National Post Discovers Hamilton

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 17, 2008

Scott Weir, an associate with ERA Architects and occasional freelance columnist for the National Post, let the cat out of the bag this past Saturday in a laudatory piece on Hamilton.

Titled "The Secret's Out", it presents the other side of Hamilton to out-of-towners (chiefly Torontonians) whose opinions of the Hammer are formed mainly by the view from the Skyway.

Exploring what is becoming a common theme among Toronto-centric publications, Weir highlights Hamilton's great architecture, coherent downtown and relatively cheap housing, plus the planned electrifiation of the GO Lakeshore line and proposed light rail rapid transit.

He points out what the early adopters - artists and creative types pushed out of Toronto by high prices - already know: "Hamilton has become a viable option for artists, families and urban renovators wanting to sink their teeth into some affordable architectural grandeur."

Weir also blows a dog whistle for Hamilton heritage advocates with a glowing reference to our City Hall ("a masterpiece, one of the most beautifully executed modernist buildings in Canada") and a warning that such buildings are "often at risk of demolition".

(Aside: ERA Architects recently resigned from the City Hall renovation project after council voted to replace the building's architecturally significant marble cladding with precast concrete.)

Weir voices a real and growing concern among arts advocates in Toronto, who fear that their city is growing hostile to the very people who embraced and energized Toronto's hip downtown neighbourhoods in the first place:

Whether we realize it or not, Hamilton has new relevance for us in Toronto. Here, we have largely abandoned the ability to house and foster artists and musicians. The cheap warehouse spaces required to generate the creative process are now condo lofts, and the costs associated with living within the urban core are unreachable by those who have not yet made it. Artists are discovering that post-industrial Hamilton is an affordable toolbox of functional warehouse spaces and storefronts, as Toronto's downtown fills with bankers and lawyers.

Finally, Weir closes with a much-appreciated nod to your humble scribes here at Raise the Hammer, which he recommends visiting "for a reading of the city's tone".

People who live in Hamilton, and especially those of us who moved here by choice, have long known and cherished the city's latent charms. With the rash of exploratory articles coming out recently in Toronto - driven at least in part by Hamilton's inclusion in the Metrolinx regional transportation framework - the secret is finally getting out.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Smacky (anonymous) | Posted November 17, 2008 at 17:14:50

Hamilton has long suffered under Toronto's insufferably smug attitude. As one of the artists mentioned, when I perform in TO I have been greated with derision and actual boos when I announce my home town. I am proud of Hamilton, and have always defended her to Toronto.

Now that Toronto needs us, they are suddenly interested? How self serving. Now that they have messed their own city up to the point where no one beneath the rank of corporate VP can afford to live there (ok, an exaggeration to be sure, but us creative types tend to do that) they are suddenly interested in what Hamilton has to offer?

Quite frankly, we don't need to Toronto. They need us. I am not looking forward to watching Toronto mess up Hamilton as badly as they have destroyed their own culture from within.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 18, 2008 at 00:26:50

Maybe we could do a trade. We could take their huddled artists yearning to breathe free, and send them the wretched refuse of our teeming council chamber.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2008 at 15:38:36

Hamilton has been getting a lot of good press lately from some T.O media outlets. High T..O housing prices are pushing people into Hamilton and people are beginning to discover what we Hamiltonians have known for a long time - this is a great place to be.

If only we could have a winning football team!

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By hammer booster (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2008 at 16:18:49

Wow, great essay in the Post. I love that the "cool kids" in Toronto are starting to notice the rusty old Hammer, I just hope our own council can get it's act together and figure out how to support the stuff that's working. regardless they'll probably take credit when these things hit critical mass and take on a life of there own.

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