Fear of Change

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 16, 2012

On June 20, the General Issues Committee (GIC, formerly Committee of the Whole) balked at a proposal to put out a request for proposals for a one-time forgivable loan of up to $650,000 to incentivize a new full-service supermarket in downtown Hamilton. After a long and painful debate, Councillors just couldn't bring themselves to approve the motion, even though it didn't commit them to anything and the money to fund it was already budgeted.

Flash forward to this past Monday, the most recent GIC meeting. This time, Councillors agreed to a brownfield remediation grant of up to $650,000 to demolish the old industrial facility at 440 Victoria Avenue North, as well as downtown property improvement tax increment grant of $593,248.25 to J. Beume Real Estate Ltd for a planned new building at James Street North and Vine Street.

It kind of makes you wonder whether all the anguish over the supermarket grant, which is a tiny bit different from these other, more familiar grants, was really commensurate with the size and risk of the proposal.

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 g (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 08:00:01

the proposed james north building doesn't even conform to the downtown master plan! what's the deal with that???

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By concerned (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 08:58:48

Fear of Change or Fear of Failure? Seems to me that there is legitimate fear of failure based on recent history of larger markets nearby. You really seem to be dismissing this fear as irrational. I'm not sure I agree even if its probably true to a lesser extent than you believe. Additionally there is the concern of many about subsidizing competition to the Farmers Market which the city is also subsidizing. I think this may be the deal breaker. Its the question I'd be asking myself if I was voting on the issue. At any rate I'm not really sure its Fear of Change.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 09:44:01 in reply to Comment 79843

If Fear of Failure is holding you back, you've already lost. Sit home, don't go out and try anything, don't apply for a job, don't ask her to marry you, don't start a business.

Besides, it's a forgiveable loan, not a grant, which would have to be paid back to the city if the supermarket left downtown within (I believe) the first five years. Fine, let's say they fail after 3 years - you get the money back. They fail after 6 years - oh well, we tried, and the cost was rather minimal (as this points out, equivalent to demolishing some buildings). Wouldn't you rather be building something than demolishing something?

As for competition with the Farmer's Market - I don't buy that argument personally. The way I see it they serve two similar and complimentary - but ultimately different services. The market is open limited hours and carries a selection of primarily fresh foods. You still need somewhere to buy your toilet paper, jars of pasta sauce, oreo cookies, pet food, etc. The market doesn't offer these goods, so there's no competition on these points. Is there a chance people will buy their carrots at the Supermarket instead of the market? Of course. But given what we see with the success of farmer's markets in Ancaster, Hamilton Mountain, and Ottawa Street, there are still people who will choose to go to a farmer's market.

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By Nostrum (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 11:47:49

"...people often talk about being scared of change
But for me I'm more afraid of things staying the same
'Cause the game is never won by standing in any one place for too long"

- Nick Cave, "Jesus of the Moon"

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By Maxamillion (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 13:32:02

Its quite simple really. I've got a 4 year old and he's a fussy eater. I put dinner down in front of him and he says, "Yucky! I don't like it!" "But you haven't even tried it." "It's yucky." See, council doesn't like the supermarket idea because they're not used to it and that makes it yucky.

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By George (registered) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 13:46:07

Maybe council got this one right...

"New grocery store downtown? A grocery store is coming to Jackson Square, The Spectator has learned."


"At that time, Glen Norton, the city's manager of urban renewal, said that some grocery companies may want to beat out the competition and set up downtown before the city finishes its grant process.

He noted there were “several conversations” taking place within the private sector about this very possibility."

Either way, it's good news to get a grocery store downtown.

I heard through the rumour mill a while back that a store was going in that location and that it would be the big bee people. Wonder who it is.

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By Core Constituencyy (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 17:15:24 in reply to Comment 79854

Nations Fresh.

@EmmaatTheSpec tweets:

To clear up the name confusion - the grocery store will be Nations Fresh. It will be owned by Oceans Fresh.

"The look of the stores is very much European in style and scope with aisles named for countries such as India, Jamaica and Vietnam."

That last tweet was from the Oceans Fresh Food Market website:

...they're planning to cater the ethnic food they offer to the demographic of the neighbourhood.

...the folks at Jackson Square... say prices will be comparable to Fortino's.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 17:19:26

Not the Whole Foods that some saps were praying for...

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By none (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 19:30:52 in reply to Comment 79866

or try this one

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 07:48:40 in reply to Comment 79868

“It’s a real symbol. It tells us that out-of-town people are willing to make a $7 million investment," the mayor said.


Is that a sly dig at Yale Properties?

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 18:48:53

Great to hear. One of the locations that I'd pondered along the way; I lived on Market Street in the 80s and this part of the mall was anchored for a while with upscale/youth fashion, but was always lagging behind the rest of the mall. (After all, the 'downtown-core' is focused at King & James)

Still, I have to admit I'd have preferred a location in City Centre, a block farther away from the Dundurn Fortinos, and better situated towards the current activity in the area. (At the same time, maybe it's better that there's distance between it and the Farmers' Market.)

It's ironic that I was in Jackson Square today and had a very long conversation with a mall management rep about all things connected to the 40th anniversary of the mall next week.

It's apropos that a British supermarket chain has the motto 'Every little helps.'

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 20:38:37

This is good news. Let's see what happens.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 22:14:56

Glen Norton said this frees up the $650,000 loan for other uses. FOR THE LOVE, can we please use it to do the entire Gore Master Plan now, instead of waiting for 4 more years.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 08:17:51

Where exactly is this going in at the mall?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 09:32:12 in reply to Comment 79878

You know Bay Street side of the mall, where they had that whole mall corridor sealed off for years. The one they opened up and used when they temporarily moved the Farmer's market for rennovations? There.

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By LOL (registered) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 09:03:51

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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