Special Report: Heritage

A Call to Action to Save the Gore Park Streetwall

Call on the Province to stop the demolition of 18-28 King Street East and designate these buildings as heritage properties that help define Gore Park as the city's geographic and civic heart.

By Kieran C. Dickson
Published December 29, 2012

The Gore has been the heart of civic and commercial life in Hamilton since the earliest days of the city - and it remains so today. Postcard images of Gore Park have been synonymous with Hamilton for over 150 years, and this landmark has been the predictable destination when Hamiltonians have come together as a people, in protest or to celebrate the end of wars.

The importance of Gore Park to Hamilton's history and identity cannot be overstated. But what exactly is "the Gore"? The park itself does contain a grand fountain, our Cenotaph, and some of our most important statues, but it isn't really that narrow little triangle of land that means so much.

What's truly important is the civic square, defined by an intact streetwall that includes important heritage buildings - some of which are older than the park itself.

The current plan to demolish a substantial portion of the streetwall along the south side of the Gore is a major threat to the integrity of this most important civic space.

The Buildings

The block in 1892
The block in 1892

The buildings that are the subject of the demolition permit are 18-28 King Street East. This stretch is essentially four buildings, now divided into five storefronts.

The limestone-faced buildings at the west end, beside the Bank of Nova Scotia, date from the 1840s and were designed by William Thomas, about whom more below. The stone façades are essentially intact above storefront level and each building has interesting arched windows and decorative stone elements.

The one building has very distinctive "eyebrow" dormers with inverted U-shaped windows facing the Gore; two of these remain intact today.

There aren't many pre-Confederation stone commercial buildings still standing in Hamilton. These two on the Gore appear to be in good shape, apart from the obvious cosmetic issues at storefront level.

Specifically, there doesn't appear to be cracking or out-of-plane alignment visible from the exterior.

Pre-Confederate stone commercial buildings on the Gore
Pre-Confederate stone commercial buildings on the Gore

The other two buildings are of later construction, but are still over 135 years old. These are four-storey Victorian storefronts.

As with their older neighbours, the façades of these buildings have been significantly modified at street level, but many upper-floor window details and the cornices have survived. The eastern building (28 King Street East) has distinctive full-height windows in each upper-level floor.

As with the older Thomas buildings, the two Victorians look structurally sound, with no obvious deformities in the exterior masonry.

Upper levels of the west-side buildings
Upper levels of the west-side buildings

Upper levels of the east-side buildings
Upper levels of the east-side buildings

The quality of all of these buildings is reflective of the company they kept a hundred years ago, with the Birks Building at one end of the block and grand stone banks filling out the streetwall.

William Thomas

William Thomas designed some of Canada's most important buildings in the mid-19th century. He was the architect of St. Paul's Church and Inglewood House in Hamilton, but nationally he's probably better known for projects such as the Brock Monument in Queenston, St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto, and the Commercial Bank of the Midland District -- now part of the Galleria at Brookfield (BCE) Place.

More Important than Ever

Downtown Hamilton is undergoing a major transformation. The historic commercial and mixed-use districts of our lower city are now attracting young professionals, and the repurposing and renovation of properties around James North, Locke South and Ottawa Street have made these the neighbourhoods of choice for many.

The Gore has great potential for joining these vibrant mixed-use neighbourhoods. Its central location is very attractive for those seeking complete neighbourhoods with opportunities to live, work and play without having to drive. Indeed, the Gore Park area might well become one of Hamilton's most desirable urban addresses within the next decade.

But such rejuvenation will only happen if we leverage the Gore's appealing built form - the heritage buildings, the pedestrian-friendly intact streetwall, and the mix of residential, office, and retail uses.

For these reasons, we can't accept the demolition of this streetwall on the Gore. While the buildings are privately owned, this threat to our civic space gives rise to a public interest - a public interest which is recognized and protected by the Ontario Heritage Act.

The demolition plan also threatens the private interests of those who have worked for years to redevelop our downtown in a way which makes the most of Hamilton's distinctive architecture and civic spaces.

Call to action

The demolition permit may be executed as of January 9, 2013. Under normal circumstances, Council would have an opportunity to act upon the Municipal Heritage Committee's recommendation to designate (and thereby protect) the buildings. But because the demolition permit was obtained before the holiday break, demolition may occur before the next Council meeting.

Accordingly, at the municipal level we need to call upon Council to have a special meeting before January 9th to address the issue - and to designate the buildings at that time. The email addresses of all members of Council, including Mayor Bratina, are linked through the side column.

But we can't safely assume that Council will have a chance to meet before demolition begins. Therefore, we also need to call on Minister Michael Chan, whose portfolio includes heritage, to issue a stop work order and/or a notice of intention to designate under the Ontario Heritage Act.

This will provide an opportunity for both City Council and the Province to address the question of whether these buildings deserve protection. Minister Chan's email address is mchan.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org.

Please contact these elected officials and also your local MPP to express your concern and to seek immediate action - and please share your letters as responses to this article. In addition, please consider joining the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, which is fighting to protect built heritage in Hamilton and across Ontario.

Kieran C. Dickson is a partner with the downtown Hamilton law firm Evans, Philp LLP. He is the Vice President, External Affairs and Government Relations, of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and has carried out his own heritage property redevelopment projects in the downtown core.


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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 15:44:14

I thought is was pretty cool to see people eating lunches at the tables in Gore Park in the summer, along with listening to the music being performed.

That is a damn sight more friendly and welcoming then a big hole that will most likely become a parking lot.

Do people have to chain themselves to these buildings just to save them?

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 17:17:08

These building should absolutely be saved and protected. They're cornerstones to the downtown core and a big part of what Gore Park is. We also need better building standards enforcement in Hamilton. These things have been a mess as long as I can remember. Why on earth do we allow those signs? Why would the tenants want signs like that and not like South Side?

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By NoFutureWithoutAPast (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 19:24:55

Please sign the petition for an emergency meeting of City Council. If you were uncertain about your position on this issue before now, the fact that Wilson-Blanchard took out the demolition permit a year ahead of the publicized date and over the Christmas holiday to avoid debate and action against them is a slap in the face that should convince you to, at least, slow this thing down and properly asses the situation.


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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 29, 2012 at 19:29:46 in reply to Comment 84537

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 29, 2012 at 19:26:04

If we cannot convince the province and council to do something before January 9th, these buildings may become Hamilton's next parking lot.

There is a bylaw named after David Blanchard due to his demolition beside Pigott.

He already pulled down 30 King Street East via a surprise demolition permit.

While there are a few historic building renovations credited to him, his track record is more generally in the realm of large-scale commercial real estate brokering.

Not only does he not have experience with historic restoration, he has zero interest in being a landlord of smaller-scale businesses, preferring to rent to huge companies needing huge square footage.

But aside from all of this, Wilson Blanchard has no plan for development! This demolition is purely a strategic move to chase after financing for a development yet to be determined.

The following is reposted from my comment on a previous article (in case anyone missed it)

I interviewed Blanchard for the December Hamilton Magazine piece

I'll leave it to the readers to determine if these are the words of a man with a visionary plan.

After the salutation, the first words out of his mouth were:

Well we don't have a real solid plan there so...

Which set the tone for the entire conversation. Here are some more choice quotes from the full interview.

When asked about timeframe for construction and tenanting a new development:

I'm not optimistic that we'll have construction let alone demolition within, you know, a long time. I mean the only reason we're doing anything now is because interest rates are low...

When asked why the current buildings should come down when there's "no solid plan" yet:

If we take them down and work away at planning, that's not gonna be a problem because when we finally do get a plan and a tenant and financing, we'll be able to move forward quickly, so why not?

When asked about his vision for what would face Gore Park:

Potentially a grocery store, or a Target, or whatever. I don't know

When asked whether he would consider developing facades with narrower storefronts (like the ones that will be replaced) and smaller businesses:

It has to be a large tenant because those small tenants can't afford the kind of rent that is going to have to be charged for a brand new building like that. [...] I'd rather just get one cheque for $250,000 a month or something than 50, 70, 80, 200 cheques.

Is this what we want in the core? Buildings removed because "interest rates are low"? The result being an empty lot that we will have to live with for how long? While Blanchard sends feelers out to big box stores like Target who he hopes he can lure into financing his dream project?

He's gambling with our assets.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-12-29 19:29:11

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By Tate (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 20:15:12

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By NoFutureWithoutAPast (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 20:36:19 in reply to Comment 84540

You just tied the word sustainability to the completely unsustainable mindset of our Throw-Away Generation. Sustainability means avoiding unnecessary production. New buildings on Gore Park will not only see the destruction of these current buildings but the destruction of the planet as we extract materials to build with, and pollution of the planet as we manufacture the new buildings. And most new buildings are designed to last for 30 to 50 years, the buildings that are there now have been standing for over 150 years and will stand for another 150 if their owners would take responsibility for them (statements about them being structurally unsound are patently absurd). There is no definition of ‘sustainability’ that can justify this demolition.

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By councilwatcher (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 20:19:47

What a political embarrassment for City Council and our never-present mayor. Wilson-Blanchard sure pulled a fast one on them with this surprise demolition permit. I'd be hard pressed to give an example that proves our councilors have any control at all over this city that they're supposed to be running... This is one more example that proves they don't.

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By speak out (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 20:40:30

MPP Markhanm-Unionville, Michael Chann, 905-305-1935, mchan.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Ward 2 Councilor Jason Farr, 905-546-2711, jason.farr@hamilton.ca

Mayor Bob Bratina, 905-546-4200, mayor@hamilton.ca

Chairperson of the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee, Alissa Denham-Robinson, 905-546-2424 x4102, aadenham@hotmail.com

President of Wilson Blanchard Stapleton, David H. Blanchard, 905-529-5900, wbm@wbmgnt.com

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By FastMan (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 15:52:23 in reply to Comment 84544

Sometimes, emails get sent to a general box. You may also want to add the following emails to your distribution list:

peggy.chapman@hamilton.ca - Peggy Chapman, Chief of Staff to Mayor

bob.bratina@hamilton.ca - Mayor Bratina's regular correspondence email (tied over from his Councillor days)

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 00:29:06 in reply to Comment 84544

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 17:20:24 in reply to Comment 84568

"Go ahead. I am sure all these people will have no problem ignoring all of you."

Fixed it for you. Holidays, or not, I'm sure they ignore those who care.

The biggest issue I have with Blanchard's non-proposal is there's nothing, apart from vacant lots. When I moved to Hamilton I commented how K-W had all these old factory buildings surrounding the downtown and Hamilton had none. She told me look at the parking lots, they used to be there...

Just because someone has money doesn't mean they are right.

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By Troll_Poison (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 09:11:51 in reply to Comment 84568


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By Troll_Poison_Antidote (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 09:18:58 in reply to Comment 84578


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By t.w. (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 20:47:51

Nowhere on earth, in all of human history, has there been a positive outcome from erasing the past (ask any Cambodian). Of course, there are innumerable examples of societies that thrive on their traditions and profit from their distinct and well-preserved history. These buildings are a monument to a time when Hamilton was a vibrant and first-rate city, as such, they are a point of pride and proof that it is possible for Hamilton to be such a place… of course erasing that past would hide the bankruptcy of wisdom and foresight that characterizes our current and recent City Councils.

The most important thing to remember is that once these things are gone, they are gone forever. So we’d better be certain beyond all doubt before we let this happen. David Blanchard led everyone to believe that we had time to figure out whether these buildings needed heritage designation or other protection by publicly stating that he would not be renewing his tenants leases when they ran out in 2014. This permit was taken out in bad faith and should be denied on those grounds alone, regardless of whether the buildings should come down when proper assessments have been done.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 00:30:21 in reply to Comment 84545

entire cities are built on the ruins of the past. It is the way of things.

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By jasonpatt (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 20:59:28 in reply to Comment 84545


All this cloak and dagger stuff on the part of Wilson-Blanchard convinces me that they're hiding something. A few people have alluded to the suspicion that there are no structural issues with the building: these are very narrow solid masonry buildings, if there was any structural damage it would be visible from the outside and from the interior photos in the Spectator article. Look for yourself at how square the walls are inside and out.

He is trying to tear the things down before anyone realizes that there is no need to do it.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 18:08:49 in reply to Comment 84546

When you have so much money you don't care, you simply don't care.

Kinda like power corrupts...

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 22:47:36

My email to councillors:

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

I am writing this email to strongly urge you to call an emergency council meeting as soon as possible to designate as heritage properties the buildings at 18-28 King St. East. The pilot project at Gore Park this past summer was a great success and the wonderful Gore Park Master Plan will build on this. The destruction of these buildings with no appropriate plan to replace them would represent a huge step backwards and an enormous waste of potential vitality in our core.

I am also writing an email to my elected provincial representative (Andrea Horwath) and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport (Michael Chan) to take action to halt the demolition. I urge you to be proactive and protect our city's heritage in its most iconic and historically significant location, Gore Park.

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 22:48:21 in reply to Comment 84550

My email to Minister Chan and Andrea Horwath (my MPP):

Dear Minister Chan,

I am writing you today to urge you to take action to protect a row of properties in Hamilton's core proposed to be demolished (18-28 King St. East). The buildings date from the 1840s through 1870s and presently make up a large portion of the southern streetwall of Hamilton's Gore Park, the historical heart of the city. Especially significant is 18-22 King St. East, designed by William Thomas and constructed ca. 1840.

A demolition permit was requested immediately prior to Christmas and demolition is expected imminently, unless an emergency city council meeting is called. Hamilton's Municipal Heritage Committee has recommended that the buildings be designated, but council has not had time to designate them. Recent plans (specifically the Gore Park Master Plan) build on the existing historical fabric around the park. I have written to urge Hamilton city council to schedule an emergency meeting to designate the buildings as heritage properties, but it is possible that no such meeting will be called due to councillors' time constraints. I urge you to be proactive and protect Hamilton's and Ontario's built heritage: please act immediately to issue a stop work order and/or a notice of intention to designate under the Ontario Heritage Act. A previous Minister of Culture was able to ensure that Hamilton's iconic Lister Block was saved; please consider this your opportunity to protect an equally historically significant property in Hamilton's core.

For further background on the buildings, their significance and context within Hamilton, I invite you to read the following articles: http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/17... http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/17...

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By AndrewP (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 00:34:00

Sent my message below to all Councillors, Mayor Bratina, Minister Chan and our MPP, Andrea Horwath.

Dear Elected Representatives,

I strongly urge you to act quickly to ensure sufficient review of need to designate as heritage properties the buildings at 18-28 King St. East in Hamilton. The destruction of these buildings would represent a huge step backwards and an enormous waste of potential vitality in our city's core. As I'm sure others have shared, there is more information on the value of the buildings and concerns around process at the links below. It is both the potential lost (forever) value and process that bring need for an emergency council meeting / opportunity to 'press pause' and properly evaluate the situation



Thank you for your leadership.

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By me, me and me! (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 08:59:16

I'm all for saving these buildings, their history and the integrity of the core. However, I think the area could have a better use, when I see the park used as a Carnival, with rides and food trucks I want to scream!

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 18:10:36 in reply to Comment 84555

But that urge to scream is different from the issue at hand.

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By t.w. (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 19:49:17 in reply to Comment 84555

I agree that the park should be better used, although I'm interested to hear why food trucks and carnivals are bad... they seem like good attractions to bring out the community to me!?
But Gore Park is our town square. It was intended as such by George Hamilton himself—who actually sued the city successfully when they threatened to develop it. Since Hamilton’s death, the citizens of his city have fought against city council on numerous occasions to protect the park... even raising some of the money for the fountain and other fixtures themselves. And the importance of the relationship between Gore Park and the buildings on either side, I think, can be illustrated by the petition of the shop owners in 1898 to extend Gore Park from Hughson to John Street. When responsible landlords ran respectable businesses out of those storefronts, the public life in the park and the downtown store frontage worked like an inseparable organism, and they would today as they do in healthy cities around the world.
Regardless of whether we’ve forgotten the importance of civic gathering places or whether the internet has actually made them less important, this has only been the situation for a few decades out of the two centuries that the Gore has existed… we would be fools to irrevocably diminish our town square because we assume that the way we live now is the way it will be forever. Stewardship is about taking care of things for the people around you and the people who will come after you. There has been nothing but the weakest of hearsay to justify the loss of these buildings forever, to destroy them under current circumstances would be a complete abandonment of civic responsibility.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 05, 2013 at 02:59:16 in reply to Comment 84563

When responsible landlords ran respectable businesses out of those storefronts, the public life in the park and the downtown store frontage worked like an inseparable organism,

Interesting. How did you confirm this?

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By Thea Haines (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 11:17:14

Here's the letter I wrote to our representatives yesterday, (with liberal quoting form KCD's article omitted).

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the turn of the new year in Hamilton the vision for the kind of city we want to live in has never been more important. I am a lifelong Hamiltonian, whose family has lived in Hamilton for generations. I work in the core and have chosen to make Hamilton my home. I have just returned from a year abroad in London, UK, where built heritage is an integral and indispensable aspect of that city's social, cultural and historic fabric. While Hamilton can hardly be considered a city on par with London, our built heritage is no less important to our identity as a city. Our heritage buildings are one of our greatest assets. The buildings slated for demolition on the Gore form the centre of our city's historic core, and to allow these buildings to be demolished would be to rip out the heart of the city. The grassroots change and progress that has taken place in downtown Hamilton during the last ten years has all been centred around preserving, rejuvenating and restoring the historic buildings of our downtown neighbourhoods, and is one of Hamilton's most attractive qualities to outsiders choosing to make Hamilton their home.

We are seeking your immediate action on this issue, to protect these buildings, and the historic centre of our city, from this destruction. Hamilton has torn down too much of its history, and continued demolition is not a sustainable or progressive approach to urban planning. I call on Minister Chan to issue a stop work order and/or a notice of intention to designate under the Ontario Heritage Act, and I call on you, city councillors, and provincial and federal representatives to call on the Minister to do the same.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Thea Haines

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By jasonm (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 12:35:56

Dear Councillors,

As a 20 year resident of Toronto, it was a big step for me to move elsewhere. I was looking for a community at maximum an hour away and finally settled on Hamilton - in large part due to the amount of intact historical architecture and what I thought was a popular ethos of sustainability and a municipal awareness of what makes a city livable and desirable. One of my favorite stretches of Hamilton, (and a reason why I moved here) is that row of storefronts at 18-28 King St E. From a new homeowner and taxpayer I strongly urge council to quickly act to stay this demolition. I can tell you that I moved here in part directly because of these buildings so the heritage of Hamilton architecture has deep meaning for creative young professionals like myself who now call Hamilton home!!


I think there are a lot of Torontonians that are starting to see what Hamilton has to offer and council should think very hard before letting what makes Hamilton special be taken away. I see the recent destruction of the Board of Education building to be a huge mistake and loss to Hamilton as well as the proposed demolition of the Sanford school, which is a beautiful historical landmark. I think thoughts and actions on the development of Hamilton would be better spent on preserving spaces in the core, than in building parking lots and casinos, which is the direct backward thinking and narrow-thinking development that I have moved here to avoid.


Jason MacIsaac

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted December 30, 2012 at 12:58:25

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am very concerned that an important part of our built heritage in the heart of downtown could be demolished due to a simple matter of missed schedules.

Pre-confederation stone buildings like these standing over the Gore Park are hopefully worth considering a special meeting of council before January 9 to prevent a demolition permit from ending our hopes to retain this significant section of the downtown's history.

Buildings like these cannot be replicated or replaced. Losing architecturally significant buildings designed by important architects like William Thomas diminish our city's connection to our past and to the heritage of Ontario, where Hamilton has played such a significant role.

We have lost so many historical buildings already downtown, we need to make special efforts to protect what remains if the historical character of our city is to have any integrity.

I think back to the calls to demolish the Lister Block, and the special efforts made to save that important building, which most would agree is a feather in our cap today.

I would appreciate hearing from any of you with your opinions on how we might save these buildings.

I am looking to council for leadership on this issue.

Hoping for a happy heritage new year!

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By MarcPerri (registered) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 15:07:22

Minister Chan,

It has been brought to my attention that there are plans to demolish a significant portion of the street wall linning Gore Park.

Many people are concerned because these buildings represent a part of Hamilton's history.

I agree that tearing down these buildings is a detriment to the heritage of the downtown core, however, my main issue of concern is the pedestrian accessibility of this area.

There are a number of street festivals that take place throughout the year that utilize the street space out front of these buildings. As Hamilton continues to grow I would like to see it maintain a community that is pedestrian friendly.

Though there is much urban growth on the outer regions of the city, the downtown core is where the heart is. I see the future of the downtown core as a prospering village for young professionals who carve a new path of growth for the city. It will be a place where you don't need the burden of a car to get you places, with the market, library and hundreds of stores and restaurants a few steps away. All of the evolving communities are easily accessible to pedestrians and commuters on public transit.

As a born and raised Hamiltonian, I would like to see these buildings stay.

Thank You

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By jasonpatt (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 20:12:20

Mr. Blanchard is a rich man. The people of Hamilton are already poor because so many of our most valuable buildings are in terrible shape. When a building that makes our city valuable is replaced with a building that only makes landlords and developers rich, we are robbed not only of our history and social identity, but we lose more of our already weak power to stand up for ourselves in dealing with the landlords and developers in the future. These people make their money from us and are able to do so because of the city that surrounds their buildings and which was built and is run on our tax dollars.

I fully respect the rights of property owners, but their rights aren't limitless.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 30, 2012 at 22:33:38

Prior to September 20, 2009, all demolitions in Hamilton were recommended by the Economic Development and Planning Committee to Council for consideration or directions.

Back then, the Director or Acting Director of Building and Licensing / Building Services Department, had to be specifically authorized and directed by council to issue a demolition permit:

See examples of such process: 2004, 2006, 2008

Why was this process not followed by City Staff / Economic Development and Planning Committee, before the demolition permit application for 18-28 King Street East was filed?

Municipal Heritage Committee recommendation to Council, November, 15, 2012:

McHattie/Rosart - "That Council include the following properties in the Municipal Register of Property of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest: ...(v) 18-22 King Street East, Hamilton (vi) 24-28 King Street East, Hamilton" - CARRIED

Municipal Heritage Committee Meeting, December 20, 2012:

"Watch the video. The only surprise here was that staff and the Economic Development and Planning Committee failed to act on the recommendations of the Heritage Committee weeks earlier. It never made it to City Council as Councillor McHattie states on the record." ~ Gary Santucci, Dec 22

Were the City Staff, and Economic Development and Planning Committee acting within their mandates in holding back above recommendation of the Municipal Heritage Committee from City Council?

Does the perceived power from "delegated authority" (as below) have anything to do with this inexplicable behaviour of City Staff?

On August 31, 2009, Tim McCabe, General Mgr, Planning & Economic Development via Report No: PED09258 to Council, proposed the "Repeal and Replacement of Demolition Control By-law + Delegated Authority and Technical and Housekeeping Changes."

On September 20, 2009, above proposal was enacted as BY-LAW NO. 09-208, by then Mayor Fred Eisenberger: "To Enact a Demolition Control Area By-law and to Repeal and Replace By-law No. 08-226 Entitled "Demolition Control"

This report was enacted into a new By-Law within 20 days, and it clearly seems to have been rushed with no serious deliberations within council. Nor does it appear that there were any public inputs sought on this delegation of sensitive authority to City Staff by Council.

In a city which has a long history of mindless destruction of heritage buildings, authority to approve demolition of buildings must be clearly vested with the City Council and not delegated to City Staff under the ruse of streamlining application process.

Any filing of demolition permits one month prior to Councillor holidays in summer or winter, could have easily been assigned a slightly longer wait period by City Staff, if streamlining application process was the intent.

Given the current shenanigans at 18-28 King Street, the rational offered in above Report No: PED09258 by Tim McCabe is simply hilarious:


Status Quo – Staff can continue to prepare a report for every residential demolition permit application made, with Committee then Council approving the applications prior to demolition occurring. As discussed above, this can create timing problems, especially during the summer months with a limited schedule of meetings. It also requires substantially more City resources than the “delegated authority” alternative.

Delegated Authority – With the delegation of authority, routine applications can be dealt with in an efficient manner with limited delays in issuing the permit. Further,staff time in preparing reports and Committee Consent agendas will be lessened.

Section 4 of BY-LAW NO. 09-208 states: "Council delegates to the Chief Building Official power with respect to the issuing of demolition permits for routine applications which was given to Council under subsections 33(3) and 33(6) of the Planning Act."

Section 5 of BY-LAW NO. 09-208 states: "For the purposes of section 4, "routine applications" include, but are not limited to, an application to demolish a residential building: ... to facilitate land assembly for future development...

Is not what is occurring at 18-28 King Street the facilitation by our City Staff of land assembly for future development?

If reading the above is extremely upsetting, this will add some much needed humor:

This is the “Triple Bottom Line” evaluation in above report which was seeking Delegated Authority from Council for demolition of buildings in order to streamline application process:

Community Well-Being is enhanced.-- YES Improved customer service with conditions still applicable to ensure neighbourhood stability is protected.

Environmental Well-Being is enhanced. -- YES Replacement of older building stock with new buildings will often improve the environment.

Economic Well-Being is enhanced. -- YES The Delegated Authority will allow for a more efficient approval process to issue Demolition Control permits thus allowing for approved new developments to initiate construction quicker.

Does the option you are recommending create value across all three bottom lines? - YES

Do the options you are recommending make Hamilton a City of choice for high performance public servants? -- NO

Ever wondered why our high performance public servants do not live in Hamilton downtown?

BY-LAW NO. 09-208 does need to be substantially altered immediately by Council on their return. This is imperative to ensure that the 'demolition process' is not tainted in future by any developers seeking preemptive demolition of healthy heritage buildings after becoming aware of impending heritage designation.

On account of the failure of City Staff / Economic Development and Planning Committee, to forward the Municipal Heritage Committee's recommendation to Council in a timely manner, (thanks to the exercise of "Delegated Authority" by our City Staff), enormous stress and trauma has been caused to a large number of residents across our city, during this Holiday Season:

The Council needs to address this reprehensible situation immediately by calling an "Emergency Council Meeting" before Jan 09, 2013 to:

1) Designate 18-28 King Street East, as historically significant under the Municipal Heritage Act.

2) Fix the highly dubious BY-LAW NO: 09-208.

Because, very simply, failure to do so may result in the demolition of our Heritage buildings in Gore Park and many more heritage worthy buildings in our core.

This Council simply cannot continue to talk of Strategic Values such as: Accountability, Cost Consciousness, Equity, Excellence, Honesty, Innovation, Leadership, Respect, and Teamwork with any credibility, while items 1 & 2 above remain unresolved.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-12-30 23:08:24

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 09:59:03 in reply to Comment 84566

Ironic that Culture is now part of the EcDev borg.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 23:11:21

Strategic Values, that is a good one. Too bad they are empty words, sort of like Human Rights. Sounds good on paper, following them is a different story.

OK so I did my part, I signed the petition and sent a short and to the point email to Mr Chan.

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By me, me and me! (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 08:18:32

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 19:36:40 in reply to Comment 84574

I would love to buy an older home, but the only one I could find was from 1880. Does that suffice?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 18:16:06 in reply to Comment 84574

Mine's a 1910, is that old enough to permit me to write letters and to care?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 16:44:49 in reply to Comment 84574

I bought an 1856 stone house, restored it and applied to have it designated.


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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 09:05:08 in reply to Comment 84574

I already bought one. Am I allowed to write letters now?

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By Hilary (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:28:35

William Thomas was an English-trained architect who was one of the most important practitioners in 19th century. Judging by the date of this building, it is likely one of Thomas’s first and largest commissions in Hamilton and an early example of his work in the city. Most of Thomas' buildings located in Toronto are National Historic Sites of Canada or designated under the OHA, including the Old Don Jail and St. Michael's Cathedral and Oakham House, among others. Thomas was a brilliant and widely known architect during the peak of his career and has left a distinct built legacy in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec and England. Here is a directory of Thomas' work, including a comprehensive list of his ecclesiastical, residential, commercial and institutional buildings in Hamilton http://www.dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/architects/view/1355

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By Mar Mueller (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 14:41:24

Hi, here is the email I sent to all the councilors and Minister Michael Chan:

Dear Mr. Farr,

I am a student and employee at McMaster University. I have lived in Hamilton for four years. I live in the north end, and I've grown to love much of the city. One of most pleasing aspects of Hamilton is its long history as one of Canada's oldest and most pivotal cities. It's a joy to see the evidence of that history in Hamilton's architecture, where it still exists. One of the saddest aspects of Hamilton is how apparent it is that much of that history has been wiped away and replaced with architecture that is bland, forgettable, and sometimes even ugly.

Now I have read about plans to demolish the buildings between 18-28 King Street east. I wish to firmly state my opposition to this. This stretch of buildings is and iconic piece of Hamilton architecture. These buildings are an important aspect of Hamilton's individual character. I have read that the permit to demolish can only be prevented by an emergency meeting to designate the buildings under the Municipal Heritage Act before January 9th. I understand the difficulty of convening such a meeting at this time of year but I want to strenuously urge you to use what power you have to make this happen. Please to not let Hamilton lose its face.

I have copied all the councilors in on this email, as well as Michael Chan, the Ontario Minister Tourism, Culture and Sport, since his portfolio includes actions under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Thank you for your consideration,

Mark Mueller

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By FastMan (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 15:46:41

Oh man,
How history repeats itself. One would have thought with tearing down of the Birks building and Old City Hall, the citizens and political leaders of the day would save the remaining buildings that line the Gore. There was a time when city councillors resigned en masse when the Gore was first re-developed in the middle of the 1900s (I think, hoping the history checkers here can verify) that saw the removal of many old growth trees and some of the heritage buildings.
I would hoped that would have been only a one-time occurence, after all the public outcry at that time. The only glimmer of hope I see is that if those buildings go...they'll tear down Jackson Square while they are at it!

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 01, 2013 at 15:12:52 in reply to Comment 84590

FastMan, Yes, history does repeat itself, indeed . .. ...

The tearing down of the Birks building was just the beginning of the self-destructive cycle in Hamilton. The "Blanchard Misstep" has the potential of completing the task left unfinished since 1957.

We have come full circle, right back to where we had started with 'the Grand Plan' to renew our city.

"Hamilton had latched onto a misconceived solution to its perceived problem and then compounded the outcome by poorly executing the renewal." ~ The Facelift and the Wrecking Ball, by Margaret T. Rockwell

The bigger tragedy of Hamilton is even five decades later, when our built heritage continues to be threatened by institutionalized vandalism, the usual suspects—our media darlings, the so-called movers & shakers and opinionators of Hamilton—all of whom having lived thru the sixties to see its devastating impact on our downtown, suddenly seem to lose their public voice.

Hence history repeats itself in Hamilton.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-01 15:58:45

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 18:19:32 in reply to Comment 84608

It seems that old habits are hard to break, especially in Hamilton...:(

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By FastMan (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 15:56:19 in reply to Comment 84590

Found it! It was called the Gore Park Fiasco...1983!! Google it, or look it up at HPL!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 16:41:26

sent to minister Chan and Andrea Horwath

Dear Minister Chan,

I am writing to urge you to act immediately to prevent the imminent destruction of several irreplaceable Victorian buildings fronting Hamilton's central public square: Gore Park.

As the owner of a designated heritage building myself, I appreciate and have invested my own hard-earned money in restoring and preserving Ontario's built heritage.

I am appalled that a private owner is considering demolishing this block of buildings, 18-28 King St E, which includes an important pre-confederation 1840s stone building by noted architect William Thomas.

The 'developers' have no clear plan to actually develop the site in the foreseeable future, and are demolishing simply to avoid official heritage designation of these buildings since they have been declared 'of special interest' by LACAC.

What is most distressing is that the owner applied for the demolition permit just before the Holiday break, ensuring that it would be very difficult for Council to meet to delay the demolition or to designate the buildings as recommended by LACAC.

That is why I am writing to you to urge you to use your powers as Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport to delay the demolition until a solution can be found to preserve both the buildings and urban fabric of Gore Park.

Please act quickly as these buildings can never be replaced once they are gone. Yours sincerely,

Professor Nicholas Kevlahan 166 Charlton Av W Hamilton ON

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 20:52:06

Minister Chan is also Minister Responsible for Pan/Parapan American Games. So remember to thank him for doing us a solid.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 12:14:25

As the thirties began, yet another politician came up with a plan requiring "Goring the Gore". Mayor Peebles and City Engineer McFaul proposed slicing off 20 feet from the north side to allow a street railway diamond at King and James. This is the same mayor who had expressed the hope that in 50 years the park would have disappeared. The Herald was strongly opposed to the idea of changing Gore Park in any way and voiced the opinion strongly as they stated "All such open spaces and squares should be protected to the last inch. It is impossible to compensate the public for the loss of such priceless property. There is nothing that could be done or paid that would make up to the citizens for the loss of such a heritage."


Alderman Jack MacDonald, as chairman of the Transportation and Traffic Committee, came up with a plan that removed the western half of Gore Park entirely and turned it into a loading and unloading area for buses. Queen Victoria would be moved to a point west of the Cenotaph. He stated, "I don't want the citizens of Hamilton to get the idea that I am some kind of "young destroyer." Everybody talks about how serious our traffic problem is becoming. This is a chance to do something about it." Strong opposition appeared immediately from all quarters and his plan was shelved until the people could vote on it in a referendum. Well the outcome of any referendum was obvious. An editorial noted, "All suggestions in the past to remove or eliminate Gore Park have been furiously combated and it seems safe to say, Hamilton's most distinctive, if not its most useful park, has a secure place in the hearts of its residents, particularly the older ones. Ald. Jack MacDonald is perhaps not old enough to appreciate that yet."


The sixties got off to a roaring start with the dedication of the new $20,000 fountains. Prime Minister Diefenbaker was scheduled to come to the ceremony but a blizzard kept him grounded in Ottawa. The Hon. Ellen Fairclough stood in in his place. During this time period it was decided that Gore Park needed more than just occasional cosmetic embellishments, it needed a master plan for a complete change. The Parks Board decided to set up a permanent committee to look into the question. Five committees, four reports and five years after talks commenced in 1962 they were no closer to any acceptable designs for renovation than they had been at the beginning.


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By ORiTvOnline (registered) - website | Posted January 01, 2013 at 21:12:15

Why can we not learn from our neighbours in Toronto & europe. Many heritage properties in Toronto scheduled for redevelopment save at least the building facade. You can see great examples of these buildings just walking up and down young street. Another example: In many european countires historic buildings the city centre are not permitted for demolition. In fact they are ALL protected for the importance of history. What history will Hamilton tell with the lack of heritage buildings?

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 22:43:38 in reply to Comment 84618

In Europe a 100 year old building is not considered very old. Their old buildings are 200, 300, 400 or even older. Cities all over Europe are built on the rubble of previous generations. Rome one of the greatest cities of the world has 10's of feet of rubble under their buildings. The same can be said of London and Paris and many others. Their cities much like ours have sky scrapers in their core. These cannot possibly be heritage buildings. Sure they have saved some of their old buildings but they have also destroyed many old buildings to make room for the new.

The comparison to Toronto is laughable. Toronto's core is full of huge high sky skyscrapers. Some of the tallest buildings in Canada are found in Toronto's core. They have virtually razed their core and rebuilt it. The stock exchange building is, I believe, 72 Stories high, and there are many similar ones all around. That is high density that is what Hamilton needs to become relevant.

A common theme I hear on this site is the need for high a density core. A high density core is not 3 story walkups. Europe has these, miles and miles of them in fact, but they also have tall modern buildings. These 3 or 4 or 5 story walkups is their equivalent of our single family home. A high density core is tall 10 or 15 or 20 story or higher buildings. New modern buildings with apartments or condos that appeal to the people. Units that have multiple bathrooms, modern elecrtrics and electronics. Security and parking all that kind of good stuff. The kind of stuff that is lacking in these buildings.

It is way to easy to tell others what they should and should not do with their possessions. It can be satisfying to pretend to take the high road. But it is a process that we as a society must be very careful with. If saving these buildings is so important then buy them and save them. If not these then similar ones, there are more.

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By 2search4 (registered) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 18:52:58 in reply to Comment 84619

There are enough empty parking lots of broken dreams available for high rise buildings. The speculators that sit on them have no passion for Hamilton, just future profit.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 02, 2013 at 02:57:50 in reply to Comment 84619

"The desires and gut reactions of the community are the very essence of a great, living city, as opposed to a banal and dysfunctional one." ~ The Architect Has No Clothes

High density does not imply tall buildings. Some of the highest densities in the world have been achieved in low to mid-rise communities.

The need for tall towers is driven by greed on part of the developer which is rationalized by faulty economic calculations, and articulated by journalists, planners and architects with poor education.

The ideas that percolate via populist media from this motley mix of ignorance, is what you are regurgitating here once again.

The professions of architecture and urban design have been in a collapsed state for some time now.

The language you use is that of a commercial Realtor, who patches and repackages old ideas and buzz words from these collapsed professions in order to sell real-estate. It has nothing to do with peoples needs, urban design and how cities can be rebuilt in our times.

For you to recognize that what you write about is nothing more than real-estate sales brochure chatter, you need to get familiar with what is happening at the leading edge of architecture and urban design today: Complex Adaptive Systems, The Transformation of Wholes, The Meaning of Complexity, Intelligence and the Information Environment, Computational Irreducibility, The Network City, Biophilia, Evidence-based Design, Self-Organization... and more.

You won't find this in our local newspapers, or local architecture and real-estate development magazines which feature God like images of developers in front of iconic towers. Instead, look it up here: Science for designers and Frontiers of Design Science.

These are a wonderful set of short essays which if you are able to humbly absorb, may open up a whole new world for you, and possibly a better way of conversing here on architecture and urban development.

Mahesh P. Butani

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2013 at 02:07:52 in reply to Comment 84621

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:02:43 in reply to Comment 84910


"Density does not always demand high-rises. Skyscrapers are a dime a dozen in today’s world. Once a low rise city or town succumbs to high-rise mania, many more towers will follow, until the city becomes a carbon-copy of every other city in a “geography of nowhere.”

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-11 11:05:32

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By Rob Hamilton (anonymous) | Posted January 02, 2013 at 08:36:45

In reference to the threat of demolition of Victoria Hall in 1995, Phyllis Lambert, OC, OAL, FRAIC, Director, Canadian Centre for Architecture wrote the following in a letter to Mayor Robert Morrow, dated August 16th, 1995.

..." It is ironic that we admire the cities of Europe: London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Prague. Italy has kept its cities intact, as have Germany, Switzerland and practically all cities with a distinguished architecture have preserved large sections of the city from the incursion of new buildings: these have been built in totally new areas.

Experience throughout the world, has shown the long range importance of coherent historical areas, to the economics of the city and region, and their importance to the pride of citizens in their city. In a world fraught with violence and alienation, places with the integrity of King Street are needed and respected more and more.

Such civil places are essential to the definition of Hamilton, Ontario and Canada. Not only should Victoria Hall be maintained for its architectural and urban qualities, but all the buildings on that extraordinary King Street. . ."

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2013 at 02:17:30 in reply to Comment 84625

Look at this picture of London and tell us what was torn down to make room for all the high rises that are everywhere.


Same for this pic of Frankfurt.


All those lovely cities have torn down vast sections of their core to make room for new modern high rises.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:21:07 in reply to Comment 84911

Then look at any historic picture of Hamilton to see what was torn down to make room for all these.... empty lots.

No more demolition without guaranteed construction.

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By JMorse (registered) | Posted January 02, 2013 at 21:59:40

Sent to Chan, Horwath, McMeekin, council:

Dear Minister Chan,

Currently a key portion of Hamilton's built heritage is under threat of imminent demolition. I'm writing to request your intervention.

A demolition permit has been granted for 18-28 King Street West. Of the 19th century buildings that remain surrounding Gore Park, these are of prime heritage value. They are surely suitable for restoration or adaptive re-use. Being the city's central heritage public square, losing structures of such human scale, charm, and architectural significance would irreparably damage the fragile recovery of Hamilton's downtown core. Gore Park and the adjacent buildings have composed a pedestrian oriented area for over 150 years. There is currently no plan or promise to build on these sites, but a vague proposal to build a large residential condo, office, and supermarket block, with a multi-level parking garage facing Gore Park.

The city's downtown infrastructure is well suited for our government's stated goals of higher density, less car-dependent urban neighbourhoods. Newcomers like myself are attracted because of the heritage, culture, and dense pedestrian-friendly streets. My family and I moved to Hamilton and invested in an 1880s-built house for these very reasons. The heart of downtown Hamilton is seeing steady progress in attracting visitors, new residents, and small businesses, progress which is at risk by allowing these demolitions to proceed.

Hamilton's legacy as a major contributor in the early growth of Ontario and Canada is clear when glancing over historical texts and articles. What physically remains tells but a fraction of the story, which makes it even more important to protect. Hamilton has proven that clearing block after block of old buildings does not always serve the future citizens of Hamilton, yet we are on course for more of the same.

The property owner obtained the demolition permit just before the holidays, meaning no meetings are scheduled before January 9th in which our city council could take action. Please exercise your authority in having these structures designated as heritage properties and protected from demolition.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 02, 2013 at 22:35:06

Who violated the confidentiality of the Municipal Heritage Committee?

"Development firm Wilson and Blanchard applied for a demolition permit in December... on the same day Councillor Brian McHattie says the municipal heritage committee asked that the buildings be placed on their registry.

“It would seem he (developer David Blanchard) was aware of this,” McHattie said Sunday.

Blanchard — who did not personally submit the permit request — said this is not the case.

from: Developer facing heat from heritage lobby over demolition request, TheSpec.com, Dec 30, 2012

It is highly improbable that Blanchard got up one fine morning, and decided to apply for the demolition permit on the very same day that the Heritage committee was going to designate these buildings -- when he had not yet developed a viable concept for his development.

In his own words, he had no plans -- except for the absurd sketch that he reveled to the press, which the press foolishly spun into a major breaking news story.

Subsequently, Clr McHattie did end up asking members of the Municipal Heritage Committee to resign. And rightfully so. Reason being, as it would appear to any average human being, clearly someone on this committee had ended up breaching their confidentiality.

This is a very serious issue, as apart from the city's built heritage being now put at serious risk, it raises questions about what else has been transpiring on this committee in the past.

It is public knowledge that the Chair of this committee is an architect, who is an employee of an architectural firm that designed for Blanchard earlier, by way of the stucco-box extension to the Bank of Montreal building on James & Main.

It is also public knowledge that Clr. Ferguson is known for his deep ties to the construction industry which supports mega-development projects. And has a marked anti-urban stance with his support for continuing fast moving traffic thru the city's core.

So, who violated the confidentiality of the Municipal Heritage Committee, which led to the rushed filing of the demolition permit?

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-02 23:44:07

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 02, 2013 at 22:56:01

Why do we need the Mayor, Councillors and a City Manager in Hamilton, when we have Tim McCabe?

Staff secrecy around 18-28 King Street East should not come as a surprise to Hamilton's residents. In fact there is very little we know about who exactly runs our City Hall.

It is crying shame that we have to witness what is going on at Gore Park South and Sanford Avenue.

It is bigger shame that we have put our trust in people like Councillor Ferguson who sit on our Municipal Heritage Committee. He is one maverick we don't need in OUR CITY HALL.

The City of Hamilton is not a private business enterprise, Mr. Ferguson, least of all, it is not a family inheritance:

“Trust me.” That’s what Tim McCabe, Hamilton’s general manager of economic development, told city councillors when he asked them to approve a $395-million deal with Maple Leaf that city staff had been secretly pursuing for months.

Thursday was the first time that Hamilton city staff were able to speak publicly about landing the deal. Four city staff and their departments were the core workhorses behind the project: McCabe, director of economic development Neil Everson, growth management senior director Tony Sergi and real estate manager Bill Farkas. The deal was kept so secret that some city staffers working on the project didn’t tell their spouses.

For months, staff worked on land issues, sewer and servicing plans and finalizing a real estate option for a slice of land near Glover and Twenty Road East. Consultants were hired, the land was examined and investments were made.

“We went out and spent all this money without council approval on the understanding it was subject to council approval,” McCabe said.

“It was awkward, and there was some risk that we took in not telling anyone, but … this business deal had to be done that way.”

Other councillors say they are also thrilled with staff’s work on the deal.

Lloyd Ferguson, who managed a construction firm for 30 years before becoming a city councillor, said that’s how professional businesses should operate. “As the manager of a large corporation, I used to set the strategy, put the tools in place, and surround myself with people who are smarter than me to get out and execute. And that’s exactly what happened here,” he said. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do. And we’re very proud of them.”

~ Emma Reilly, Fri Oct 21 2011 - Kitchener's loss, Hamilton's gain: How Hamilton landed $395-million Maple Leaf

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-03 00:07:50

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By The So Fist (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 10:37:49

Hamilton's biggest problem with its downtown core is that not enough people live there. It's been the same issue for decades and has never been adequately addressed.

The proposal to build a condo complete with destination venues like a grocery store, pharmacy, flower shop etc in place of the existing "stores" that draw virtually no one is the kind of proposal that has been sorely lacking in Hamilton for the better part of 40 years.

The argument that this kind of development should not be given the go ahead seems to based on the notion that the proposal will require the removal of the existing buildings that some deem to be relevant simply because they are already there, are nice to look at, and repurposing the buildings supports the call for sustainable development.

These arguments, while fair and not without merit, are troubled by one unmistakable concept...the people who make these arguments are not responsible for property. They make grand statements about what should be done with the property and offer everyone else's finances except their own to facilitate their position.

There is a reason those buildings have sat vacant over the decades. There is a reason the downtown core has crumbled. You may not like to hear it, but the city of Hamilton is dying. A slow, measurable, inexorable death. A death that is manifested from its heart, its downtown core.

It is dying because the people of hamilton do not want to live downtown anymore because the downtown is dying, and the downtown is dying because people don't want to live there anymore.

It is time to put forward projects that bring people downtown to live, to work, to shop, and to build community ties.

Preserving 4 story buildings where the top 3 storys sit vacant and uninviting, while admirable, is folly. We have enough monuments to mediocrity in this city.

We need change. We need investment. We need the people to stand up and say, "we will no longer look to other people to solve our problems". We need to think big and develop our urban capital into modern monuments. We need urban revival on a grand scale, the kind of scale that Pigott, Thomas, Durand and their contemporaries envisioned for the city when they began their urban renewal projects a century ago.

If Blanchards proposal is not to that scale, then we should be fighting for his proposal to be more grand, rather than fighting to maintain the mundane status quo.

Preserve the fascade if you must, if you believe that fascade is the best the city can do, but think big Hamilton.

The time is now.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 04, 2013 at 18:35:47 in reply to Comment 84665

It is dying because the people of hamilton do not want to live downtown anymore because the downtown is dying, and the downtown is dying because people don't want to live there anymore.

If this is true, please explain this: http://www.scribd.com/doc/113600855/2012...

And for even juicier research waiting to be done by the Spec, I'd love to see the price per sq. foot comparison. My 1,400 sq foot downtown home would sell for the same as a 2,500 sq foot home with double drive and garage in many other areas of the city.

I'm totally cool with Blanchard proposing a grand project. In fact, I'd love to see him go huge on one of his empty lots behind the Gore, or next to 25 Main West etc....

A city like Hamilton is experiencing an urban rebirth in select neighbourhoods that are still vibrant and walkable. Hence, the boom on Locke and James, while Main and Cannon sit empty around the corner.
City Hall has shown no desire to bring life or business back to Main, King, Cannon etc.... so we need to focus our efforts in the areas with heritage buildings that can be reborn to enhance a walkable streetscape, like James, Locke, Hess, King William etc.... The Gore is the ONLY area in the actual centre of town where one can sit outside or stroll comfortably, as this summers pedestrian project showed us. To destroy it's streetwall for a Target and parking garage would be a massive mistake, and would surely lead to further changes in the Gore opening it up to more cars and more parking, not less. We don't need that. I'm fine with a grocery store and condos, but not in place of the very heart of our city, which we all know will become hot real estate soon as the vibrancy continues to slowly close in on the freeway zone we call downtown. It's going to be a long fight to ever see King become as bustling as Locke or James due to it's freeway design, but let's at least make the Gore as attractive and wonderful as possible. Bringing it back to life might be the only way we ever get council to finally bring Main and King back to normal, urban streets. Once people see the Gore has become a destination, surrounded by high speed dead-zones, we might get leadership and action on our downtown. Destroying the Gore would practically be a death knell for the surrounding freeway zone.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 04, 2013 at 22:25:57 in reply to Comment 84720

"In fact, I'd love to see him go huge on one of his empty lots behind the Gore, or next to 25 Main West etc...." ~ jason

Well jason, looks like your wish has just come true:

Here is something from a kid named Thomas at Skyscraperpage - that is sure to get things moving upwards fast:

"MeIsThomas: My fake proposal for the Gore Park redevelopment, changed, explained, and perfected"

There is no stopping after this :)

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-04 22:28:09

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By Dane (registered) | Posted January 04, 2013 at 18:15:20 in reply to Comment 84665

"There is a reason those buildings have sat vacant over the decades. There is a reason the downtown core has crumbled. You may not like to hear it, but the city of Hamilton is dying. A slow, measurable, inexorable death. A death that is manifested from its heart, its downtown core."

Blanchard and his ilk are the ones responsible for downtowns decline. They chose to let them sit, on purpose. I would never say that everyone wants to live downtown but to say no does, is ridiculous.

Blanchard doesn't care about this city that is abundantly clear. He is the definition of mundane.

I bought and fixed a building on James that is 100% used from 30%. it took me 6 months.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 11:20:51 in reply to Comment 84665

The same old tired argument. There are people who would buy those buildings and renovate them if they were made available at fair market rates. But they are not available for purchase because the owners want to amass vacant land and then sell or develop it "sometime in the future, not sure when" and reap the benefits of those who came before them and actually DID renovate their buildings.

Many of us (myself included) have already purchased properties in disrepair, and brought them back to life, and would do so again if given an opportunity - even though it often means going into stressful levels of debt. But we are driven by a belief in the downtown, not by a promise of fortune.

There are hundreds of vacant lots downtown. And Blanchard owns a bunch of them. If he was serious about the development, he'd have already started it in the vacant lots he owns.

But he hasn't - because he has no plan other than to continue to collect vacant land for - well, no one knows how long. Not even him.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 11:19:26 in reply to Comment 84665

If you read the interviews Blanchard has given, it's clear that Blanchard's and his partners think that a condo will "probably not" end up being part of the final design.

They don't have a design, or even a proposal, at this point they have an idea that "something could be done there". That's it. Any rubbish about a condo is pie in the sky dreaming, and Blanchard and his partner know this. They have no plan, they don't know what will go there, he mentioned the condo and grocery stores, but does he have any real interest or financing? The answer to both is no, and he as much as says so himself.

I'm not opposed to condos in the core, and we have numerous empty lots which would be suitable for such condos and apartments, and are already sitting vacant. A 40 story condo tower (or even a 12 story one) is NOT the right thing for Gore Park in my opinion. There are many other places to increase density and put residents without tearing down part of the streetwall that gives Gore Park its character.

If he had a concrete proposal, financing, retail grocery store lined up, etc., and was applying for a demolition permit so they could start construction in the fall, I would be much more comflicted and perhaps, like you, I would feel that progress, tastefully done, should prevail. But at present he's proposing to do the same thing he did with the previous buildings he has demolished - nothing. Take a look beside the Landed Banking and Loan building to see what I mean. There is a reason we enacted a bylaw (I believe named after him) to prevent these kinds of demolitions without replacement plans, it's time we used them.

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted January 03, 2013 at 18:36:04

A response from downtown councillor Jason Farr:

With respect to the Gore Park wall, over the last few days there has been an explicit desire by many folks for Council to hold an emergency meeting as it appears a recent demolition permit has resulted in trepidation that the buildings will be torn down within days. In my communications over these holidays with both the owner and City of Hamilton staff, I can assure you that this is not the case and an emergency meeting of Council will not be required. As I have indicated publicly in the past, it is my intention to work with all parties in an effort to preserve the Gore wall.

The proposed development that features office/condo tower and significant commercial uses is of course important with respect to the ongoing revitalization of our downtown. With that, we will continue to make every effort to both facilitate progress while at the same time value our past.

I will be conducting a meeting next week with all involved parties and will be happy to provide an update then.

Thanks very much for getting in touch and sharing your appreciation for the heart of our city, Randy.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 23:23:16 in reply to Comment 84675

There is no proposed development, at this point it's literally just a concept.

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By ughhhhhhhh (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 18:47:33 in reply to Comment 84675

So easily fooled.

"He told me so, therefore it's true!"

Gimme a break. If there's no imminent risk of demolition then it would not hurt Blanchard at all if council woke up from their nap and voted for "intent to designate", LEGALLY buying time to investigate heritage issues before demolition can take place.

Make it official!

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By David Chambers (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 19:22:39

Re: Gore Buildings

The Gore buildings on King St. can be protected from the wreckers ball with a simple resolution of council to issue an intent to designate. This will void any demolition application.
If the buildings were on the register, as they should have been, (much simpler than designation) the 60 day waiting period would effectively avoid any surprise demolitions.
The truth is that the Heritage preservation process in Ont. is not conducive to heritage preservation.
The future of our heritage lies in the hands of lower tier government, who may or may not have any interest in preservation.
The Heritage Act. was cleverly designed and passed as enabling legislation, which does not obligate anyone to comply with this Ont. Act. ( unlike other provincial Acts) There is no legal requirement for anyone to comply with the Ont Heritage Act. Regardless of well-informed Heritage Committee recommendations, council is free to do as they wish, without recourse.
However, council is legally bound by their own official plan and their county plan, both of which contain heritage policies.
They are also bound by heritage policies in the PPS. which state that important heritage buildings shall be preserved. Because councils are not held accountable, they elect to ignore these heritage policies (if, in fact they know they exist) resulting in the unnecessary loss of our heritage, ever since the Act was passed. Meanwhile Queens park turns a blind eye.
This unfortunate state of affairs places our long-suffering volunteer heritage committee members at an impossible disadvantage. The future of our built heritage looks grim, but then this status has always remained constant.
There has been no meaning full progress in the last 40 years and there never will be, unless Queens Park stops paying lip service and undertakes to pass some serious legislation that will support heritage committees and will hold local elected officials accountable.
Any volunteers for a Heritage Committee?

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 03, 2013 at 23:05:37

"As I have indicated publicly in the past, it is my intention to work with all parties in an effort to preserve the Gore wall." ~ Jason Farr

Why? Why do you want to preserve a "Wall", Jason? Because it makes good political sense for re-election? Or because you believe that preserving what your ancestors left for you would be good for your children?

But how would you know what your ancestors left for you is good to begin with, when in the same breath you say: "With that, we will continue to make every effort to both facilitate progress while at the same time value our past."

Preserving built Heritage is not a zero-sum game, while progress as you understand it, appears to be.

Hence you say a "wall" and not "buildings".

St. Petersburg is what it is today, because its local culture loves its past - as is Old Quebec city, Old Montreal or Annapolis, Maryland. Progress has not stopped here because Heritage came in their way. In fact they define "progress" everyday.

We on the other hand hate our past. We are so ashamed of it that we find disingenuous ways to tear it down. We have been using progress as an excuse to wipe it clean for fifty years. Yet, have we succeeded? No.

Why? because we truly believe that the city we have built on the ruins of the beautiful buildings we destroyed, is the greatest architecture. We are incapable of looking at our glass-box failures and learning from it.

"Some people hold the view that our insensitiveness to formal beauty is no disgrace. Such argue that our accomplishments and our interests are in other fields, where we more than match the accomplishments of older civilizations. They forget that every achievement not registered in terms of beauty has failed of its final and enduring transmutation. It is because the achievements of older civilizations attained to their apotheoses in art that they interest us, and unless we are able to effect a corresponding transmutation we are destined to perish unhonoured on our rubbish heap. That we shall effect it, through knowledge and suffering, is certain, but before attempting the more genial and rewarding task of tracing, in our life and in our architecture, those forces and powers which make for righteousness, for beauty, let us look our failures squarely in the face, and discover if we can why they are failures." ~ Architecture and Democracy, Claude Fayette Bragdon - F.A.I.A., 1918

I don't think that you still get it that the proposed development was a bloody joke. There is no development Jason. And even with some divine intervention if some project materializes on that land, the caliber of people who are involved in this game with the quality of journalism spinning this, are simply incapable of delivering public good on which you would want to hang your hat.

Don't fall into this trap. There is nothing to facilitate here. The core does not need another 100 floor embarrassment. You can choose to remain blind and happy with the notion that you are helping rebuild this city with your meeting next week, or you could choose to wake up from you holiday reverie - and just for your own sake, at least try to understand why "there has been an explicit desire by many folks" to save these buildings.

Maybe then you will care enough to ask for a public investigation into who, and why, someone compromised the Municipal Heritage Committee's confidentiality. And then you may get motivated to clean the City Hall from the inside for the sake of your children, who will inherit what you will leave behind for them.

Please don't waste your time facilitating such "progress". All they are looking for is some cheap money in exchange for saving some "bloody old" facades:

"It could be a commercial, retail and residential development. Or it could be “scaled back” to small boutique buildings for single tenants. Blanchard isn’t sure if there’s a way to save a couple of heritage buildings fronting King East. Miles says the real answer is they’ll be happy to restore the facades if someone donates $10 million to the project. They’re not really open to a casino going in there. But if someone approached them, they’d look at it. Make no mistake. These guys are the real deal." ~ Andrew Dreschel, Oct 26, 2012

Real progress in downtown has already been happening for over a decade, painfully incremental, but self-assured--and you damn well know that.

If you must do something next week, call for an emergency council meeting to find out how this situation came to be, and get it fixed officially. Or at least have the City Manager release an official statement to the effect that all of this was just a juvenile holiday prank, because David thought the world was coming to an end according to the Mayan calendar, and just wanted to see what a heritage bubble floating up looked like.

Mahesh P. Butani

PS: Please share this images with your children. Ask them whether you Clr. Farr, should save the buildings or just the "wall". Then ask them for their definition of "progress".

Please show them this too and ask them what if their city council had supported the destruction of all their buildings, because they were old...and needed repair... and how would that city look like today? Their answers will surprise you.

(above images from Brian Henley's web site)

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-04 00:15:44

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By cheenasharma (registered) | Posted January 04, 2013 at 00:39:00

Very interesting indeed!All my support for the cause of carrying forward the legacy of a distinguishable historic core of Hamilton. Even though I could label myself as the one who belongs to the fraternity of 'heritage professionals' and also because I am somehow somewhere connected with all this considering myself a 'global citizen' - what begs to be asked is: 1)Were there really violations of set rules and standard procedures? 2)Does not every person have a right to think and act - first and foremost for his own good? 3)Does this medium of discussion alone represent the true and widespread perceptions of 'heritage' in the people who are going to be most affected by this action i.e. local residents? 4)Does not Walmart form any part of our existing culture and the 'heritage' for our future generations? It is not so much about 'right' and 'wrong' but a reflection of what our societies have become and with what values we want to move forward? Sustainability is a far cry in all of this. From one point of view it can be said that "fortunately - at least this debate is happening" whereas another viewpoint may be "how does it matter - what will be will be!!!" May better sense prevail!

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By The So Fist (anonymous) | Posted January 04, 2013 at 10:52:08

The one question that does not seem to be asked is this...

If you could design a building on the lots in question, would you choose the existing buildings design or something different?

If you would prefer a different design, then why fight to keep the current buildings? Why not instead fight to make the new buildings be better than the old ones? Why not instead demand city council enact new tougher property standards and design requirements for new/renovated buildings located downtown?

On the other hand, if you look at the current buildings and say to yourself that these buildings represent the zenith of architectual design and cannot possibly be improved, then please sign the petition.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 04, 2013 at 15:09:01

Why are 'old buildings' in Hamilton recurring victims of Institutionalized Vandalism - 101

In 2006, the Planning & Economic Development Dept, of the City of Hamilton, developed a brilliant plan of action to guide and shape the heritage character of the downtown core in Gore Park and along the James and King Street axis:

Downtown Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines:

In 2006, in concert with the new Downtown Zoning By-law, the Downtown Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines was approved by Council as a city building tool to protect built heritage resources and character in the Downtown.

Objectives of the Downtown Heritage Character Zone Guidelines:

  • To protect the existing character of areas within the Downtown Heritage Character Zone;
  • To ensure that infill development and/or re-development within these areas will be sympathetic and complementary to the existing Heritage Character Zone character;
  • To avoid replicating historic architectural styles

The Heritage Character Zone comprises portions of King Streets East and West, James and John Streets North and South, and portions of King William Street where the most in tact and consistent built heritage urban fabric are found.

For alterations and/or additions to existing buildings, infill development, and large-scale redevelopment within this zone, the Downtown Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines shall apply.


Based on existing building characteristics in the Heritage Character Zone, the Guidelines’ principle design objective is to achieve “compatibility” in building form, and thereby protecting and enhancing the existing character of the streets. In addition to the Zoning By-law requirements, the Guidelines provide design advice on how new developments can best ‘fit’ with the core’s existing and traditional urban fabric.

By identifying building features such as façade demarcations and proportions in a traditional street setting, the guidelines illustrate how compatibility between new and existing buildings can be achieved by appropriate use of material and sensitive application of architectural elements on building facades.

The Guidelines should be consulted by developers, consulting architects, planners, and City planning staff during the early phases of the development applications such as:

  • Preliminary site plan review
  • Re-zoning applications
  • Site plan applications; and
  • Applications for all city incentives and loan programs for properties located within the Heritage Character Zone.

Council Approved Heritage Character Zone Urban Design Guideline (2006)

Downtown Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines Presentation to Council (2006)

Via City of Hamilton By-Law Number 05-200 our city's Planning & Economic Development Dept also set new Heights of buildings across the downtown core -- as well as within the "Heritage Character Zone" (see schedule F).

Unless otherwise noted, Sections 1 to 6 inclusive, and those Schedules A, B, C, D, E and F which incorporate boundaries for Downtown Hamilton were passed by the Council of the City of Hamilton and became effective on May 25, 2005.

These maximum building heights were set to an average of 22 meters, which is around 72 feet resulting in buildings around seven floor high. With special site plan control in the central part of the core, which could result in much larger heights subject to negotiations.

This was the stated disclaimer for the Heritage Character Zone:

The Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines apply only to specific areas in the Hamilton Downtown as illustrated in Figure 1. These areas, identified as the Heritage Character Zone in the Zoning By-law, contain Downtown Hamilton’s most intact traditional building fabric and streetscapes.

Existing buildings within these areas are generally consistent in shape, size, material, and character - and these qualities form the basis of the Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines.

The objective of these design guidelines, in conjunction with the Zoning By-law, is to protect the area’s traditional character by ensuring that new development either as alteration, infill, or new construction, enhances the existing built environment.

It is important to note that the Heritage Character Zone Design Guidelines only provide a minimum level of design appropriateness for development within the zone. Rather than being seen as obstacles to excellent building design, the guidelines should be treated as a design framework within which skilled design professional can respond creatively.

These guidelines have been developed based on two principles:

  • that the existing character of areas within the Downtown Heritage Character Zone should be conserved and appropriately managed; and,
  • that infill development and/or redevelopment within these areas will be sympathetic and complementary to the existing Heritage Character Zone character without replicating historic architectural styles.

With the new heights and the stated disclaimer, what the Planning & Economic Development Dept, effectively did was to nullify the intent and purpose of the "Heritage Character Zone".

Most buildings in the Heritage Character Zone are around 6, 9 or 12 meters high. Most of these building are not designated Heritage buildings, but are in very good condition.

Most of the owners are now enabled to build at least upto 22 meters high,(seven floors) or more, based on negotiations.

David Blanchard's testing of the "Heritage Balloon" if effective will open up the flood gates to a markedly different architectural fabric of the downtown core than what is now existing.

The BIG QUESTION is are we even aware of this, let alone, are we even ready for this.

In the absence of a real condo market in the core, we are setting ourselves for rampant destruction of many more of our old buildings in our downtown. All awaiting the upswing in the market -- which may or may not come.

We are indeed a city of speculators, with pretensions of culture and heritage. The lure of the gleaming slim tower, daintily set back from a well groomed almost 'heritage like' street wall, beckons us all, equally.

David Blanchard is hardly to blame for our culture. He is just an enabler of what we all seek.

Could we have approached this differently?

Surely. We could have easily designated the core axis as the Heritage district in 2005 (as has been done in many cities, as well as on Beach Blvd. in Ward 5).

We could have visualized our downtown as "Old Hamilton" much like "Old Montreal".

We could have opened up the North-South Axis to combat the scourge of the East-West axis which has plagued the development growth of our city for fifty years. We could have created a sea of high-rise towers that we crave, in a multi-Billion dollar development zone, on the lands surrounding the Old Siemens Plant - which could have been our new "Grand Central Terminal" in what could have been our new Development District, unfettered by the imperative to keep our heritage safe -- all while, keeping the architectural integrity of our core intact.

The old city of Hamilton, then had a fighting chance to turn into a tourist destination, much like Old Quebec city, or old Montreal.

But instead, what is driving our Urban Planning are individuals who do have planning degrees, but are not planners or designers by nature or calling.

Our Urban Planning is done by our uninspired high performance public servants who do not live in downtown, or our city. They commute here from outlying communities where they raise their children, to primarily service the interest of our suburban developers -- who see our downtown core not as a "living city", but as a decrepit ruin with fallow lands, where they will move their labour force for gainful employment, once they are done with the greenfields.

In the end we get the kind of city we get, because we hire the kind of people we choose to hire to guide our destiny.

God Bless Hamilton - both its old guard and its new guard.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-04 15:23:39

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By Query (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2013 at 08:04:34

Was 46-52 James North (aka 1855's William Thomas Building) designated?

If so, why did the City not designate older commercial buildings two blocks south at the same time?

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2013 at 09:27:04

The Globe loves a good real estate story...


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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 05, 2013 at 16:41:47

Why are 'old buildings' in Hamilton recurring victims of Institutionalized Vandalism? - 201

Sean's interview with Blanchard sheds more light on the truth of the matter than what our local press or even the Globe and Mail article of today have managed, on how desperately ill-conceived Blanchard's development venture at 18-28 King Street East has been so far.

This is indeed the state of free press and journalistic standards in Hamilton.

So, why are 'old buildings' in Hamilton recurring victims of Institutionalized Vandalism?

Perplexing as this question is, besides the continuing self-destructive tendencies of our planners - as highlighted in 101, we naturally look at ulterior motives of developers to understand this local malaise.

It goes without saying that 'maximizing profits' is at the very heart of all business ventures of speculative developers. Hence, by nature, such developers are pursuing goals that are in direct conflict with the tenets of good city building practices. This is the way it is in most cities.

However, is it too much to expect that our local media/press --not act-- as a mouth-piece of such developers?

If true journalism was at the heart of Hamilton's media enterprises, then with very little due-diligence on their part as reporters/writers, all claims to the "mortal sickness" of Hamilton's old buildings could be very easily exposed to be utter lies.

As I was flipping thru the latest issue of Hamilton Magazine which carried Sean's interview - it dawned on me that the answer to Hamilton's Institutionalized Vandalism of old buildings may possibly lie in how our local media (i.e. editors, journalists, writers, broadcasters, bloggers), most often, use 'old buildings' as a prop to build narratives in support of their ideology, grievances or false notions of progress.

In times we are living in, it is no surprise that all news is essentially public relation campaigns, however, it becomes apparent very quickly that in almost all cases, where a public lie about growth, progress or social causes needs to be propped up in Hamilton, 'old buildings' invariably are used as props in the ensuing public relations campaigns to grab mind share:

1) Coleman's article on "Charlton Hall" in above magazine unfortunately starts off, with a blatant lie:

"Some Corktown resident's have called the girls 'undesirables'...."

The only recourse left for the writer now is to follow up with more mis-information:

"The condition of Charlton Hall continued to deteriorate..."

Both these statements have been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be utterly false and mischievous. Yet this writer elects to use them.

In this case of Charlton House, eight mentally challenged girls have been used most shamelessly by many writers, broadcasters and podcasters in this city over the last year, to prop up their case for moving them out of a --structurally stable home with great architectural character on a lush green tree-lined street--, to an overtly institutionalized former factory building, near a rail-track.

In order for the first lie to stand - a building had to be declared mortally sick. Without claiming that this building is continuing to deteriorate, there is no case to move the girls out of a very stable neighbourhood which is seeing the construction of high-end condos only a stone throw away.

2) In the case of Sanford School's demolition, similar lies were perpetrated by the local press and even editorialized to legitimize the first lie--their claim of deterioration.

Never mind that the local community was never consulted about the future use of this surplus building, or the need for more green space which at first was in the form of an adult size soccer field for an Elementary school.

Here the media narrative went to great extremes to justify demolition--with the building going from being in perfect use only a year ago, to suddenly deteriorating so rapidly, that it was now imperative that it had to be demolished.

'Hazmat suits' were even thrown into the storyline to add the required drama, never mind that caretakers were seen entering and leaving the building without even a paper mask.

Instead of fact-checking, the press went to town spreading utter mis-information about this old building, in the most disingenuous manner known in journalism -- by conflating the cause of poor, underprivileged kids and their desperate need for green space, with the official story line of the building being mortally sick.

3) In the case of Blanchard's buildings at Gore Park, once again, the press has come out swinging in favor of 'progress and development', when they do not have a shred of evidence in support of new design, investment or sales.

Yet, endorsing it wholeheartedly, they quickly framed the issue as a fight between 'economic progress and heritage activism'.

Never mind that most of those who stand up for our heritage buildings do not see themselves as "activists" in the traditional sense of its meaning. But are simply expressing their indignation at the the gall of a developer wishing to tear down a part of their city without a solid plan.

Even the Globe & Mail dives in with an ill-researched article which quotes verbatim what a speculative developer is so prone to saying:

“They were filled with pigeon droppings and all kinds of lovely things that made it almost a brownfield above the ground floor,” he says. “It’s just come to a point where the buildings are in such poor condition that they need to either be removed, or some huge amount of money spent if someone wants to hold up the facades.”

"Such claims are commonplace among demolition-eager developers, but they carry some weight coming from Mr. Blanchard. His firm has preserved several buildings around downtown, including the Pigott, an art deco skyscraper now converted into condominiums, and a historic bank that houses a law firm."

Without even a visit to the site, let alone some on-line research to discover first-hand facts about this buildings, the reporter here, essentially makes the case for the need of "huge amount of money" that would be needed to save the facades.

He further goes on the promote the developer with what amounts to blatant mis-information. The Pigott Building, an art deco skyscraper was not restored by David Blanchard as he states:

The company that was responsible for the restoration of the Pigott Building is a company from Toronto:

"In the late 1980's Everest landed several significant projects: the restoration of the Pigott Building in Hamilton is one example."

This was the same restoration company which lost out on the bid for the now FilmWorks Loft building. A local news report from 2010 has even mentioned this fact. Blanchard may have been responsible for upgrades required for the condo conversion of the Piggot Building and its property management or sales--but surely not for the original restoration?

The local press/media is drenched in quid pro quo.

Realtors are a big source of steady advertising revenue for the press. A free press ride for Realtors who are coming of age as developers, is part of the standard media promotion package which keep the wheels of commerce turning.

Here is CBC laying the foundation for the developer--predictably, for the proverbial tug at the municipal feedbag:

"They've saved a lot of history."

"He would want help – from the city, the province, somebody – with the extra costs of saving those facades. It would be millions, he says, "and I don’t think there’s an appetite for that today."

Et tu, CBC?

If this is not enough, we now even have a one time mayor and now consultant and part-time local news hack, diving right into this muck of fallacious arguments, by making asinine public comments such as:

"Downtown activists will continue to perpetuate a ghetto-like mentality for our core. It is everybody's core, not just the few whose fears outweigh their dreams."

In order for such depravity to stand, the narrative of the building's grave ill-health is essential for selling the story of demolition, as is the mis-characterization of those who are against such public lies.

Such garbage can only be penned by those who deeply fear that they will be left behind by the force of real progress that downtown Hamilton has been witnessing for the last decade. Progress, which is built on the foundation of real truths and not lies.

As history has proven time and again in Hamilton, we are good at demolishing, however we fail miserably at re-building.

It would bode well for Hamilton's collective conscience to begin asking our local media and many of its gold star journalists/writers and media pundits/talking-heads some honest and pointed questions.

The only way our built-heritage has a better chance at surviving is when our local media stops using such false narratives of "dilapidated buildings" to prop up their bad arguments.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-05 17:48:51

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 11:19:04 in reply to Comment 84739

I take great exception to your inaccurate referral to the proposed demolition of these buildings as vandalism, institutionalized or otherwise. Vandalism as you well know is what others do to someone else's property without the owners permission. What the owner does can be called a lot of things but vandalism is not one of them.

I am sure you very carefully chose this word because of the negative connotations it brings. Your obvious knowledge of the English language should be used for better ends than this.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2013 at 14:42:45 in reply to Comment 84749

Larry 'O Larry: Spoken like a true school principle! Go after the grammar or diction, if you cannot deal with the language... :)

Do you really believe you are helping your cause of heritage destruction with such an argument?:

"The modern term vandalism stems from the Vandals' reputation as the barbarian people who sacked and looted Rome in AD 455."

"Vandalism is the behaviour attributed originally to the Vandals, by the Romans, in respect of culture: ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable."

As 'citizens', correctly state:

"Gore Park belongs to us all".

Any form of vandalism is bad, Larry 'O Larry, whether done to one's own property or to other's property. And especially when it is done to an entire 'eco-system', it is a sacrilege.

Mahesh P. Butani

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By citizens (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 12:09:08 in reply to Comment 84749

Gore park belongs to us all.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 08, 2013 at 05:18:33 in reply to Comment 84752

You're right. The park belongs to the city, the buildings belong to the owners. The park and the buildings are not the same.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 08, 2013 at 21:49:54 in reply to Comment 84792

they are co-dependant. Take the park and put in next to Square One in Mississsuaga. Is it still Gore Park?

Don't forget it's original name - The Gore. In other words, the entire district from James to Catharine along King. It's not just a park. It's the heart of the city. The Gore.
Once the buildings are gone, we're left with a useless patch of grass next to a parking garage.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2013 at 02:30:56

The role that our local media plays in promoting the destruction of our built-heritage is plain sad, as it will leave behind a devastated urban landscape.

However, the role they are playing with the promotion of the so called OLG modernization strategy and Bingo Hall expansion plan, is even sadder, for it will destroy whatever else is left remaining after they are done wiping out our built-heritage:

The Ugly Truth Behind The OLG Bingo Expansion, Darryl Kaplan, editor, Trot Magazine

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-06 02:35:49

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 11:22:08 in reply to Comment 84742

and Trot magazine is a unbiased source? Nobody has anything more to lose from the OLG's plans to build casinos then the horse racing industry. Anything that comes from that source must obviously be taken with a grain of salt and a skeptical eye. To base one's opinion on one of their articles is just plain sad.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2013 at 12:58:56

Why are 'old buildings' in Hamilton recurring victims of Institutionalized Vandalism? - 301

"David Blanchard says the buildings – particularly the upper levels – were already shot when his company bought them more than a decade ago."

As one of the most media-packaged and savvy Realtors in Hamilton, Blanchard would have surely asked for a 'building inspection report' as a condition of sale purchase, before he agreed to buy these buildings.

Any fatal structural flaws as claimed now, would have shown up in his inspection report - and if they did, why did he still choose to buy these properties?

He either bought these properties for the land value, and is merely making revenues from the buildings standing on it, until the time is right to rip them down.

Or, he may have bought it for the right intentions but did not have the capital to fix them as he had hoped. But it is obvious from the media hype around his successes that he does not lack capital. The annual income from his parking lots at rear alone, would have been sufficient to carry out the renovations without any support from the city.

Also being the much celebrated star of downtown revitalization, he has to have been aware of the various city incentives that were available to all property owners in the core for renovating buildings:

Downtown Renewal - Financial Incentive Programs:

  • Commercial Property Improvement Grant Program
  • Hamilton Downtown Property Improvement Grant Program (formerly the Enterprise Zone Grant Program)
  • Hamilton Downtown Multi-Residential Property Investment Program
  • Commercial Corridor Housing Loan and Grant Program (formerly the Main Street Program)
  • Hamilton Downtown Office Tenancy Assistance Program
  • Hamilton Heritage Property Grant Program
  • The "Gore" Building Improvement Grant Program
  • Hamilton Downtown Commercial Facade Property Improvement Grant Program

Did he ever think of applying for any of these incentives and grants to start fixing 18-30 King Street East in any of the years since he purchased them?

If not, it would appear that he never had any intentions of converting the commercial status of the upper floors to residential use--as most property owners in the core have been doing to bring more residential units into the downtown market.

Property owners who leave old commercial units vacant on upper floors do get rebates on taxes. Once they convert them to residential, and if vacant, they do not get any tax rebates. Hence, the incentive to leave upper floors vacant as old commercial, with open windows and unpaired roofs, while 'pigeons'--the silent business partners of such property owners, work away at the upper floors for years, to accrue the much craved end-value.

True developers and risk-takers, who have converted scores of old commercial upper floors into lofts for living & working have never had vacancies for long. These are the real downtown developers who have been driving growth in our core over the last ten years.

But you never hear of them, as they are simply not sexy enough for our local press. The press needs a distinguished "Saviour", on whom they bestow the sex appeal--and even have the gumption of shining a holier-than-thou light on them. This is the only way they know how to sell newspapers.

Also, if Blanchard now says that these buildings "were shot on the upper levels" since he bought them, then as an upright citizen, why has he been jeopardizing the lives of countless human beings, by allowing tenants to occupy the lower floors for all these years? Countless lives seem to have been put at serious risk by allowing the occupancy of such structurally flawed buildings. Or, did he simply not give a damn for the lives or safety of those who occupied, visited or passed by his buildings?

Should the city even be allowing 'partial occupancy' for such developers to make money on buildings in such disrepair, which they have no intention of restoring, but every intention of tearing down at the first available opportunity?

“There are all kinds of people running around, they’re doing their thing, trying to tell us what to do,” he says. “We’ll talk to them. I don’t know what good it’s going to do and I don’t know who’s going to pay for it, but we’ll talk to them.” ~ David Blanchard

Seriously, no one is telling him what to do. If anything, the public uproar is about telling him what not to do, which is entirely based on what little he has shared prematurely with the public so far. And if he or his architect is incapable of realizing the gross inappropriateness of what they have shared so far, then they should simply not be in the business of real estate development.

About "who’s going to pay for it" viz the restoration, the city already has in place various programs and incentives to help property owners do the right thing by such buildings. One just have to apply for these incentives and get the project rolling - if that is the intent.

The city has never demanded a historical restoration job on these facades. The condition of his building's facades only call for routine maintenance and upgrades to the cornices, eavestroughs & drains, possibly new windows and such, and possible upgrades to the store signs if required. All of which is clearly covered in the city incentive program.

The public uproar has been purely about the claims that the building are structurally compromised, and therefore need to be pulled down; and about the visible lack of a plan to rebuild.

However, if the intent has always been to destroy these buildings in the first place, then still there is no issue. Our ever compliant City Planning Department, has also made that possible for speculators, by ascribing a 22 meter height limit to these heritage properties, with the added Site Plan control in this area (a left over of the old Central Business District - CBD ideology), where if one aspires to put up a hundred-floor building, one is most welcome!

It is also fascinating to know that The Gore Building Improvement Grant Program (PED 11167) was specifically developed to:

"To support the maintenance, attractiveness, functionality and viability of the historic building stock that fronts on King Street East between James Street and Catharine Street, known as the “Gore”.

The program is intended to provide financial assistance to bring existing properties to present-day Property Standards and Sign By-law requirements and, to improve their accessibility.

The program supports an objective of the Downtown Secondary Plan: conserve and enhance the Gore as the primary landscaped open space and concentration of heritage buildings in Downtown Hamilton.

Applications under the Program will be accepted to the end of December 2014 (subject to the availability of funding). Improvements funded under the Program must be completed no later than August 1, 2015.

But while this was expected to come into force in two years, our City Planning Department has already subverted the intent of such noble gestures by ascribing a 22 meter height limit to all these heritage properties across the core's east-west & north-south axis.

And our Planning Committee has facilitated such subversion by not communicating relevant information from the Heritage Committee to our Council.

So, much before 2015 rolls in, we may be seeing many demolitions in our core. All mimicking Blanchard's approach, if he is successful at leveling 18-28 King Street East.

But can David Blanchard or any other property owners who choose to follow in his footsteps, be really held responsible for dreaming BIG without a plan? when our press sensationalizes "Big", our media pundits promote "Big", and our City's Planning Department facilitates "Big"?

Our planners want both a concentration of heritage buildings and new high-rise towers, on the very same properties!!

After spending millions of tax-payers dollars over five years to develop a well scaled, heritage driven plan for the core, our Urban Planners also simultaneously give all property owners the "demolition tools" they require to destroy the very built-heritage they are being enticed to save with incentives.

When our planners are so utterly confused, do you expect our property owners to have clear thinking?

The question every Hamiltonian needs to ask is: do we really want to become known as the first city in the world to be known as the "City of Facades"?

This could well be the resulting effect now, given the contradictory signals our urban planners have been sending out to our property owners in the downtown core.

A long wall of two and three floor facades starting from the downtown gates at Wellington Street to Gore Park and beyond, block-after-block of hollowed out old building facades, standing forlorn like a Roman ruin -- with daintily set back slim towers, that may arrive if and when the market does, to eventually cover the exposed rear of the heritage we have just stripped naked for the whole world to see.

Is this the real vision of our Planning Department and elected Council for our downtown?

We simply cannot aspire to be "big" and "small" at the same time. Has that not been Hamilton's dilemma for the last five decades?

The funny thing is, a flourishing economy asks for neither "big" nor "small" - it just asks for self-assuredness, consistency, and connectivity--no matter the size, density or the direction of flow.

Someday, our planning departments will be driven by network thinking, until that day comes, we must ensure that those who are driving it now, don't do any further damage than they already have to the very fabric of our society.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-07 13:46:40

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 18:44:37

If only....

"The plans for a large-scale development at 1 Yonge Street, currently home to a set of low-rise buildings and the Toronto Star’s old parking lot, are even more ambitious than last summer’s rumours suggested. Late last week, Urban Toronto published a pair of architectural sketches showing Pinnacle International’s plans for a skyline-defining, five-tower development that would include Canada’s two tallest skyscrapers. Alongside the 92-storey and 98-storey buildings, the cluster would also contain an office tower of some 30 storeys, two 70-storey towers and street-level retail space (the Toronto Star office at the corner of Yonge and Queens Quay would remain untouched). The proposal is still in its infancy as the city has requested Pinnacle wait to formally submit it until after Waterfront Toronto has finished a study on future development in the area, which may not be until late summer. Moreover, as with Oxford Properties’ Convention Centre plans and David Mirvish and Frank Gehry’s theatre district proposal, questions remain over the area’s ability to sustain a set of monolithic residential towers. Although, at least Pinnacle would only be razing a parking lot, and not a beloved theatre. [Urban Toronto]"


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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 20:52:40

Elsewhere, the news is more familiar....

"A campaign to save a Blackpool theatre which hosted stars such as the Beatles and Morecambe and Wise has started.

Demolishing the former ABC Theatre would destroy an "important part" of the town's heritage, said Gill Payne whose petition aims to save it.

But Elaine Smith MBE from Blackpool Civic Trust said it should be demolished. "People are confusing memories with heritage."

Blackpool Council is planning to buy it and use the site as a car park."


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By Dane (registered) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 23:18:45 in reply to Comment 84785

I guess the UK is more progressive with its fake development. They dispense with pretending they are going to build wunder buildings and get straight to the parking. You know, a heritage hooligan

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted January 10, 2013 at 17:46:04

On Councillor Farr's facebook page, he states that he, Councillor McHattie and city staff had a constructive meeting today with Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Premi about the buildings at 18 to 28 King Street East: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Councillor...

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 13, 2013 at 07:07:20 in reply to Comment 85075

That post is typical politician speak. There's no substance or content to it. So they met, great. What did they discuss? How long did they discuss it for? What was the outcome?

Saying things like "it was, as anticipated, a great meeting" tells me nothing. I'm sick of this from all our politicians.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted January 11, 2013 at 07:53:57

Here is the link to an article titled "New hope for Gore Park buildings slated for demolition" by Adam Carter posted on the CBC Hamilton website today: http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/20...

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