Dreschel dumps on pedestrian piazza proposal

By Adrian Duyzer
Published October 05, 2007

Mayor Fred Eisenberger's proposal to pedestrianize Gore Park is causing a lot of buzz among Hamilton residents, especially in the downtown core.

The idea is bold, innovative, and exciting. It's an idea that has been proven to be effective over and over again in cities in other nations, especially in Europe. And it's something that would never have been proposed under former Mayor DiIanni.

All that means that Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel was bound not to like it. And whaddyaknow, here's Dreschel today with Mayor Fred puts the cart before the horse:

[T]he obvious truth about Fred Eisenberger's idea of closing King Street East to traffic between James and Catharine is he's sticking the cart before the horse.


All power and glory to the businesses and retailers that are gamely making a go of it in the faded centre of the city.

But if the three blocks from James to Catharine were turned into a pedestrian walkway where all vehicle traffic except buses were verboten, you might as well turn that stretch of King East into a giant bowling alley.

That's how empty it would be.

I've disagreed with Dreschel many times before, but rarely am I as mystified by his position as I am by this.

Does he actually even go downtown? Because it's not empty right now.

Every time I'm on King Street, especially during the day, it's buzzing with business people, students, seniors, the occasional busker, a handful of panhandlers (hey, every city's got them - been to Toronto lately?), and all manner and sort of others.

So let's follow Dreschel's logic. He says that without the cars on King Street, King would be empty. Except that none of the people I see walking around downtown are driving down King - obviously.

There's hardly any parking on King, either, so it's not like all those King Street pedestrians are there because they pulled up to the curb and hopped out.

So what Dreschel's really saying that if you take the cars off King Street, the pedestrians won't come any more. I don't get it. I walk downtown, and my least favourite thing about it is all the cars.

Or perhaps what he means is that if you take the cars off King, then the total number of people on King will decrease.

Well, that's true. But frankly, I don't count a person in a car going 60 km/h as being "on King", and I don't think the businesses on King count them either. It's hard to sell something to somebody when they're moving too fast to get their change.

Dreschel has an ally on City Council, though - Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, lately famous for his proposal to put a Tim Horton's location at the base of the renovated City Hall. Both are concerned with King's status as a "crucial arterial road".

I think it's high time we stopped basing every downtown decision on what will happen to the traffic. Let's hope the rest of Council agrees.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2007 at 10:01:00

This is stretching it - even for Drescel. There's normally a grain of common sense - truth even - to his columns, but this time he's lost the plot. Clearly Drescel will rant and rave against progressive change regardless of the outcome. I imagine he'll be like the Iraqi Information Minister - declaring victory even as the army advances behind him...

This column isn't mystifying - it's sad.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 11:14:40

Another column by Dreschel filled with lies & hyperbole. Anyone who walks downtown knows the pedestrian traffic is heavy. Even drivers trying to turn right onto King from James would be able to tell you that. Who hired this guy anyway? Definately not a progressive thinking individual who wants the best for Hamilton!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 11:18:11

You're a brave man Adrian. Reading Dreschel over there so we don't have to read him over here.

Dreschel has become the Barbara Amiel of Hamilton. His schtick is so tired and predictable you know exactly where he's going just from the headline. I don't bother reading past the first paragraph anymore.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 12:26:09

me too highwater. pretty funny reading all those nifty phrases ryan found in todays piece. it's more of a comedy column now than anything.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2007 at 13:08:49

sent to the spec just now:

I am starting to wonder if Mr. Dreschel ever spends time downtown? Whenever I pass through the core, there is a line up of pedestrians at the lights at King and James. During the daytime and in the evening, The Gore is well populated by people on foot. If Dreschel's cart is "pedestrianization" and his horse is "pedestrians", then his theory is clearly out of whack. Pedestrians are there right now, and anything we do to accommodate them better will result in more of them coming, and staying longer. In other words, the horse has already arrived. His criticism surrounding a lack of events in the core would be better aimed at the Downtown BIA. Why on earth would they pull out support for the Busker Festival when "by most accounts, it was a success"? One wonders whose interests the BIA serves when it turns away a crowd-drawing event in the area it is supposed to be promoting. If Dreschel wants to keep the cart where it belongs, he should be supportive of the concept of creating a useful public space downtown. A big reason that we do not have more events downtown is because we've built a car-centric core. On top of that, the city presents an attitude which tends to imply that any event which displaces traffic is unwelcome. A more accurate analysis would have a horse which represents "creating a public space for events" and a cart which represents "bringing more public events to the core". Creating a pedestrian-friendly space will attract events -- and only if the space is a permanent installation will it benefit local businesses 365 days a year. Cars do not go shopping. People do. Half-measures and temporary public spaces will not change the face of the core. If we do not build it, they will never come.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 13:09:37

It must suck, suck, suck to be Andrew Dreadful these days. After years of sucking up to the Hamilton-hating politicians who ran this place he suddenly finds himself left out in the cold with a new mayor who actually cares about downtown, who actually cares about the facts, and who actually wants to do the right thing without being in the sprawl shills' pockets.

He just can't find a place for himself in the new way of doing things Fred's trying to put in place, so he picks away at it from outside, jealous of the cozy access to the back rooms he used to have.

It's absolutely pathetic how deep he has to scrape the barrel to try and make Fred look bad. Criticizing him for dropping the Red Hill lawsuit and getting Randle Reef money? WTF? Who could possibly think this was bad leadership, except a vulture who stuffs himself on the carcasses of political wars?

Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting. Dreadful's gone right off the map. Good bloody riddance, I wish the spec would just leave him on an island somewhere.

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By Jon Dalton (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 15:42:23

Why don't we let people who live downtown, or at least have a clue about the place, make the decisions about it. Downtowns don't have 'aterial roads'. They have multi-functional streets. Where is the main throughway in Toronto? Not Queen or King. If you want to zip through, you take the Gardiner or Lakeshore, away from all the action.

These comments are only typical of the general lack of understanding of urban centres and what makes them functional. It's this predominant ignorance that has imposed suburban values on our downtown for years. People who live, walk, shop, and spend their time and money downtown should be the leaders, and we need to speak out and educate those who still don't have a clue.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 16:02:16

This is "ideologic thinking" which of course is not thinking at all. It means first go with the gut feeling, then create some kind of lame rationalization to convince yourself of it.

Dreschel's gut hates Eisenberger, so he will automatically go for the opposite position.

As we can see, nobody with a brain buys the argument.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 17:21:22

what arguement?? there's nothing in this piece worth discussing or debating. It's more suited to a National Enquirer issue than a newspaper.

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By Ancaster1 (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 18:06:32

I love the idea that one day I can walk around downtown without worrying about cars. Have lunch at Mahal's then make a beeline for Tim Hortons and stroll to Jackson Sq. The idea is great as long as it is implemented right. Will it be like a Italian piazza with no trees or will it be a minipark in the middle of downtown? Will it be a hangout for seedy elements or will it discourage it? I think with the momentum in just the last week it will happen but we need to pay attention to how it will happen

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By trey (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 18:37:32

Poor Andy. I'm not sure why he hates Hamilton so much. So much that he has to make up false observations. I don't have to repeat all the above posts, about how dead King is. There is already almost no traffic on the south leg of Gore now anyway. It will be more of a challenge for HSR then a Dundas to Stoney Creek commuter.

But what I want to comment on and an observation that none of the above posters pointed out. Is that Andy thinks Limeridge Mall is the heart of public space in Hamilton. A private property even. People have to go to Limeridge Mall to socialize, hangout and shop, why?> Because the choices to do those things in Hamilton are getting fewer every year. Which is WHY Gore must be made into an area of public space to exchange not just money for Levis® but for an exchange of thoughts, conversations, opinions, hellos, see you's etc. Dreschel has completley forgotten to point out the value of public space. I ask Andrew to search what the Gore in the past was used for, and every city that had a population over 10,000 before WW2 had a public space to celebrate, sing, dance, protest, change the world, inform, demand rights, and exercise democracy. Search Gore Park, World War 2 Celebrations, or Labour Movement Gore Park and you will see the imporatance of having this space republicized from automobiles. Limeridge Mall management would've never allowed the aforementioned acts to take place. And for that reason alone Dreschel truly has 'jumped the shark'.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 05, 2007 at 23:45:25

that's what so funny..he starts talking about a MALL... wow! What's next? The McDonalds in Walmart is the heart of the city's social activity. Anytime I'm in Limeridge I wonder how the place stays in's a ghost town....I'm not sure if it's because I'm used to walking the streets downtown or if it really is as dead as it seems. Mind you, it doesn't take a lot of customers to keep a place going that sells $6.00 jeans for $95.00.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted October 06, 2007 at 17:03:34

I suppose one good thing about Andrew’s column is that it has stimulated a lively discussion in these pages.

There is also a large grain of truth in his assertion that “…there has to be something along the route that attracts a critical mass of people.” Wait, make that a small grain of truth. Jason Leach has been filling us in through his downtown reports on the interesting new venues that have been springing up in the downtown area. Perhaps Dreschel is right in suggesting that there needs to be more of these in the stretch of King Street that would be closed to motorized traffic.

On the other hand, closing these blocks on King Street may well add to the “critical mass” of good things that are already happening downtown and will further enhance the process of revitalization and hence attract more people.

Let’s try if for a few months. I would suggest spring, when there is fresh green on the trees in Gore Park and elsewhere downtown and when the sunshine warms the cockles of our urban heart.

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted October 06, 2007 at 17:25:24


Dreschel certainly likes to spread the metaphores like...(whoops!)

Since moving to Hamilton last week,I certainly found King to be a waste of space...that was,of course, while driving past in my car looking for an interesting place to view a slice of life and take some photos.Dumbass that I am, you need to get out and walk around to see interesting places in a city core.

After parking my car and walking in and out of the various tacky shops and electronic second hand store looking for supplies for my recycled home,It occured to me that the interaction on street level on King is much more than a drive by.This is so much going on at street level( not car-on-street-level).

Hamilton reminds me a bit of Glasgow in the 80s.Grimy.great buildings in need of a face wash and some revitalization. The have a great boulevard for pedestrians only around Buchannan and Sauchiehall street.ITs fantastic. Close off King and watch .People will come.

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By X Hamiltonian (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2007 at 15:34:46

As a former Hamiltonian now living in Denver I gotta tell you guys... the truth hurts, and what Dreschel writes might hurt everyones feelings on this messageboard but he's dead on. I'm well aware of the tragic degradation of a once proud downtown and after having made a visit in August I couldn't help feel sad about what it's become today. You need more than a nice fountain and a few shops to attract the crowds downtown. I wanted to show my wife and kids the downtown I once knew but from my quick drive thru next to Gore Park and the adjacent sidewalk I had no desire to get out of the car. It was, to put it bluntly, a freakshow. (It was beginning to be that way 15 yrs ago when I left, and now it's far worse.) So it was off to downtown Dundas for a far less intimidating visit.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 07, 2007 at 17:57:55

x-ham, No offence, but your 'drive through' tour of the downtown could not possibly have been thorough enough to justify your siding with mr. d.

Those of us who actually live near (or regularly visit) downtown hamilton know the truth... the streets are bustling with people despite the fact that we've put virtual highways smack through the middle of town.

It is entirely conceivable that pedestrianizing the gore could be the catalyst for turning our good downtown into a great one - and if we do it right, a world cass one.

What I'd like to hear is at least one reasonable aternative suggestion from those opposing the pedestrianization plan. Do any of the naysayers have a plan in mind, or are they simply too attached to their current ability to blow through town as fast as possible?

Is their idea as simple as 'wait and see'? Because I think that's the worst plan of all. We need to ignore the high speed drive through downtowners and start catering to those who care enough to actually get out on foot and spend time there.

The worst case result of pedestrianizing is that we don't actually increase foot traffic. But if we don't start designing our downtown for pedestrians soon, we are likeky to lose the ones we already have!

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2007 at 21:58:06

There is no need for an "attraction" downtown to make people go.It IS the people and streetlife that is the attraction for me anyway.

As a kid i used to go up and down Younge street all day in and out of shops with all the hustle and bustle of panhandlers, street artists, piss artists, regular folk just getting from here to there...I loved it.The Eaton Centre( Big Box original downtown concept) was right across the street and I rarely went in.Boring as hell.I had Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke if I needed a shopping mall.

Maybe there are just downtown people who like the downtown warts and all( Freakshows?) and those in the outlying suburban areas who just like the 2.5 story/ 45 ft lot home with 4 car driveway and eat at Kelseys/Outback/Kelseys Outback/ (repeat over and over as necessary until sick).

There only needs to be a mix of decent restaurants, entertainment( not a cineplex 24) cafes, bars and pubs( not concentrated like Hess)and some Piazzas and parks.

I have had enough of suburban life masel.

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2007 at 22:01:06


What is with all the people driving motorized wheelchairs??I have never seen such a thing,I even saw a husband and wife with 2 kids in tow on these..I doubt seriously if they were both handicapped.Was there a blowout sale on these things?

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