A more pragmatic approach would be to allow patios in neighborhoods like Westdale, but have bylaws that ensure they're closed by 11pm, after which patrons can simply move inside. I would have no problem living beside or above such a place - provided the patio was non-smoking, of course.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 18:49:16
not only would I not mind living next to a patio, I wish I did! I'd take that anyday of the week over the roaring trucks of York St. And like Geoff says, bylaws and a foreign thing called enforcement could be used to ensure that patios are closed by 11 and that unruly behaviour is dealt with. There's no reason we can't find a middle ground in this city instead of everything being dead as a doorknob, except of course the screaming of air brakes and rumbling 18 wheelers doing 70km 24 hours a day through dead, deserted streets.
By me (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 21:41:39
When I lived in hamilton, I was nowhere near hess village. I wish I was.
Instead I was woken up by fights on my lawn every thursday, friday and saturday night, and occasionally during the week. They usually involved large groups of people with what looked like pipes, but twice I was able to watch teenage thugs beating their girlfriends on the hood of my car. I got to enjoy prostitutes screaming, glass being smashed and people street racing EVERY NIGHT. People spray painted the side of my house many times, cut my cable, drove over my shrubs, stole my lawmover and littered all over my lawn. I put up a fence to try to keep people from dumping garbage bags again the back of my house, but instead they just threw it over the house. Eventually someone drove through the fence, then stole the lumber. Also, I am a little guy, shooing away crackies and hookers using my front porch as a taxi stand/toilet all the time wasn't fun. On one very special occasion there were actually people trying to smash down my front door while my girlfriend was on the phone with the police. That lasted for more than 5 minutes before she could get to the phone, and then a few more after she made the call. I actually slept holding a hammer every night.
We had to call the police at least every week and sometimes as many as three times. And what sucks is that every single time the police came, I could hear the sirens minutes before they arrived. With all the alleyways and backyards, the bad guys were gone long before the police arrived. Even then they would just drive by the house and leave. Why give the bad guys such advance warning?
Anyways, my point is, that if there were bars and patios in my area, at least they would be regulated and patrolled by police/security. There would be more people in the area at night, and it would be harder for idiots to get away with the crap I have had to deal with. Dealing with noise on occasion is far better than feeling trapped in your house after 6 PM.
I lasted a year in Hamilton.
By oops (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 21:43:20
they threw garbage over the fence, not the house. I am tired
By jason (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 21:54:39
sounds like you lived in quite the spot. I presume somewhere near the Barton area?
Obviously not all of Hamilton is that bad, but you're right. There is NOBODY around. The streets are empty and dead. Idiots can get away with whatever they want because there is nobody around to notice.
Rolly Rockets recently opened in our neighbourhood. They installed a sliding door facing Locke so I'm holding out hope for a nice patio there. People would literally have to be screaming to be heard over all the speeding trucks and traffic.
Keep on truckin' Hamilton.
By me again (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 22:14:13
You are right, it was near Barton. But just because it is a lower income area doesn't mean that anyone should have to deal with that.
And I know that not all of Hamilton is like that. Just the affordable parts. Although If I could afford to pay for a house on the mountain, I would have chosen a different city all together. One that has something more to offer than Walmarts and abandoned storefronts. Young families move to Hamilton because it is affordable. Then they get the hell out as soon as possible.
And I am not trying to bash Hamilton, I think it has great potential for the future. But I think there are bigger issues than noise complaints and public urination. Let them open patios, bars, stores, .... anything. Anything at all that can change the city of parking lots and empty buildings into a real community and help give the people even the slightest bit of respect for the city that they are a part of and live in. Maybe then they will stop disrespecting themselves and other by shitting on my lawn.
By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 22:33:17
The downtown patios that immediately spring to mind -- Waltz, Honest Lawyer, Al Centro, Fingers, Chesters and Embassy -- set the bar low enough in terms of vibe and local wildlife that they seem more like a land grab than an amenity. (The clientele is often unappealing enough sitting on a sidewalk in broad daylight, to say nothing of how they hold up under the bald glare of streetlamps.) Skydragon is not much better, sadly. Newbies Cottage Life have a lot of real estate but few takers (this crimp in funding may be the reason they can't afford to put signage on the south face of their building), Black Forest Inn is intermittently busy and generally more civilized, and La Cantina probably rates highest but I'm sure many would consider it the patio equivalent of a gated community.
As far as the resistance encountered by insurgents like Rolly Rockets and Jimmy Gringo's, branding your establishment like it's geared to the Jackass demographic could be partly to blame. If it was a tearoom or raw food bistro looking for a little legroom, I doubt anyone would kick up a fuss. The most perfunctory market research into the Westdale ecosystem would've identified not just the presence of a transient student population, but also local landowners' sentiments about student-friendly establishments. But then those two factors -- irrational exuberance from entrepreneurs and intolerance from the local residents could be why a prosperous neighbourhood has such a rich history of revolving doors.
By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 22:48:45
Who wants to sit outside next to a 1-way street optimized for speeding traffic?
By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 22:50:04
Not to mention Hamilton is over 600,000 people and yet downtown sidewalks are barely wide enough for two friends to walk side-by-side!
By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 23:17:26
I think ali G. has raised a good point - these places is well annoying! I used to live in a condo near square one. Sounds carries very well from these places. On the 10th floor, we could hear conversations, arguments, and fights well past last call at 2:00 am from the bar below us. Let's face it, Hess village is now a club district, which makes the patios of Augusta St. more of a destination for people who want to enjoy nice things without dealing with inflated prices and some immature behaviours. I'm ok with the way things have changed. Hess Village serves a different niche than it used to when it had quaint patios. However, it should be allowed to grow in a sustainable way. Allowing that hideous box stucco called RokBar to be built was a FAIL by whovever approved it. Personally, I think Hess Village is not that different from Crescent St. in Montreal. I wouldn't bother with either of them these days. I would head for something more subtle like James St.or Augusta, or if I'm in the beautiful Montreal, perhaps the patios of St. Laurent St. But getting to the point about Gringos, I don't think there is a lot of room there for a patio. You're basically talking about a residential street. It would be nice to see, but I wouldn't blame the owners on that street a bit if they objected.
By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 23:36:32
I also live in Westdale. I don't think Mac students are idiots -just lazy. They are just reflecting our own values as a community. Most Mac students have little investment in Hamilton because it is largely a GTA commuter school. Most Mac students don't leave the immediate vicinity of the school because they have the perception that there is little value in anything beyond campus. Many of them have told me it is scary. Are they being overly dramatic -yes, but when we don't go there ourselves, can we really blame them? Many born and raised Hamiltonians are the true haters in this town. They would rather head to the toronto suburbs for entertainment. That's ridiculous. They need to open their eyes, enjoy life, and stop driving away from this town just to feel like they have arrived.
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By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 08:28:53
adam2: "Not to mention Hamilton is over 600,000 people and yet downtown sidewalks are barely wide enough for two friends to walk side-by-side!"
On top of which, any attractive patio example I can think of doesn't involve the establishment annexing all but a four-foot wide sliver of sidewalk, something that's taken as a given in Hamilton. Consider Hess. When the street was narrowed, the patios nudged further out. Look at the example of McGill College Ave: the setback allows them to preserve the boulevard dynamic, which in turn creates an air of ease and simple luxury. Contrast that to the mercifully departed Joe Buttinsky's patio just east of King and John, which treated drivers to a view of a maxed-out petting zoo for hustlers and hard luck cases (along with the neighbouring billiards hall and the strip joint, not exactly a Tourism Hamilton campaign... and they actually used to be located just a few doors east!), and forced pedestrians to cut an even wider berth around the place. Even Burlington's Lakeshore patios are generally pushed right to the curb.
And yeah, Gringo's is stuck in the last commercial space on a residential street. Forget Hess Village, they have less patio-ready real estate than Hess Variety.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 08:53:18
glass half full, in most cities you may be right, but don't forget - a crepe cafe wanted a patio to serve wine on and received a huge fuss from neighbours on Locke. This city is pure NIMBY and city hall appears to be led around by the nose by the few loud NIMBY's who run everything.
Patios interspersed here and there make a city a wonderful, fun place to live. I recall a quiet residential street in Capetown with views over the ocean that had 2 or 3 small commercial buildings on one side with patios out front covered in trees and flowers. It was an amazing place for all the local residents to stroll to in the morning for a coffee and read the paper. We went for dinner one day and I made the point to our party that you would NEVER see this at home. This was nowhere near downtown. Just a quiet, rather well off street with homes and views that most of us would die for. Shockingly, their few patios with a cafe, italian restaurant and internet cafe hadn't yet become Hess Village. Who knew it was possible!?
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 09:21:41
Mr. Meister with all due respect. One of the reasons Hamilton is in the shape it's in, is due to people having this 'good enough' attitude. I love Hamilton. That's why I live here. I see a ton of potential just like everyone else. The fact is, in order to reach that potential we are going to have to change some things about how we function and how we think. I don't want to live somewhere else. I want to see Hamilton stop lagging behind like some losertown and instead become the great city I know we can be. To suggest that learning from other cities who can teach us a thing or two is 'bashing Hamilton' is a stretch.
We are in the predicament that we find ourselves in as a city due to that exact attitude. Don't allow your leaders and elected officials off the hook by simply caving into the "everything is fine" mentality. Show them better examples of more exciting cities and demand that they get off their duffs and bring momentum and change to our own city. The status quo simply isn't working.
By TD (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 09:36:26
I hope Rolly Rocket's doesn't get a patio license. I'm all in favour of patios, don't get me wrong, but that place is disgusting. On a hot summer day the pork smell rolling out of it is going to be intolerable. Nothing wrong with a barbecue joint -- but does it have to be porcine-themed, with picnic tables? It's already an eyesore, don't take it outside.
Mr. Meister: There's nothing wrong with taking lessons from other cities. Anyone who really cares about Hamilton should be able to admit it has faults. I've been to Bogota too and was struck by the many similarities it has to our fair city, as well as the advantages (far superior public transportation) and disadvantages (far more dangerous). Why do we still live in Hamilton? Because we give a shit about it. And if you think this city is perfect, you obviously don't.
By synxer (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 09:42:40
Not completely related (I have no place to post snippets like this...Ryan), but nice to see nonetheless: http://gallery.me.com/ntomkin/100033/web
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 09:55:54
synxer, post that in the Hamilton Grand entry I just posted. Nice find!
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 10:29:38
Who wants to sit outside next to a 1-way street optimized for speeding traffic? - adam2
I'm not disagreeing in the context of Hamilton adam2, but they do it in Brisbane, Sydney and Singapore too. Three plus lane, one way streets and even expressways run through their downtowns and they are amazingly vibrant and beautiful places. But they also have: patios, green spaces, trees, parks, pedestrian malls, landscape architecture, etc.. and have worked to incorporate everything together.
A perfect example is in Sydney, to get to Darling Harbour in Sydney (a major tourist attraction) you have to walk right under the Sydney equivalent of the Gardner Expressway but because of the thought put in to how the expressway fits into the environment and the landscape architecture, you hardly even notice it.
I think it has less to do with how many lanes and what direction traffic is going than it does with what the surrounding landscape and streetscape looks like. We'd be better off improving what Main, King, Wilson and Cannon look like. Just changing the direction and/or flow of traffic isn't going to help the fact that they are ugly streets no matter what way traffic is going. To start I would reduce them to 3 lanes wherever possible in order to extend the sidewalks, plant some trees and improve the streetscape.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 10:33:17
design is certainly a huge factor here, but also keep in mind that huge cities need more lanes and one-ways. NYC if filled with them, but like your description of Sydney, it has patios, pedestrian streets, gardens, walkways, bike lanes etc.....
Hamilton is a very small city on a world scale, yet we have this NYC style road network downtown without all of the good stuff - patios, pedestrians streets, good transit etc......
By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 10:39:32
I have gone to Rolly Rickets, have not tried the food yet, but I am not so impressed with the atmosphere. The staff have been very friendly and helpful, they had a very good band playing there a week or so ago. Anyways, it would be nice though to have a small patio, where one could sit outside and have a beer or two.
By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 07, 2010 at 10:49:54
I live close enough to a bar that I can hear live music and loud conversations whenever it gets busy.
But guess what - I'm a big boy, and I realise that I chose to live near downtown in a city of over half a million people, so instead of whining about it, I deal with the disturbance on a case-by-case basis.
If I need to remove myself from the kerfuffle, I close my window (even if it's a bit hot out), put a fan on or my own music, and deal with it like an adult.
If it's really extreme, I could call bylaw enforcement but it has never come to that.
Rather than trying to keep patios from opening, those who may be affected by them should be approaching it from an enforcement standpoint - fight for stronger enforcement and higher fines for non-compliance.
Forcing patio owners to control their patrons is a much better approach for the city as a whole than trying to shut patios down.
More patios -> more eyes on the streets + more paying customers -> more viable businesses opening -> more attraction of incoming residents -> more benefits for everyone
Comment edited by seancb on 2010-04-07 09:51:38
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 10:50:01
the food is amazing there. true southern food.
If you look at their website they are purposefully going with a southern BBQ joint feel. Personally, I love it. We've become too trained to expect everything to be a boring shade of brown like Kelseys or Starbucks with the same furniture and music playing.
The owners are amazing and really friendly. A patio right there by the park would be awesome. As they call it on their website, the decor is 'hillbilly chic'.
They also have WiFi now and will eventually expand into breakfast and coffee menus.
Do try the food. It's great.
I live in Westdale and have long bemoaned the lack of a patio on which to enjoy a beer and a bit to eat on a sunny evening. Jimmy Gringos - where one can get a fine, filling burrito-like sandwhich - has at least three things going against it ...
it is next door to and across from several houses
a licensed patio would be a potential draw for noisy students*
the restaurant has not shown itself to be a good neighbour so far - tire tracks on a neighbours lawn, garbage, no thought to aesthetics - and has generated no good will with its neighbours (I am not one of them)
I would really, really love to see the sidewalks made wider in front of the business at the centre of the Westdale oval: imagine 1010 Bisto, The Bean Bar, The Snooty Fox and Montefort's each with a little patio ...
By TD (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 11:22:12
I hate boring, and I won't step inside a Kelsey's. Rolly Rockets, though... maybe it's just that the last time I walked by there was pork vomit all over the sidewalk, in huge quantity. And the picnic tables. It could also be that I live really close and wanted a nice restaurant/bar and I got a place that specializes in my least favourite edible animal. Who knows? It just ain't for me.
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 11:38:49
design is certainly a huge factor here, but also keep in mind that huge cities need more lanes and one-ways. - Jason
Brisbane is hardly a "huge" city, but if you want a more comparable city in terms of population look at San Francisco. There are ~700K people and they have multilane one ways and even an expressway right through downtown. Yet it is regarded as one of the more beautiful cities in the world.
I read a lot of complaints about the "multilane one way expressways" on here claiming they're a big problem with the core… simply because they are one way and carry cars I guess? But we are no different in this way than many other cities I have been too and I don't see it being as big of a deal anywhere else as it is made to be here. Frankly some of the multilane one way streets I have walked down in other cities are vibrant stretches of pedestrian and even bike friendly roadway. The number of lanes and direction of traffic flow is a red herring. An ugly stretch of road is an ugly stretch of road, that is the problem we have.
I do agree our multilane one ways are overkill for a city this size that's why I would like us to lose (and believe we can lose) one lane on each of the 4 lane one way stretches in order to provide the type of streetscapes I have seen in those cities.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 13:30:43
moylek, westdale could be so great and so inviting, but instead it's a big parking lot. Hence, I never go there.
By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 14:21:42
I share Jason's sentiment, though I did frequent the Snooty Fox on occasion because of their decent tap selection. Otherwise, I too was put off by the parking lot frontage and lack of sidewalk connectivity.
I should add, however, that it was an easier neighborhood to cycle through than anything in the lower city.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 16:29:46
westdale could be amazing. other cities would kill to have an old streetcar neighbourhood with it's wide blvd and ample space for people.
But in Hamilton we waste all of that space as parking lots. Just one more frustration about this city in my humble opinion.
The 'curb' lanes of King St are never used through there. Turn them into angled parking, push back the flower beds to make room for the angled parking and use the rest of the space between the flower gardens and restaurants as patios, fountains, trees, gardens etc.... it could be the most stunning setting for outdoor dining in the city.
By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 18:19:11
jason: "westdale could be amazing. other cities would kill to have an old streetcar neighbourhood with it's wide blvd and ample space for people. But in Hamilton we waste all of that space as parking lots."
Thumbing through Bill Freeman’s Hamilton: A People's History, turn to page 132 and you'll find a vintage 1930s photo of Westdale looking east past the theatre and the general store (now Bean Bar) toward Abbott Hardware (now Second Cup). There's parking along most sidewalks -- less of it compared to now, but then there were fewer car owners back then.
While you've got that book out, hit page 62 and get a load of Deadwood-era Gore Park. Ah, the good old dirt lot days.... the pedestrian was king!
Rolly's would be a great place for a patio during the summer months. I love the installed garage door and have seen a table out there once or twice.
Keep in mind that the owners aren't rich developers - they're ordinary folks who have put everything they have on the line to do this - reno this place and change the restaurant from its former incarnation. And I've never seen vomit on that sidewalk (because I'm pretty sure they clean it up fast when it does)
TD -- As part of their budget, they built every single one of those picnic tables themselves... aesthetics aside, they function really well for the type of food it is. But for real Southern BBQ, give me the picnic tables any day anyway.
Comment edited by Meredith on 2010-04-07 17:32:19
By Westdalien (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 20:57:55
The westdale circle needs to be nuked. In order to simply walk down King, one must guard against getting run over from five directions at once. No wonder everyone just cuts through the lots.
(Hint: easy walkability fail)
By joliejeriel (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 03:17:38
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Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-04-08 06:46:51
By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 07:11:03
I guess my point being that aside from the removal of the streetcar line, Westdale's core street/parking plan (that is, inside the spiderweb) is essentially the same as it was when first developed.
By my estimate there are about 200 available parking spots in the area enclosed by North and South Oval, extending to Sterling (that includes dedicated customer-only parking, of course), 40% of which are on the ovals and a quarter of which are inside the maligned circle. The cafe extensions would remove about 10% of total parking space or 40% of Westdale's core parking.
If those numbers seem outrageous, consider that within that area you'll find two banks, a credit union, a movie theatre, a drug store, a library and a Tim Hortons. How does this parking supply stack up against a three-block stretch of James North (Cannon to Barton, say), or a six-block stretch of Locke Locke (Hunter to Herkimer), without factoring in sidestreets or the lack of comparable amenities?
Maybe Westdale seems like it has parking for a reason. Maybe the BIA is gun-shy about appearing to make the area less accessible to outsiders, or tipping the balance to more student-centric. Or maybe the business model of some of the locals requires a degree of volume. (A buddy of mine tried to see Defendor at the Westdale on Sunday, but was told that the paying audience was too small... by showtime, he was half the audience.) Although Second Cup, Dragon's Court and Saigon Asian seem to make patios work. Who knows?
By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 07:13:57
By "Westdale's core parking", I mean "the circle's parking". And by "Locke Locke" I mean Locke South. And also that it's time for a trip to MDJ.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 09:07:18
LOL. I understood you.
Speaking of MDJ, I can't wait for their James North location. They are the only reason I ever go to Westdale. It'll be awesome having a spot closer to home with space for a PATIO.
Westdale obviously likes things just the way they are. I'm just saying it could be a heck of a lot better and become one of those spots that you bring out of towners to enjoy like we do with Hess and the west harbour.
I'd have to crunch some numbers, but my idea of angled parking fronting King St would basically mean that only have the spots in the 'inner circles' would be lost - the half that directly faces the storefronts. The other half that faces King right now would remain, except would be accessed from King instead of from inside the circle.
Keep in mind, Hortons, Shoppers and Weils have a huge parking lot, and the Saigon place has a parking lot, and I think the cupcake place and the kitchen store have parking lots too.
Regardless, for whatever reason Locke seems to be taking over as the hotter destination of the two neighbourhoods. My wife and I have been noodling around on MLS lately seeing if any homes are up for sale in our area and I've found myself saying something I wouldn't have dreamt of 10 years ago -" I don't want to move to Westdale."
The north, west and south sides of downtown are where it's at IMO. From James South/Augusta/Durand/Corktown to Kirkendall/Locke South to Strathcona/Hess Village to James North/West Harbour neighbourhoods I see so much more enjoyment than if I were to move out to Westdale. Each of these downtown area neighbourhoods has it's own feel and amenities and is in close proximity to larger amenities like the Gore/Market/Library/theatres/restaurants/galleries/cultural venues etc......
It'll be interesting to see what the next 10 years brings if the downtown area can slowly revitalize.
By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 10:35:38
I tend to agree that the Westdale BIA is against anything that will increase student-centric entertainment. My opinion is based on first hand info from a business owner that unsuccesfully tried to open a college type restaurant there several years ago. Hopefully, balance will come when Stinson is successful in providing a residence for some students downtown. All these areas that Jason mentions are great. The great thing is that they are all easily accessible from each other. I love living in Westdale, but I also love riding or walking to all the other neighbourhoods for amenities that are different from what we have.
By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 21:44:25
Jason: "my idea of angled parking fronting King St would basically mean that only have the spots in the 'inner circles' would be lost - the half that directly faces the storefronts. The other half that faces King right now would remain, except would be accessed from King instead of from inside the circle.
Keep in mind, Hortons, Shoppers and Weils have a huge parking lot, and the Saigon place has a parking lot, and I think the cupcake place and the kitchen store have parking lots too."
That's my math as well. That circle contains about 25 parking spots per side, 10 of which face the storefronts. Factor out the storefront parking and the circle drops to 30 parking spots. Between South Oval and Sterling there are an additional 22 metred on-street parking spaces. Aside from that (and the 80 or so spots on-street on the Ovals), I think it's largely customer-only parking. So for four restaurants, a couple of cafes, a pub and a movie theatre, your car-bound clientele have at most 52 no-fuss parking spots (about as many as you'll find in the corner lot at James and Vine, across from Jade Garden).
before they're cruising the side streets. That's the kind of stuff that gives BIAs pause.
By frank (registered) | Posted April 09, 2010 at 09:38:42
Couple of comments:
Jason wrote: 'I remember sitting outside in Bogota thinking, "even a city in Colombia with a bad rap is totally kicking our butt"'
Sorry to pick on you Jay, but I've been to Bogota too and while they have great patios I wouldn't trade their city for mine any day. What I do love is the atmosphere that you see if you forget that behind that thin atmosphere is a roiling dangerous city filled with smog. (Not to mention the polluting "candy train" and the open storm water drain) That atmosphere is something we should be trying to replicate here and it's the fact that it's actively being prevented (Mr. Meister) that generates my dissatisfaction with things the way they are. In fact, it's people who make comments like that who tend to prevent forward momentum from occurring. (Btw Mr. Meister, you say you move when you don't like where you are...my question to you is "if you so dislike your neighbourhood why are you still living there?") I understand the reservations for patios however just because something happens somewhere else doesn't mean it will happen other places. When a red car gets into an accident I don't go sell my car because red cars get into accidents so why should I equate a bad patio in one area to a bad patio in another? Jason's right about enforcement...the reason those "evil" patios are the way they are is because of a long history of lack of bylaw enforcement.
Jason wrote: "The north, west and south sides of downtown are where it's at IMO."
You forgot the East side. Yes there was a stabbing on Robins Ave, however I don't think there's anywhere else in the city that has potential like the east end from the areas around Kenilworth to Gage and even up to Ivor Wynne. I say that because for so long it's been the dumping ground for the lower end of society it's got nowhere to go but up. I live on Robins (no one got stabbed near my house :) ) and have only been there for 4 months and already love it. Since I've moved there, 4 houses have been doing some major renovating, including mine. I can walk to the community centre, I can walk to Ottawa Street, I can walk to Centre Mall (in all it's glory ;) ) where I can exercise my jaywalking skills, I can walk to Kenilworth Ave where my favourite model (the plastic kind, not the living kind) shop is.... I love going out into my backyard (which doesn't have an alley) and not be able to hear traffic on the QEW or Barton but I can hear children playing hockey in the street... There are at least 2 schools close by that I can send my kids to if I choose. The problems? Kenilworth is built to handle massive amounts of traffic for the morning and evening rush hours, too many storefronts have been allowed to be changed into residences and people around the city consider the East end as the part of the city for people who can't make it.
Glass Half Full wrote" "before they're cruising the side streets. That's the kind of stuff that gives BIAs pause."
The reason that gives BIAs pause is because the neighbourhood starts to dislike the business district if that happens... IMO, that should be more than enough parking for the amount of people there provided things like transit access, cycling access and pedestrian access are maximized. For FAR too long we've developed with the idea that people drive to get where they're going and while that may be what's happening, it's not what should continue to happen. Developing with vision and maintaining a balance between current and future desires is what we need to start doing if we ever want to get out of the mess we're in now.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 09, 2010 at 10:09:05
Frank, FYI I should have clarified my comments about Bogota - it was my second trip there, 3 years later that blew my mind. In a short 3 years they had constructed one of the worlds longest BRT systems, had added hundreds of km of bike lanes, planted millions of trees and completely overhauled the taxi fleet to brand new vehicles without the massive pollutants so brutally evident during my first trip.
Tower cranes were up everywhere as new apartments and condos were built with ground floor cafes, fruit markets, athletic clubs etc.....
halfway from the airport to the hotel I remember thinking "what happened here? It used to stink and be filled with smog." I soon learned that they literally transformed their city in 3 years. We can't add a single bike lane on York Blvd in that time frame, let alone completely change the culture and environment of the city.
By frank (registered) | Posted April 09, 2010 at 15:47:24
"We can't add a single bike lane on York Blvd in that time frame, let alone completely change the culture and environment of the city." - There's a difference between "can't" and "won't". I don't know when my trip there happened in relation to yours, probably somewhere between the two I'm guessing. As a freckled red haired fair skinned guy tho, I doubt I could walk around feeling safely though... I'd love to go again to see the difference. Did they close up that big storm drain? Or at least clean it up?
By Glass Half Full (anonymous) | Posted April 09, 2010 at 16:16:31
frank: "The reason that gives BIAs pause is because the neighbourhood starts to dislike the business district if that happens... IMO, that should be more than enough parking for the amount of people there provided things like transit access, cycling access and pedestrian access are maximized."
I agree on both counts, but the fractious dynamic of that neighbourhood (which has residential-business us-and-them within the villagers-students us-and-them) and wonky transit scheduling (not to mention absence of an upscale mode like LRT which might alleviate the need for playing sardines with Mac students) makes such a resolution unlikely. And it's not just Westdale. People drive even in areas of the city where they have far less reason to. James North has far better transit support and higher density and closer relationship to the city's core, yet as I pointed out, the block between Vine/Cannon/MacNab/James is pretty much as parking-clad as the whole of Westdale. And the street can be just as prone to solo drivers as western suburbs: On two occasions, I've had breakfast in a Harbour Diner window seat and watched a table of four or five show up in separate SUVs.
By frank (registered) | Posted April 11, 2010 at 10:19:47
Glass half full: I completely agree however I wouldn't attribute that to anything other than a lack of leadership... Granted you'll probably have some people driving SUVs because they think they're safer than smaller cars and you'll always have one person cars moving around but if someone in both those areas formulated a way to satisfy the needs of both students and residents or businesses and residents and encouraged people to work together towards a resolution, united people with a common vision that would benefit the affected parties I believe there would be a much more friendly environment.
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 11, 2010 at 18:19:51
I tend to agree that the Westdale BIA is against anything that will increase student-centric entertainment. - Henry and Joe
… the fractious dynamic of that neighbourhood (which has residential-business us-and-them within the villagers-students us-and-them)… - Glass Half Full
How can this city ever hope to see the full benefit of a major university when the area by the university does everything it can NOT to cater to students???
The university has been there since 1930. So unless there are a bunch of 90 year olds complaining, everyone that lives or owns a business in that neighbourhood knew they were moving next to a university. Complaining about students in this case is like moving next to a dump and then complaining about smell.
Complaining about students in this case is like moving next to a dump and then complaining about smell.
There were very few student houses in my part of Westdale only nine years ago when I moved to the neigbourhood. So in this case, complaining about students is like moving next to a recycling facility and complaining about the fact that it turned into a sewage-treatment plant.
As much as Westdale residents stereotype students to an unfair degree, other Hamiltonians stereotype Westdale residents to an unfair degree. We do not all wish that there were no students and no bars. Far from it.
Students in the neighbourhood are expected and are great - student houses can be fine I lived in one when I went to Mac and I now own some). But too much of one certains kinds of use - too many student houses, too many bars, too many dollar stores, too many income-assisted apartments - can destroy an area for all other uses.
Comment edited by moylek on 2010-04-11 18:22:54
By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 00:20:46
I have lived in Westdale for some time now. The change in the number of student homes and the students behaviour is staggering. I am tired of broken beer bottles, screaming profanities at 2, 3 and 4 a.m. The vomit on my sidewalk. Vandalism to my fence, shed, yard, house and car. If something is left outside it is almost invariably stolen damaged or vandalized. Do not lecture me on choosing to live like this, I never chose to live like this, never would. In fact I lived here for years and it was never like this. In the first 10 years I lived here I never felt the need to call the police. Now it is a regular occurrence. In the last year I have had the police respond at least 20 times maybe more. Westdale should not cater to students. Westdale should cater to families. More families and less students living and frequenting Westdale would improve the area. I would love to see a huge residence for Mac hoodlums built beside your house and we will talk a year after you have to deal with them.
By frank (registered) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 09:46:48
Mr. Meister, there are lots of houses in other parts of the city where that doesn't happen. No one's stopping you from moving. It sounds like living there is bad for your blood pressure and moving out leaves one less disgruntled Westdale resident...
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 16:08:09
There were very few student houses in my part of Westdale only nine years ago when I moved to the neigbourhood. - moylek
Do not lecture me on choosing to live like this, I never chose to live like this, never would. In fact I lived here for years and it was never like this. - Mr Meister
You sound like two people expecting the sands of time to stop flowing for them?
By z jones (registered) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 16:11:15
"GET OFFA MY LAWN!"
You sound like two people expecting the sands of time to stop flowing for them?
No - we sound like two people who don't expect to just suck it up or flee when things start going wrong. Me, I've chosen to stay and help keep Westdale great. That has meant becoming a landlord, learning the ins and outs of by-laws, and picking up a lot of garbage.
When something good is threatened, should one just get up and move? If so, pretty much everyone here needs to just log off, shut up and move to Burlington or Manhattan.
By d.knox (registered) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 20:27:40
Why is it alright, great even, to want to make Hamilton a better place, but it's not alright to want to make Westdale a better place?
I know that everywhere has its problems, but wasn't part of the problem with downtown Hamilton caused by exactly what is being suggested here - decent people who expect a decent standard of behaviour fleeing to safer, nicer places. That has worked well for the neighbourhoods around Queens too. Sure we could all move out of Westdale when we get tired of picking up broken glass and stepping over garbage on the sidewalks. To Meadowlands? Is that really what we want to happen?
As it is, staying in Westdale, like living in many parts of Hamilton, requires a little bit of forebearance. But it also needs a little bit of hope and activism. Take hope away, and it will be more than just the people of Westdale moving.
This particular conversation started with one bad business owner. There are other businesses that have received liquor permits - Koosh and MDJ's are two off the top of my head. People aren't against good citizen businesses, people are against bad neighbour businesses. Jimmy Gringo's made some enemies from the very beginning by treating its neighbours with disrespect. These situations never get any better once alcohol is involved.
By z jones (registered) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 21:26:41
^We all know what the problem is. Mac has basically doubled in size but not built any new student housing. They need to step up and take responsibility for all those new students - either build more residences on campus or finally set up that student building downtown.
By highwater (registered) | Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:04:41
Thank you Kenneth and d. knox for your wise remarks. There is indeed a curious double standard when it comes to Westdale. We not only tolerate, but excuse behaviour in middle-class post-secondary students that we would not tolerate from any other demographic, and make no mistake, the behaviours we are talking about are anti-social and in many cases illegal.
Kiely, when McMaster was established in the 1930's (over a decade after Westdale was established as a residential neighbourhood), it was a sleepy Baptist Seminary with theological students living in basement apartments in the community, and yes, many of our elderly residents do date from this period. Who could have anticipated that Mac would grow to a university of 20,000 undergrads that has made a conscious decision to house a much smaller percentage of its students on campus than other universities of similar size?
When we moved to Westdale a decade ago, we knew exactly what we were getting into. There was lots of partying in September and May, and a little in January after the Xmas break. We didn't mind at all, and in fact actually looked forward to the return of the students in September, and so it was for the first 4 years or so that we were here. Then Mac dramatically increased its enrollment starting even before the double cohort, while making virtually no accommodations (unless you call building a residence for 400 to house an increase of 10,000 'accommodation'). Suddenly the noise, drinking, vandalism, etc. that we only had to deal with in Sept and May, became virtually a nightly occurrence. The summers, which had previously been quiet, actually became worse as students sublet their houses out to people who came to Westdale to 'party'. Is this something we should have anticipated?
We were verbally abused and harassed. We had eggs thrown at us and food thrown at our house. We caught a group of students trying to lure our dog into their car. Mornings included the delightful ritual of hosing urine and vomit off our driveway. Neighbours had the windows of their homes and cars smashed and their gardens ripped up. We have since moved to a quieter street, but I hear from our former neighbours that the bar of acceptable behaviour has been lowered another notch and human excrement now makes a regular appearance in the cocktail of bodily fluids that Westdalians awake to. Since when is this the type of behaviour anyone should 'expect' just because they live near a university? Can you imagine the outcry if it were street youth engaging in these activities instead of our 'best and brightest'? Why is it ok to blame the victims just because its Westdale? Perhaps instead of telling the people of Westdale that if they don't like having their homes vandalized and their pets kidnapped they shouldn't live near a university, we should be telling the university that if its students can't be expected to abide by the same laws and standards of decency as the rest of us, they shouldn't house them in overcrowded family homes in residential neighbourhoods. End rant.
Jason, your point about encouraging patios is a good one, unfortunately Jimmy Gringo's is a very bad example. As d. knox noted, Jimmy Gringo's has been dealing with the city and the community in bad faith from the get go. He operates as a sit-down restaurant in spite of only having a permit for a take out restaurant. He started to knock a hole in a structural wall without a building permit. This is all documented on city documents which I would link to, but I am currently having problems opening pdf's on the city's website. Go have a look for yourself if you care to. Also, next time you're in Westdale, if you ever choose to honour us with your presence again ;-), You will see that the sidewalk depth in front of JG's is only about twice the radius of the door opening, it is also immediately adjacent to the alley that is used for deliveries placing any customers sitting out on the sidewalk within inches of delivery vehicles. It is the size and location of this business, in addition to the fact that the owner now feels entitled to a liquor license in spite of continuing to operate his business without the proper permits, that has stalled his efforts to add a patio, not NIMBYism. And who does he think he's kidding that he didn't know Mac was nearby? This is just another example of his less than forthright attitude.
By jason (registered) | Posted April 13, 2010 at 14:41:21
Also, next time you're in Westdale, if you ever choose to honour us with your presence again ;-),
aww shucks highwater. I'll come there for you!
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 13, 2010 at 14:48:20
That has meant becoming a landlord, - moylek
And are you converting your properties back to single residence or keeping them as student rentals?
Kiely, when McMaster was established in the 1930's (over a decade after Westdale was established as a residential neighbourhood), it was a sleepy Baptist Seminary with theological students living in basement apartments in the community, and yes, many of our elderly residents do date from this period. Who could have anticipated that Mac would grow to a university of 20,000 undergrads that has made a conscious decision to house a much smaller percentage of its students on campus than other universities of similar size? - highwater
Who'd have thought a university would grow in 80 years and would build housing on properties that were not initially within the confines of its campus??? Come on, really? Every university in every city I've lived in (I grew up in a city with two universities) has done that.
Anyway, I'm not being constructive in this thread, possibly because all I'm hearing is whinging not discussion... I'll just say this, perhaps the mindset and emotions in play here aren't helping to solve the problem???
Sorry if I upset anyone, I'll just leave you guys to it.
That has meant becoming a landlord, - moylek
And are you converting your properties back to single residence or keeping them as student rentals?
Uh. No. What's your point?
My wife and I keep the student houses looking like normal houses so that they neighbours aren't driven to move away. The neighbours tell us that it has worked - as we watch houses on the blocks to our North and South fall like dominos until the blocks are 90% student housing.
It's a lot of work. But it keeps us - and our neighbours - in Westdale.
Sigh. Edit timed out on me. I wanted to say ...
It's a lot of work. But it keeps us - and our neighbours - in Westdale. And - no matter what some people in the rest of Hamilton thinks about us elitist whiners - Westdale, like Dundas, is a model of the sort of walkable, semi-bike-laned, mixed-use neighbourhood that so many of us here want, isn't it?
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 14, 2010 at 09:40:48
Uh. No. What's your point? - moylek
No, "point"... just curious.
Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-04-14 08:42:01
By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 14, 2010 at 10:41:07
I like the burritos at Jimmy Gringo's just fine (take it from me, have the fish) but as others here have pointed out, there couldn't be a less appropriate spot for a patio. The spot gets very little sun, it's extremely small and in an uncomfortable area (next to the alley, as highwater pointed out). It's just not a good spot for it. As for licensing the establishment, I wouldn't have a problem with it but it is too small, realistically.
I was moved to comment, though, by highwater's remarks, which paint a picture of Westdale that I as a homeowner on Haddon Avenue absolutely do not recognize. We have student houses directly across the street from us and on one side, and I almost never have issues. I remember being a student in a student house at Mac 15-16 years ago (almost directly behind where we live now in fact), and we were much worse (I wouldn't have wanted to live next to us). Mac, the MSU and the community have all worked to make the neighborhoods (Westdale and Ainslie Wood especially) more livable for everyone and it is definitely working.
I have NEVER seen behavior like what highwater is describing, much less every week (OK, we did once have someone throw up on our armor stone fence, last year I think, or the year before?) Maintaining good relationships with the students that live next to us is important to us.
The fact of the matter is, the university is the economic engine of this part of the city and we all reap the significant benefits of that student community.
By Urban_planner (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2010 at 17:08:34
Biggest problem with Hamilton is the following few things. The citizens of this city, the old school thinking at city hall and its lack of vision. Before Hamilton ever changes its going to have to change from the inside out. Meaning its citizens are going to have to take ownership of the city.
By TnT (registered) | Posted April 15, 2010 at 19:45:03
I was very disturbed by earlier comments about the person living in fear in their house because Barton street is some kind of "BladeRunner"esque dystopian place filled with drug addicts and hookers. Also, the comments about Mac students trashing the neighbourhood. To me the vein of these comments strike of massive exageration and have a huge sense of being disingenous. I don't doubt there was truth to some of the comments, but to the extent of the outrage was pure hyperbole. I've lived in Hamilton for over 30 years (born and raised) and I live right near the general hospital and raise my family here. Lets not lose sight of the improvement of a city over a few misguided comments.
By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2010 at 01:22:28
Frank - Unfortunately a move is a definite possibility if things get any worse. But think of the consequences when the best answer to illegal and anti social behavior is to move? What happens when that area gets to difficult to live in? Most large American cities have the result right now. Gated communities complete with their own little security/police forces (most are armed). But what happens to those who cannot afford to live there? You think the city has problems now? Allow this kind of behaviour to flourish and expand for a real horror show. If you think that downtown has problems now wait until more of the decent people are forced to leave because of the anti social behaviour of vandals and hoodlums.
For now I am going to keep calling the police and the university, laying charges when I can identify the culprits and standing up for decent standards.
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