Comment 109233

By Selway (registered) | Posted February 17, 2015 at 00:36:34

I don't find "lower city" pejorative; if mountain people use it that way (I wouldn't know) who cares? Upper Hamilton is just one large dormitory with a limited access highway running across it. Let's just stick to "lower city." All of the lower city nighbourhoods have names. The local media could just learn them and use them, maybe tagging them with a major intersection to lessen confusion, instead of using North End and East End interchangebly to indicate huge, vague areas.

What is interesting about the central part of the lower city is the historical layering still quite easily read there. Neighbourhoods and their residents used to be "parochial" in the original sense: much of life was centred on the church -- and the tavern, because church and extended families were the providers of such social security as there was; church and tavern were also information centres, where you found out about jobs etc. A lot of the taverns are gone but some remain, not serving the same function. Most of the churches are still standing, but most have big problems too. (In a sense, James North continues to fulfill those neighbourhood functions, as you can see by the groups standing around in front of Vasco Da Gama or Ola, or congregating in Mulberry or Home Grown.)

After the second world war the advent of the welfare state and of professionalized town planning effected rapid change in the organization of neighbourhoods, but you can still see lots of the early twentieth century city downtown. Most of the factories went away but some of the buildings are still there -- and some are even producing. I don't imagine any other city in Canada still has two operating garment factories within a few blocks of its central office towers, as we do. When you walk around the central city neighbourhoods you can see all the housing types ever, from occupier-built tarpaper shacks that were eventually clad in asphalt "brick" shingling to extremely elegant houses built for the local notables of the day. And so on. Except for the damned ground zero parking lots right at the centre, the lower city just has more being to it than the rest, it is dense in all ways.

But now you have planning and policy areas instead of traditional neighbourhoods and defining those areas has become very top down. For example, we live in the North End, and all of ward 2 is similarly composed of strongly defined historic neighbourhoods. But ever since urban renewal days the City has had a North End west and a North End east distinction on its books, with James as the divider. North enders generally don't like it, especially because it's an implied class distinction. When the City decided to respond to the recently established category of "Code Red" by setting up a number of "hub" organizations to generate positivity in the Red District, Central and North End became the policy fiction "Jamesville". On the other hand, the Setting Sail Secondary Plan, which sets out land-use and transportation guidelines, includes all of the North End, part of Central, and part of Beasley... And so on. The latest innovation is a quasi-planned "hub" - no relation to the entities initiated by the Neighbourhood Development Office- around the new James North GO station...

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