The City starts work today on the York Blvd Streetscape Master Plan.
By RTH Staff
Published May 31, 2010
The City's Public Works Department starts work today on the York Blvd Streetscape Master Plan, which will convert the stretch of York between Queen St. North and James St. North to two-way traffic, with wider sidewalks and a configuration that allows flexible street closures for events.
York Blvd Master Plan rendering
York Blvd special event street closure rendering
At the same time, the city will also be resurfacing and two-way converting Wilson Street between James North and Victoria Ave.
The original impetus of the work was to replace the water main and resurface the road, but the improvements are coordinating with the ongoing renovations to Central Library and the Farmers' Market that will upgrade the interiors of the buildings and replace their Brutalist facades with a flexible glass curtain that can slide open so the Market can extend onto the sidewalk.
New Library/Market glass curtain
The glass curtain will employ a new technology that embeds LEDs in the window frames so that the wall can be programmed to change colour.
The building renovations are scheduled for completion in fall 2010, and the York Blvd streetscape is set to coincide, completing in October.
By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 09:00:21
Looks great, I can't wait for it to be finished. The city can finally show off how great the new facade looks! Hardly anyone I talk to has seen it since most people walking to Jackson don't take York and any drivers zoom right past it.
By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 31, 2010 at 09:03:45
Every driver who goes to Jackson and parks at the old City Centre parking tower has gotten a good look at it. So at least 3 people.
By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 09:11:05
Waaaaah, I'm a commuter and I have no freaking clue how I'm gonna get to work on time now, the city needs to stop this crazyness and give me my lanes back! Who goes downtown anyways?
By Downtowner (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 10:10:32
Actually the city really needs to look into keeping it one way, adding more lanes and increasing the speed limit! They could just make the sidewalk more narrow. In fact, why even have a sidewalk? It just encourages radical pedestrianism! Perhaps we can outlaw pedestrians and cyclists from York/Wilson altogether because they are really just a nuisance. I should be able to drive through Downtown Hamilton on cruise control!
By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 10:35:00
I'm excited for these changes. It will make it much easier to get around on my bike without one-way York forming another barrier around Jackson Square. When I'm walking, I won't have to face the 60km/h wall of cars coming at me standing on the corner at James St.
By z jones (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 10:36:57
It looks like bike lanes were on the original streetscape plan. Will they still be adding them? And how about connecting up the bike lanes on York north/west of Dundurn with the lanes east of Queen?
I guess it's too much to connect the Dundurn South bike lanes, what with all the important 18 wheelers we need to make room for on Dundurn North. :P
This looks great- the best thing to happen to York street since they decimated it in 1976.
By Ron Howard (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 11:46:28
Now THAT'S how you report a street renovation.
By mikeyj (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 11:56:24
I bike by that area everyday going to work and the curtain is looking pretty cool, I hope the lights look as impressive as they sound.
This morning York was down to one lane as they started removing the concrete construction barrier in front of the curtain. The traffic gods were angry as I whizzed by the backed-up cars.
Lastly, I hope they give the Library's concrete facade a good powerwash before the grand re-opening. It's needed it for years.
By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:16:57
Can you please clarify the extent of two-way conversion? From what I undestand from the linked York Blvd Master Plan, York will be converted two-way between Bay and James only, and Wilson from James to Victoria. Has this changed to extend two-way as far west as Queen now, or is Queen simply the western border of the construction project?
By JM (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:57:56
The SPEC reports it goes all the way to queen..... can't wait to see the engineering of that intersection! lol
By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 31, 2010 at 13:41:48
York's 1970s urban renewal, as Matt mentions above, might be the single biggest failure of Hamiltonian "urban renewal" visible. The street, which once looked a lot like Barton, Concession or King, got turned into a freeway. Since then, excepting possibly Salvages convenience store (which as far as I can tell has more robbers than customers), not a single business around there has survived - grocery stores, restaurants, banks, clubs, offices - all fled the area like rats fleeing a sinking ship, or simply died. Judging by that absolutely atrocious architecture, no real development has gone on there for years, and probably won't until it's turned back into something that looks a little less like the QEW.
Just as Jane Jacobs pointed out nearly two decades before they embarked on that lunacy, big development projects like that tend to fail because real civic life is far more complicated than any one person can commit to blueprints. Cities need a large variety of small, versatile spaces (ie mixed-used residential/commercial low-rises), not big developments which look good in "artist conceptions" but are an absolute waste if the original intentions are at all flawed.
By mikeyj (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 15:09:11
From what I can find internally the actual Scope (as of this date) is:
York Blvd, from Caroline to James - partial road reconstruction, as required, to accommodate subsurface infrastructure improvements. As per the Downtown Hamilton Transportation Master Plan, two-way conversion from Bay to James and shared on-street bike lanes. With the subsurface (water) portion running only from Bay to James.
Also being done at the same time is: Queen from York to King - Roadway Resurfacing, Curb Replacement and Sidewalk Repairs. (Which explains why the construction area reaches Queen)
Notes: Adjacent project - Wilson from James to Victoria - mill and overlay. As per the Downtown Hamilton Transportation Master Plan, two-way conversion and shared on-street bike lanes. (no date as of yet)
Detective work for the day: Complete.
By jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 20:00:10
I took the bait today and called the Bill Kelly show! haha. He was great actually. Let me make my points, asked a few questions of my perspective as someone living right next to York and then commented on my 'interesting thoughts with a different viewpoint' when I was done. The other callers were hilarious though. I don't think any of them talked about York. They all kept talking about King and Main.
Some of my favourite quotes (I'm deadly accurate here. Not making these up. They're tattooed in my mind due to the sheer lunacy) -
"How will I get to the power centre if King is two way?? (maybe we should replace 'best place to raise a child' with this beauty)
"It's going to take an hour to get through the city now" (I told this caller that he's in Hamilton, not Toronto and that it won't take him an hour to get anywhere. It'll take 2 extra minutes)
"the last time I took the bus the driver was so rude and drove so bad that old ladies were literally falling on the floor in the aisles" (I suppose this could be true, even thought I'm on the bus all the time and have yet to see it)
It was something else listening to the 7 minutes of that show that I had to endure while waiting.
And not surprisingly, the only other caller who was just as pumped about two-way conversions as me was another guy who lives along James South. In other words, those of us who actually live here are itching for more calm streets. And with all due respect, I'm more important than the guy worried about getting to the power centre. Know why? Cause I do ALL of my spending, dining, coffee drinking, shopping, entertaining, patio chilling and overall nice guy routine DOWNTOWN. Downtown businesses need more people like me who feel comfortable to walk on their streets. I don't ever walk on York. I always take Florence St when walking to the market. If York becomes safe to walk along, guess what, I'll do more spending on that street as well. I'm not living my life worried about whether it'll take an extra 2 minutes to 'get to the power centre'. And by the way, ALL of our power centres (other than Centre Maul) are sitting on prime industrial land next to our major highways. Try using a freeway bud. Honestly, it felt like 1990 all over again.
Sorry, rant over. LOL
Comment edited by jason on 2010-05-31 19:03:20
By jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 20:01:24
After finishing that last comment I couldn't help but think of the Pink Floyd song 'Is there anybody out there?' haha. sometimes it feels like being on an island in this city.
By shabooga (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 20:19:45
Please join the facebook page "Two Way Streets for Downtown Hamilton!" to show your support. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=12...
Comment edited by shabooga on 2010-05-31 19:21:24
By bi curious (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 21:07:19
i've been trying to think of a street in hamilton that SHOULDN'T be 2 way, without much luck. can anyone help me out?
By jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 22:53:49
Wilson Street in Ancaster??
The LED technology in the library is going to be quite something - it's more than just the window frames, it's going to be integrated into different parts of the interior as well in some pretty unique ways. I look forward to seeing it completed.
By alrathbone (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 23:37:51
"The only businesses that have opened up on James have been non profit ones like art studios."
My uncle just opened a bookshop called "Books and Beats" on James North.
By james north (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 23:40:50
if the york two way conversion is half as successful as the james north two way conversion was, we should be in for some real changes.
mixed media, white elephant, history and heritage, loose canon, downtown bike hounds, copy dog, the brain, my dog joe, books and beats, tribal gallery, la petite spa, this aint hollywood, sushi day, olinda's fashion studio, harbour diner, to name a few businesses that spring to mind have all found their way down to james north because it is now a more friendly pedestrian street. add to that list the professionals, musicians, illustrators, photographers, architects, film production companies, etc. who are working and living in newly rediscovered buildings on james street north and it makes a pretty compelling case for two way conversion.
By Mixed Media (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 07:59:24
"The only businesses that have opened up on James have been non profit ones like art studios"
Sorry wrong! We opened up almost 5 years ago now and we are definitely not a non-profit. Along with my neighbours and friends we are changing the way Hamilton interacts with James North.
Before you open your mouth - do some research or at least get out of your car and walk around.
By TnT (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 08:09:51
Well, yes, you can prove James N is a thriving hot spot if you use actual evidence. That's not fair though when people are trying to be negative!
I'm reminded again of the number of times I've heard "the best thing about Hamilton is how quickly you can get through it." In my early years here, it's something I said myself (along with "goddam one-way streets!" every time I found myself driving the wrong way or looping around and around trying to find an address on King St.)
Even if the ability to roar across the city quickly were a good thing, I'm not sure that it's something you really want that to be the first thing that comes to peoples' minds about our city. Better to let them try to think of something else nice to say or simply criticize the skyway view or the scooter people.
By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2010 at 10:47:37
The new York Blvd looks great. Can't wait. Looking forward to bike lanes on Dundurn St N now that the trucks are gone.
Since James North is being discussed, can anyone give me an idea of how long some of these other businesses on James North that opened in the last few years have been open? If you post with your real name that's helpful too so I know who's giving me those facts.
I've been conversing with someone who claims every business before and since the two-way conversion will be open a year or two and then shut down, and I don't think that's accurate at all. I'd like to have the facts.
Which businesses relocated to James North besides Copydog (and maybe Woodpecker? I've been told they did). I know Copydog relocated because it was cheaper and they had more clients in the area.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 18:14:53
I thought Woodpecker Handicrafts debuted in the former Under the Moon bookstore. Wasn't aware they had an earlier incarnation. They're in the Farmers' Market now next to Ercilia's, but they were still at 170 James N until the market moved into the mall about a year ago. (Under the Moon is over on Ottawa North now.)
Olinda's Fashion Studio is in the former Atomica Tattoo space.
Tribal Gallery moved to James North from a storefront on King West. It's in the old Mixed Media storefront.
I believe Summer 2008 saw the arrival of Downtown Bike Hounds and La Petite Spa.
Some James North fixtures like Wild Orchid and Mex-I-Can have been around for maybe 10 years, if not more.
On a less happy note, the Tivoli collapse was six years ago this summer.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 18:19:52
As for York Boulevard, it'll become more pedestrian friendly but I don't expect two-way to improve its commercial fortunes much if at all. West of Bay is already a kind of two-way, and Bay to James has almost no room for new development. It's facades without the storefronts. Getting a variety store back next to the pizza shack across from SJAM would be wicked though.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 18:30:03
Short-timers? Your source may be thinking of restaurants, which often have a crappy survival rate. Bailey's arrived in the summer/fall of 2008, Rajun Cajun arrived in the fall of 2009. And both were closed by January 2010.
This one's more the "lived-in-Hamilton-for-a-real-long-time-and-things-aren't-really-changing" mindset :)
Oh, and thanks for the info thus far.
By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 18:36:07
don't waste your time. Anyone seriously trying to argue that James isn't better now as a two-way street is just trying to egg you on.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 18:58:36
It's certainly better from the standpoint of how most people experience its, which is as pedestrians during the Art Crawl. But two-way isn't a silver bullet.
Everything's cyclical. Street directionals are only one in a host of factors that make for vibrant, commercially viable neighbourhoods. James North wasn't broken before, and it's not broken now. But it's also not 24k gold. Even the advocates will allow that.
As far as transplants go, I think Flat Spot Skateboards was on James North briefly as well, before setting up shop on King West at Caroline.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 19:27:31
"people calling for James to be returned to one way after the terrible traffic jams"/"...not creating more traffic jams and accidents."
Come again? http://www.thespec.com/article/414890
By james north (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 22:13:30
one way streets are like people doing too much coke. they are not impossible to hang around with, just really really annoying.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 22:16:25
That comment was mainly directed at james north's "if the york two way conversion is half as successful as the james north two way conversion was, we should be in for some real changes."
I know that RTH's regulars aren't simplifying it, and maybe james north wasn't entirely, but the notion that the James North two-way experience is replicable across the city simply by rerouting traffic to create a "friendly pedestrian street" is over-reaching. It's not as if artists had been driving one way down James for generations and simply failed to see the potential in the area until they were able to do a 180. For one thing, creative workers are theoretically more able than most to perceive unexplored potential in their surroundings. And it's not as if the critical mass an buzz built up through media profile (maybe you've seen an article on the neighbourhood) was entirely secondary in entrepreneurial decisions to locate on James North.
Anyway, that's just another detour. We agree that being pedestrian-friendly is important but just the beginning. And as I've said, York doesn't have a streetwall that will accommodate much commercial transformation; Wilson barely has streetwall until you get in a few blocks, and then it’s primarily residential... or parking lots. Cannon, should it ever be so lucky, is possibly in much the same predicament. And if we approach this holistically, the lack of direct commercial spinoff isn't a problem.
Two-way is a good thing. York will benefit from these revisions. These are welcome and important changes, and they have a net positive effect. I see the expert marketing of neighbourhoods as a separate matter and selectively applicable. But that's just me.
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 22:22:15
BTW, two novel short-term James north businesses from the one-way era: Pat Musitano’s Italian eatery The Gathering Spot (now CD Martini) and John Papalia’s taxi company: http://www.nicaso.com/pages/doc_page119.html
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 22:24:43
Oops. Keep forgetting CD Martini is now Classic Café.
don't waste your time. Anyone seriously trying to argue that James isn't better now as a two-way street is just trying to egg you on.
I'm the one who pursued it - I heard them make an offhand comment about James North and asked why. They're a person I see weekly at church and sometimes midweek (walked by their house the other day and talked for a half hour).
They've lived in Hamilton for decades, so I truly value dialogue on this matter with them, since this is conceivably an acquaintance I'll keep seeing at least weekly for many more years. And it's interesting to hear this perspective because they live downtown in a pretty hardcore neighbourhood, not in the suburbs like some of the people who attend my church and whose perspective won't be changed in conversation very easily.
If it was just someone being an instigator, that would be a whole different matter of course.
By Slodrive (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 09:11:02
Just wondering if you guys think that this could inhibit the number of people coming into the core. I think I like the two-way conversion initiative -- and totally understand the perspective of posters like Jason who live there -- but I worry whether the perceived inconvenience will result in a net-decline of visitors.
The one thing I know I've heard from many out-of-towners and non-downtown residents alike, is that you can get to any place downtown very, very quickly. Just yesterday I zipped into the Copps Coliseum box office on my lunch hour, grabbed a bite to eat and had a look around Jackson Square before heading back out to work. Was pretty quick.
I want downtown to be a place where people love to go. I just don't want to see gridlocked cars puking out smog while sitting in traffic (a la downtown T.O).
By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 10:37:18
This isn't a matter of convenience - it's a matter of shifting the quality of life downtown. Car traffic is not going to help get us any further than we are. Went down to my neighbourhood hardware store to get a key cut and pick up some little screws - it's just down the street from Mixed Media and has everything you need to get things done around the house. I asked how things are going and also asked the owners if they knew what was happening with the Shoppers building when they move to Wellington and Cannon. They said that no one had a clue what was going on - and I said I hadn't heard anything either. The one owner commented that they should just tear the existing building down and make more parking. I replied that that was a horrible idea. He said if his business had more convenient parking - he would have more business. I insisted the future of his business was remaining a small but well stocked hardware store servicing the needs of the downtown community who arrive by walking, biking or the occasional car ride. Why would anyone who wasn't within easy travelling distance visit this small hardware store downtown - when they could easily access a larger store closer to their homes. Out of neighbourhood patronage for this kind of business just isn't feasible anymore - but concentrated community minded and marketed businesses can tap into customers that are just waiting to know about them. I can't tell you how many people I recommend this hardware store to!
We continued to talk about parking and I was adamant that James North doesn't need more parking and another customer comes in and says - "you talking about parking in the downtown?". I said "yeah". And he said "there's way too much parking downtown as there is".
Downtown is for people AND their cars, bike, feet, etc. not just for cars to zoom through!
By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 12:01:02
good comment Dave. It's true, folks like the hardware store guy need to realize that he isn't competing with Home Depot or Canadian Tire. He can't. He needs to be the darn best hardware store around and folks from his neighbourhood will choose to go there instead of driving to a big box store. I know which store you're referring to and I go there regularly.
Downtown Toronto streets such as Queen East in the Beaches, Bloor West near High Park, College in Little Italy and Danforth Avenue in Greektown are all perfect examples of what Barton, King, Main, York and James should look and function like. The residents shop there, eat there, dine there, entertain there, relax there etc..... in Hamilton our one-way freeways have made it simple for downtown residents to go shopping in the Meadowlands or Limeridge Mall and as a result, none of those stores will open a downtown location despite all the women in the neighbourhood I see with bags from Mapleview or Limeridge. If downtown streets were made more business friendly and people friendly, more residents would choose to stay downtown and these stores would begin to open downtown locations to serve their customer base. And they'd be able to do it the way they do in Toronto or Ottawa - nice downtown stores without massive parking lots anywhere, and yet they manage to survive. Who knew??
Anyone who thinks we need more parking lots downtown can meet me for lunch at the corner of Rebecca and Catharine. We'll sit on the ground for an hour or two and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere. Who needs College Street patios when you can have all this???
Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-02 11:01:32
By z jones (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 12:10:35
Take the land that's currently used for parking and use it for homes and businesses. Then there'll be enough people already downtown that the hardware store owner doesn't need to worry about inticing customers from outside the core.
By brodiec (registered) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 13:49:21
In my experience a huge section of patrons of the market and central library are not coming via car. Those who are coming via car to the library are expecting to do research. They've probably budgeted for parking which is plentiful and a pretty good value given the cost of parking in other cities. Lots of car drop off occurs as well. Which has been troublesome on York because of the speeding traffic!
By Robert N. James (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2010 at 16:02:32
Softening traffic will make the street-level experience more pedestrian friendly, but what comes of it is unwritten. Hamilton is its own ecosystem and has its own personalities (and personality disorders). I've always compared Barton to the Danforth, though to my mind it has a more polychromatic cultural fabric. Here again, the profile and identity of the neighbourhoods mentioned (Greektown, Little Italy, the Beaches and College) is somewhat anchored in the moxy and muscle of savvy BIAs. Success begets success, and shops often want to be around other popular shops because it creates a kind of synergy. I'm not well-versed enough to explain the psychology of why this happens aside from the "popular kids" schoolyard theory, but it's real enough. (It might even explain the Locke S and James N dynamics to a point.) Jackson Square has cheaper rents than Lime Ridge but LRM has the retail pedigree and an owner that invests in property upgrades and polished marketing. JS has had stores like Jacob, Club Monaco, Eddie Bauer, The Gap, HMV etc but has lost them one by one. (Meredith: Moda Classica moved from James North near Harvest Moon into the City Centre several years ago.) And that's okay. I like the "mutant mall" identity. Having a downtown mall with a suburban persona strikes me as a little weird, at least in Hamilton, but it’s possible. On that count, residential density that provides a tide of disposable income would be as compelling as cafe-ready promenades. Hopefully the latter begets the former.
Sort of related to all of this, I'm intrigued by the detente in the Beaches, which coexists to a certain extent with a people mover like Lakeshore East. Coming back to the original topic, Lakeshore strikes me as kind of York-like in some ways. Maybe it's that Hwy 2 DNA?
By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 19:04:15
I can remember a conversation I had with a shopkeeper in Burlington a couple of years ago discussing the commercial possibilities of the planned McMaster faculty building in downtown Burlington (since relocated to the side of the QEW).
I was expecting her to be excited about the possibility of an increase in foot traffic that this building would certainly encourage next to her shop. Instead, she rejected the possibility of any good coming from it and how it would surely harm her business because of the reduction of nearby surface parking. I was so completely dumbfounded by her reasoning that I couldn't think of what to say and quickly left the shop. I then realized that I knew nothing of the commercial psychology of small Ontario cities.
This taught me that some shopkeeper's theories of how their businesses might survive are sometimes more like voodoo than rational economics - this despite having a lifetime of retail experience.
By TnT (registered) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 12:45:58
Wouldn't a P parking lot at the site of the old Shoppers be a boon for the street? Especially when business gets in bylaw trouble if they try to convert to another use.
By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2010 at 12:49:13
The reduction of lanes on York has already made walking more friendly. I am looking forward to the finished product.
Where is this hardware store Jason and Dave are talking about? I would definitely stop in there when I'm downtown. I know that if I had a neigbourhood hardware store in Westdale, I wouldn't have to drive to Home Depot when I need sandpaper or drywall screws.
Also, does anyone know who bought the Leon's Fur building on James N? That SOLD sign was nice to see. I hope they refurbish and keep the old sign.
By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 07, 2010 at 14:55:35
Where is this hardware store Jason and Dave are talking about?
I'm guessing they're talking about Arruda's on Barton?
By Jim Colborne (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 07:39:40
I was thinking Arruda's as well. Funny that there's such enthusiasm for this neighbourhood store yet its identity is shrouded in mystery. "I can't tell you how many people I recommend this hardware store to! And I also can't tell you its name, because that would be another recommendation!" ;)
By JBJ (registered) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 12:00:08
The hardware store Dave is talking about is called Jamesville Hardware. It is across the street from the old Shoppers at the corner of James N and Colbourne. There are two great hardware stores to shop at for those of us who live in Jamesville.
The conversion of York and Wilson will tick off those who are dependent on their cars but will make life for us who live and shop in the core much better. My family and I walk or use public transit and the future of urban cities is walkability, not big box retail developments. Can't wait for the new farmer's market and library to open!
By Woody10 (registered) | Posted June 20, 2010 at 00:34:46
Michaelcumming - I worked in Burlington for years and that is one traffic/car centric city. Drive and drive some more is their motto. Even to go for a walk downtown to the many bars/pubs/cafes etc. People will drive two or three blocks then park and walk. Unbelievable!
Comment edited by Woody10 on 2010-06-19 23:35:41
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