Demolishing the Future

By RTH Staff
Published August 30, 2007

This economic development report outlines several demolition permits all recommended by staff. A few thoughts:

1. The central policy area states that no demolition can occur without a building permit for a replacement structure.

The medical clinic on Wilson St. proposes to demolish two homes for parking and yet staff recommend the permit. Enough is enough. The area around Wilson, Rebecca, Catharine, John and so on is nothing but a huge wasteland of parking. Why are we adding more?

2. We should extend this 'central policy area' into much of the urban lower city. We read these reports every month and every month there are homes being demolished with no replacement structure but staff continues to recommend the applications since the lands fall outside the "central policy area".

Is that the extend of thought and vision going into evaluating these applications? Some staffer pulls out a map and says "well, it's outside the central policy area. Let's let them demo".

We are killing our city. We are still acting like it's the 1960s and suburbanizing the downtown. The lower city should bring new life. Instead, it brings more parking lots, empty land and no destinations for people to visit.

A true downtown (like the one Jason just visited in Boston) is full of buildings facing every street with no surface parking and no minimum parking requirements like we have in Hamilton.

People don't come to Hamilton to check out our empty urban lots. They do go to Boston to check out a full downtown core devoid of one-way, mega-highways and dead zones of empty land.

3. Finally, City Council should revisit this issue of requiring developers and builders to provide off street parking in the lower city.

Again, enough is enough. Haven't we learned our lesson yet? Parking is the lowest use for prime downtown land, and yet Hamilton city hall requires more of it everytime someone wants to build an apartment building or new office building.

New York City has maximum parking guidelines. In other words, a builder of a new building in that city is only allowed to provide parking for 15 or 20 percent of the units. In Hamilton we demand parking for 100 percent of the units.

One should be allowed to buy an old building, turn it into lofts and leave it at that. People want to live in an exciting, urban downtown, not a slightly higher-density version of the Mountain.

We urge Council to show leadership on this issue and put a stop to this practice. We are setting ourselves further and further back from the stated goals of urban redevelopment and creating a vibrant downtown by allowing people to demolish perfectly good buildings in order to provide us with empty land and a scarred streetscape.


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By jason (registered) | Posted August 31, 2007 at 13:17:28

anyone know of heritage groups who could get involved in saving the old Balmoral Tavern sign? it's a beauty. The King/Wentworth corner is going to look like crap now with 2 of the 4 corners having been demolished. We're killing our urban streetscape and just like in the 70's, we're replacing it with parking lots. Check the south side of King from Wentworth to Victoria. Brutal. Big lots, parking lots, empty lots. This city needs to get it's act together, and quickly (I think we all know what the chances of that are).

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted August 31, 2007 at 21:35:20

What an excellent example of the "high cost of free parking".

I don't know if it is fair, though, to compare Hamilton to Boston. We would first have to get large sums of money from the feds so that we can have our own "Big Dig" and get a lot of that traffic off our downtown streets.

I don't know if Hamiltonians will flock to downtown if they cannot find a parking space near their destination. Not everyone gets excited about proper street walls and a walkable, vibrant and interesting downtown environment. Can you imagine the people from the far reaches of the mountain taking a slow bus ride to visit the heart of our city?

This sounds a lot like the old chicken and egg question. People need interesting attractions downtown to be enticed to visit there but it is difficult to find investors to create the attractions if there are not many people.

This is where we need people of vision who are willing to make investments to create destinations downtown, to push our city fathers and mothers to improve transit, to keep pointing out again and again that we need to modify our cars before people culture.

Keep "hammering" away at this, RTH. You are doing a great job of showing people that there is a better way.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2007 at 11:58:35

We don't need a big dig. We have the 403, QEW, Linc and soon Red Hill. Not to mention Burlington street, Barton and Cannon which are unlikely to lose their thoroughfare status anytime soon... That is plenty of capacity. We need to scale main and king down... right now!

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By Joe (registered) | Posted September 07, 2007 at 10:17:49

I'm growing tired of poor decisions that are killing our heritage buildings, especially when replacing them with parking lots. Despite the positive movement on James, Locke, Hess, and elsewhere, there needs to be decisions supporting gentrification, not suburbanization of the core as was mentioned above. Until these decisions are made in a big way we have little chance of shaking our rustbucket image. It's embarrassing when people laugh at your city on national televison. As an example, wait until the end of this clip from George Stroumboulopoulos' The Hour .

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By realcity (anonymous) | Posted May 03, 2008 at 19:23:40

any place worth its salt has a parking problem.

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