Think Outside the Big Box

By Jason Leach
Published February 02, 2005

An article in today's Hamilton Spectator reports that two more big box developments have been approved for Hamilton, this time at the intersection of Hwys 5&6.

Recent approvals have already been given for a similar complex on the east Mountain dubbed 'Meadowlands East', referring to the original big box complex in Ancaster called the Meadowlands.

I suppose they like to give names to these developments that remind us all of what was paved over to build them. At any rate, whether you love or hate big box complexes, one fact can't be denied - their impact on small businesses already established in the surrounding areas.

Due to the location of this new complex at 5&6, the damage that is going to be done to small businesses is sure to be huge.

Think back to the pre-Meadowlands days. When someone mentioned Ancaster you immediately thought of historic Wilson Street, huge trees and streets such as Lovers Lane and Sulphur Springs Road.

Now, when one mentions Ancaster, you think of Home Depot, McDonalds, and never-ending vistas of black and grey rooftops with nary a tree in sight. Residents of Waterdown - welcome to your future.

Consider these statistics from a study presented by the Waterdown Business Improvement Area: Downtown Waterdown businesses stand to lose almost 29% of their business. Dundas and Westdale stand to lose 15% of their business.

And downtown Hamilton, only ten minutes from the site, will face another huge obstacle in its attempt to be redeveloped.

The entire west end of Hamilton has, for the most part, been preserved in a comfortable, urban setting. Residents like myself were drawn to the area, in part due to the wonderful shopping experiences that can be had in walkable commercial districts such as Locke, Westdale, Dundas and Waterdown. One would think that city hall would be very interested in preserving the few remaining areas of our city that actually resemble a real city.

The rest of the Hamilton area has become a bland, car-dependent clone of Mississauga or Markham. Apparently this is city council's vision for the entire city.

In Ward One, where I live, residents spoke loud and clear during the last municipal election that we weren't happy with our former councilor pushing through a big box Fortinos Store in the middle of Westdale and helping to approve a massive social service complex at King and Pearl consisting of 22 stories of shelter and low-income apartment units crammed into a small city block surrounded by historic single family homes.

If you are reading this and completely disagree with my views on this issue, then please ignore everything I've said and simply consider this:

Regularly, there are stories in the local media with our business and political leaders loathing the lack of 'serviced industrial land' in our city. They state, and quite correctly, that Hamilton needs a major influx of good, well-paying jobs in a variety of fields. But, there is simply no land.

If this was any normal city, the 100 acres being debated at 5&6 would be zoned as an 'extension' of the technology park also located at the same intersection. The Hamilton Incubator of Technology is in the park along with several wonderful high-tech start up businesses.

It would be all-too logical to use this 100 acres across the street for more of the same. But as we all know, logic took a hike out of town a few decades ago and other than a few random sightings in Burlington and West Hamilton, hasn't been seen since.

City Hall has shown once again that a quick buck is more important than quality of life or local businesses in our city. I can only hope that the residents of Flamborough will have the same courage and values as west-end residents and prove once again in the next election that we aren't going to sit back and be ignored and walked all over just so a city councilor can get in good with a developer.

Flamborough residents, please remember this sequence of events during Councillor McCarthy's re-election campaign in a couple of years. Only you have the power to stop this kind of nonsense from happening again in the future. Exercise it!

Correction: this article originally suggested that Councillor Margaret McCarthy's upcoming election campaign will be "well-funded". In fact, as her assistant Don Redmond has advised us, Councillor Margaret McCarthy "has never received a single campaign contribution (with the exception of her husband) for any of her elections." Raise the Hammer regrets the error. -Ed.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Steeltown (registered) | Posted March 10, 2005 at 08:20:41

Wish City Hall would vote in favour of Brian McHattie idea to have a moratorium on big box development. Big box development is killing urban street shops.

Wait until the Red Hill Expressway is complete then watch the Meadowlands East explode.

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