Hamilton is in grave danger of becoming another clone town like every other boring suburb from here to Laval, QC.
By Jason Leach
Published July 01, 2005
I wrote an article last month about the cultural scene in Hamilton and how we should embrace the fact that we aren't just one big corporate billboard like Toronto and so many other cities. However, Hamilton is not out of the woods by any means.
Rumours persist that the Centre Mall will take the form of big box stores. I knew it was only a matter of time before city council found a way to ram this rotten style of development into the heart of our city. You see, most of them look to shiny, corporate Toronto as a 'model' city for us to follow. Who needs mom and pop shops when you can have ten more Hortons and cookie cutter Starbucks stores everywhere. Now that's cool.
I've spoken many times about Portland, Montreal and our own great neighbourhoods like Locke Street, Westdale, Hess Village and James Street. Just because folks in the suburbs think these neighbourhoods are 'sub-par' due to the lack of chain stores doesn't make it true. I choose to live downtown and this is one of the reasons.
If city council keeps ramming big box crap right into the heart of the city, they just might lose their young residents like myself and thousands of others who would rather shop at Global Village Market, the Farmers Market and the Bad Dog Café than Walmart, Mexx or Starbucks.
A recent article from Britain highlighted the growing concern of towns and cities becoming clones of each other. For a local example of this go to Upper James, the Meadowlands, Burlington Power Centre and Scarborough Town Centre. Any difference? Didn't think so.
Hamilton is in grave danger of becoming another clone town like every other boring suburb from here to Laval, QC. Just because a portion of our population travels to work in Toronto, that doesn't mean that we have to become as bland as Mississauga or Burlington.
Hamilton reminds me of Portland so much it's unbelievable. The vibe here is different and cool. You can sit in Gore Park and literally see a hundred different styles and sub-cultures. You aren't seeing weirdness. You're seeing a real city with a great spirit.
Portlanders scoff at Seattle as the "boring white collar" city. Hamiltonians should have the same pride and sense of superiority towards Toronto. Just like Seattle thinks they are better than Portland, Toronto thinks they are better than Hamilton. They're both wrong. Give me an eclectic, cool, diverse culture any day of the week over never ending glass skyscrapers and chain stores.
Hamilton's diversity seems to flow right out of our built environment - 200 year old heritage buildings stand next to modern towers. A beautiful harbour with trails, wildlife and incredible scenery sits next to Canada's industrial heartland. The Niagara Escarpment cuts through the city bringing yet another unique feature not found in any other Ontario city.
We are different. We are unique. We are a little weird. That's what makes us one of the coolest cities around.
It's time for us to appreciate what we've got sitting in our laps before our own city administration turns us into another city like Toronto where the arts community is fleeing for the greener pastures of Hamilton - that's right, good old Steeltown - as every affordable, cool artist loft gets carved into more condos.
We'll get our fair share of lofts and condos, let's just make sure the big boxes stay in the burbs and the lower city is gently nurtured and invested in wisely. Our city is too good to become another Toronto.
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