Durand Neighourhood Association Nears 40th Anniversary

With a long, rich history of civic engagement, Durand Neighbourhood remains committed to advancing a broad platform of community development.

By M Adrian Brassington
Published November 04, 2011

In advance of next Thursday's Evening with Jason Farr at City Hall, Town Halls Hamilton has been working with local neighbourhood associations to highlight some of the issues important to them. These topics will inform the agenda for the event on November 10.

Durand: even to those only remotely familiar with the area, the name can easily conjure up particular sorts of images. And it should; the neighbourhood is a unique and historic enclave.

Home of City Hall, The Canadian Football Hall of Fame, one of the more stately iterations of the Hamilton Public Library, Central Public School, Whitehearn, Durand Park, and the soothing walking routes of the Aberdeen area, its natural beauty, designated heritage districts, thriving shops and restaurants make it one of the most desirable places in Hamilton in which to live.

Bounded by Main Street West, Queen Street, the Escarpment and James Street South, this roughly 100 hectare inner-city district is home to approximately 12,000 Hamiltonians.

Next year, the Durand Neighbourhood Association (DNA) celebrates its 40th anniversary, making it the oldest NA in Hamilton by far.

Since its beginnings, the DNA has had both strong leadership and a history of active civic engagement. In the 1970s, in the face of uncontrolled development and demolitions, it saved the historic Durand neighbourhood from the threat of real estate speculation and rampant high-rise construction.

Here's just a sliver of what the DNA has accomplished since its inception:

These days, its concerns are a little broader than those of four decades ago - and a little more complicated - but the DNA is just as determined to find ways to work with Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr to get them addressed.

Here's a small selection of what they're interested in discussing on November 10 at the Town Hall being held in Council Chambers:

There's no doubt that the Durand neighbourhood benefits greatly from the efforts of its residents' association. Nor is there any doubt that the DNA's voice will be a strong one at 'An Evening With Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr'.

M Adrian Brassington is a Hamilton writer.


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By TnT (registered) | Posted November 05, 2011 at 14:52:56

Should be a great example to other wards on how to engage and grow your area. I imagine a lot of the residents of the DNA have more money then say people in the Kirkendale or Lansdowne neighbourhoods. That can make a big difference.

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By RB (registered) | Posted November 05, 2011 at 23:04:16 in reply to Comment 71058

So their efforts should be discounted somehow? I don't understand the point of that comment, or what kind of response you were trying achieve?

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By TnT (registered) | Posted November 06, 2011 at 08:38:40 in reply to Comment 71064

My point was that they are a richer group of people and as such in our plutocracy they have more of a say. It is the reason they have had more success then other areas of town. It doesn't discount anything they have done, it does explain it though.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted November 06, 2011 at 11:02:33 in reply to Comment 71066

At the risk of 'mystoneycreeking' the conversation in response to my own article, this has the makings of a tremendous conversation. Previous to organizing this inaugural town hall, I wouldn't have thought so, but even the slight exposure to the concerns of each Neighbourhood Association taking part I've been fortunate to have experienced has made me aware of not only the income and lifestyle discrepancies ('variances'?), but also what this does to what kind of efforts you're able to make in terms of 'looking after your 'hood'.

As 2012 will bring inordinately more involvement on the parts of NAs, I'm looking forward to making it possible for this particular conversation to have its time on the stage.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-11-06 11:03:14

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 06, 2011 at 15:17:41

I was on the board of the DNA for six years, and we were occasionally accused of being successful because Durand is "rich", and that we were simply reinforcing our privileges. I found this accusation mystifying given the actual demographics of the neighbourhood, and the priorities of the DNA.

Although, there are some wealthy residents in the extreme southern part of the Durand (mostly south of Aberdeen), the vast majority of the 12 000 Durand residents live in apartments (something like 90%) and it has one of the highest proportions of recent immigrants of any Hamilton neighbourhood. Central school (our only school) is extremely culturally diverse, with 50 languages spoken.

In fact, the Durand is both the most densely populated and most diverse (both culturally and income-wise) neighbourhood in the City. It is this unusual diversity, together with its urban form, that makes Durand unique and is the source of its strength.

The DNA's main issues have included traffic (especially improved conditions for pedestrians), improving our park, heritage issues (such as St Mark's), crime and property standards. We have also worked closely with our many neighbours who live in City Housing and lodging homes to help address issues of concern to them.

It is also important to note that, unlike some other neighbourhood groups, the DNA is a true residents' association: anyone living in the neighbourhood can join and be heard. This is especially important in a neighbourhood like the Durand where the vast majority of residents are renters.

Durand is not just the "mansions" south of Aberdeen: it is mostly the dozens of apartment buildings and condominiums where most of our residents live. The DNA tries to speak for all residents, and our longevity and success is due to the dedication and persistent efforts of our members over the past four decades. Being around for a long time, and being serious, helps when dealing with the City.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2011-11-06 16:04:22

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 06, 2011 at 18:46:44

I lived in Durand for a few years before moving to Strathcona. DNA was a great association and reflective of the whole hood, not just the rich folks. In fact I remember former mayor Jack MacDonald getting boo'd quite vocally for a comment at one of the general meetings. By no means did the DNA cater to the well-off or power brokers in the area. My only real complain at the DNA is that they seem to oppose high density towers simply as a backlash against some of the crappy ones that were built there in the 60's and 70's. A few new well designed condo towers (such as the low-rise ones being built at City Square currently) would do wonders to shake up the image of the neighbourhood and skyline with some new architecture.
That aside, it's a great hood with a neighbourhood association that seems to have a good balance when it comes to development and much less of the NIMBYism found in Kirkendall.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 06, 2011 at 21:45:11

I won't deny that the DNA has a bit of a 'reputation' as far as their incomes and worldviews go (tenants, towers etc). But having grown up in Durand, that is hardly reflective of the area in general. It's unbelievably diverse - one block from me, growing up, were mansions to the north and group homes to the south. I went to school with kids from every end of society - some had been in Canada two weeks or less when they started, others hailed from some of the largest houses I've ever been in. It was an incredible learning experience that's left its mark on everyone I grew up with.

In any case, other rumours I've heard suggest that Kirkendale is the strongest neighbourhood association in town, and "whatever they want, they get". It may not be as wealthy as come enclaves of Durand, but it's far more homogeneous.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted November 06, 2011 at 23:38:49

I've been involved with the DNA for several years and going into my second year as a board member. The question of wealth and influence is a valid question, but as Nicholas already showed, the facts don't support any idea of undue influence. I can say with confidence that nobody on the DNA board is bribing anyone at city hall with their deep pockets. Nor is everyone on the board wealthy - but they are all very hard working and engaged folks. We've also been at it for 40 years - so we've had more time to get things done.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted November 07, 2011 at 00:13:18

I certainly feel my above comments have been taken out of context. I meant to highlight the perception. Having richer people on a board helps. There are more immigrant heavy towers in Beasley, but without that diverse mix it can't flourish. It should be held up as an example of what a neighborhood association should be.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted November 07, 2011 at 11:33:32

Among the DNA accomplishments, MAB lists ...

Protected Heritage (Family Court House, Bank of Montreal, Sandyford Place, Central Public School, and St. Mark's)

I'm interested in - maybe morbidly fascinated with - the cavalier disregard we can have for our architectural heritage. Does anyone know what the threats to these building were?

I'm particularly intrigued by Central Public School - it seems (pardon my cynicism) to violate the school's boards unofficial policy of tearing down or defacing a decent looking school any chance the get.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-11-07 11:53:49

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted November 08, 2011 at 17:25:30

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