this blog entry has been updated
The Hamilton Spectator has devoted a big chunk of today's issue to light rail transit (LRT).
First, an in-depth front-page report by Meredith MacLeod investigates whether and why Mayor Bob Bratina and some councillors seem to have lost their enthusiasm for LRT.
Following up on Bratina and city manager Chris Murray's claim that developers aren't showing any interest, MacLeod surveys a broad swath of Hamilton's business and development community and finds lots of support, mingled with frustration at the mixed signals from Hamilton's leadership.
So if LRT is so important to the city's economic development, why aren't developers swooping in with plans and cash in hand?
That's easy to explain, says developer David Blanchard, whose company owns a lot of property along the line.
"No one is going to run in and buy up all this stuff on a dream."
Until there are commitments and timelines in place, developers won't sink money into buying property, he says.
In fact, after talking to Blanchard, Mark Chamberlain, the Chamber of Commerce, the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Association (which calls LRT "an absolute must") and others, the only developers MacLeod found who aren't strongly in support of LRT are Vince Molinaro, who wants the city to focus on intensification at the waterfront, escarpment and Ancaster, and Tyler McDiarmid of Vrancor, who wants the city to concentrate on the James Street GO station to attract GTA commuters.
The Spec editors also took the rare step of publishing a front-page editorial challenging Hamilton's leaders not to squander the opportunity to build LRT through a lack of conviction. "If that happens," writes Howard Elliott on behalf of the editorial board, "it will be a mistake of historic proportions."
He writes, "the mayor and senior staff are either misinformed, or not listening" when they claim that Hamilton's business community is not interested in LRT.
The editorial concludes, "LRT is working in mid-sized cities across North America. It can work here, too, but that will require stronger leadership than we've seen so far."
Update: Updated to note that Molinaro wants to see intensification at the waterfront, escarpment and Ancaster, not just Ancaster. You can jump to the changed paragraph.
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