Help Plan John Rebecca Park

By John Neary
Published June 25, 2011

The City of Hamilton plans to create a new park on the block bounded by John, Rebecca, Catharine, and King William Streets.

According to the project page on the city's website, the purpose of the project is "to use a public realm improvement to make downtown living more attractive and promote continued downtown revitalization."

The park design has not yet been determined, and comments are invited from the public. You can submit an online survey or mail a comment sheet [PDF] to the Project Manager, Le'Ann Whitehouse Seely:

Le'Ann Whitehouse Seely
Project Manager
Landscape Architectural Services
Public Works Department
City of Hamilton
Tel: 905-546-2424 ext.2289

The name of the park has not yet been determined; "John Rebecca Park" is a placeholder. Perhaps someone can find out what this land was used for before it became a parking lot, and a historically appropriate name can be chosen.

John Neary lives in Beasley Neighbourhood and practices general internal medicine at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. He would like Hamilton to develop an urban environment that creates less gainful employment for his profession.


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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2011 at 21:05:48

I'm somewhat uncertain of whether this is a good site for a park...seeing as how it's bounded on one side by John - a major artery in my opinion, I'm kind of disappointed there's not going to be any retail or anything on John across from the fire hall (if this is the area I'm thinking about).

That said, more green space is needed in the area for the residents, so I can't really be too hard on this place.

Still, would be nice to have some mixed us...maybe a community centre on-site along John, providing daycare services and the like.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2011 at 21:11:55 in reply to Comment 65181

I'd also just like to say, maybe it's because the project is in such early stages, but I found it very difficult to find useful information on the city's website on this project, even with the links provided. The information seems scattered and poorly organized, and I get a poor sense of what kind of feedback they're looking for.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted June 25, 2011 at 21:38:35 in reply to Comment 65182

You expected more from the city?

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By W.Entworth (registered) | Posted June 25, 2011 at 22:14:37

It looks like that block was at one time a stove company operating under various names: Gurney and Carpenter Iron Foundry / E. & C. Gurney Company / Gurney, Tilden Company / Hamilton Stove and Heater Company

At the info. session the city wouldn't say whether they plan to purchase and demolish the remaining historic building (Club 77) but did say the entire block is already zoned parkland.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 09:50:59 in reply to Comment 65185

Thanks ... alas, "Gurney Park" doesn't really sound quite right!

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By George (registered) | Posted June 25, 2011 at 22:51:27

Gotta be a good thing for owners of condos at Film Work Lofts, across the street.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2011 at 07:29:51

So if I have my bearings right for this block...behind it to the north, on Rebecca was the old (second location?) of the bus terminal. (Lord, the memories...) And to the south, on King William, the distribution centre for The Spectator. (I'm going back to the 60s here). The surrounding area included Waddington's on John, a great musical instrument place, with some superb instructors.

I can recall sitting parked in that lot with my dad on countless Saturdays while my mom was off shopping at The Right House, Kresge's, Eaton's, Robinson's, etc. I distinctly remember some billboards on the side of the Spec depot, especially a Hamilton Tiger-Cat one. (And for the cinema buffs out there, within walking distance were The Capitol, The Palace -two Thomas Lamb beauties- The Century, The Hyland and The Tivoli.)

I'm actually amazed that this project has been initiated. A green space might not seem to be much of a big deal to some, but I can see this being 'the thin edge of the wedge'; who knows to where this might lead?

I hope that the City receives the kind of creative and thoughtful input that Hamiltonians are capable of. (Just imagine; this is a chance to contribute something to the process that's at the opposite end of the engagement spectrum from 'protest'. Whoda thunk it...?)

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By TnT (registered) | Posted June 26, 2011 at 10:39:31

I am having a real problem seeing the vision and need for this park. Isn't Beasely right there? It was a amazing BBQ they put on last weekend. Imagine the wasteland that area is in winter. Unless they can create something like the driving park in dundas. I thought the need was for density in the core, not three season parks.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2011 at 00:01:46

It's about damn time. That chunk of downtown is like a crater. You can see for blocks in multiple directions with nothing more built-up than a fence or parking-lot shack.

As for how fast it can be re-naturalized, I'd suggest looking a block north at the parking lot for the old GO station. There's already waist-high shrubbery and a decent number of trees growing right out of cracks in the asphalt, or the fenced-off block of rubble to the east.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 07:40:14

Place a huge statue of Lincoln Alexander right in the middle of it and call it Lincoln Alexander Park :)

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 09:19:13

I'm pleased about this opportunity, but worry that we won't get it right. However, let's participate in the process and try to create the coolest new urban space in the city. Some ideas I've come across for new urban parks:

I love this concept:

We could easily do a 'curbless' piazza considering the quiet nature of Rebecca, King William and Catharine. Imagine businesses along King William (and future ones on the parking lot ghetto along Rebecca/Catharine) having this piazza style park that could feel like an overflow patio space for their business? We don't need a blob of grass with trees on this site. We need a true, big city, urban park.

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 13:32:54 in reply to Comment 65202

great idea.... but when would the street wall come into play? sadly i dont see that happening anytime soon. we should also be careful with this too as it should not rival Gore Park. THAT should be the true big city urban park.

IMHO - this should be a small urban parkette (in one of the four corners), rather than a park on the entire block

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 09:55:50


"Park development should go hand-in-hand with residential development, like condos or townhouses, downtown, Bratina said. The city is in the process of hiring a company to conduct the $171,500 cleanup of 600 to 1,000 cubic metres of soil at the site. Interested parties had until this week to file a prequalification document. The cleanup is to start this fall and take between four and five weeks. The site will be repaved for continued use as a parking lot before park development, Marini said. The lost parking spaces will be made up at 140 King William St., according to a Dec. 14, 2009, city document about the site."

*Should* go hand-in-hand. A lot of things *should* happen.

I worry that this park will experience an interim purgatory like Gore Park. If an existing park intended to grow into a piazza can devolve into a parking lot, I don't hold out much hope for a parking lot that is being freshly paved en route to parkdom.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:11:07 in reply to Comment 65204

That link is broken; here's one that works

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:09:12 in reply to Comment 65206


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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 14:28:05

@Robert D: I am also ambivalent about using this land for a park. Particularly when the Hamilton Downtown Mosque's efforts to acquire a nearby block for privately funded mixed-use (housing/school/larger mosque) development look to be thwarted by the police. If it really came to it I would prefer to have the mosque project than the park, although I agree with you that in the best of all possible worlds we'd get real construction on both blocks. But there is political will to turn John/Rebecca into something other than a parking lot and I think it is worth trying to make the best of the city's initiative.

@W.Entworth: thanks!

@WRCU2: google "Crabtree Fields" for an example of a fairly young but splendidly green park in London, England. After being hit by a bomb in WWII, this land was used as a parking lot until 1985. Here's a sample picture. Twenty-five years is not a long time in the lifecycle of a park, and if we can't think that far ahead we're already screwed.

@Undustrial: exactly. Have you noticed the rosebushes on that block?

I encourage everyone to send their comments directly to the city. As mystoneycreek astutely points out, this is a rare opportunity for engagement without protest.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2011 at 23:50:50

"The site will be repaved for continued use as a parking lot before park development".

Legend has it that in the old USSR, as a means of achieving full employment, the state would hire people to dig holes, then others to come along and fill them back in in again. Once again, the west has achieved the same thing, but with more petrochemicals.

If we actually wish to see this space "naturalized" in any way deserving of the word, one thing is needed: time. Even under ideal starting conditions, these kinds of systems can't just be dropped into the ground. It takes time for these things to get established, and for nature to sort out which ones work and which simply aren't suited for the site. If we tore up the asphalt today (something which wouldn't take the lot of us long with pick-axes and rock bars), this process would begin tomorrow. By the time this park would finally be "finished" on the city's timeline, there'd be young trees, large bushes, and a fairly developed series of paths reflecting common travel patterns.

Letting the "weeds" (pioneering succession species) grow is a far better option than paving and parking. Even if large parts of the area are to be paved as paths or grassed, the growth can be mulched and the topsoil spread on the rest. These mounds can then function as natural enclaves in the park, to shade and beautify the rest of it, with a huge head start.

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By Bill King (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2012 at 12:36:36

I don't think we need a park there. Downtown is better with a diversity of accessible buildings interspersed with small parketts and green space.

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