Comment 18183

By statius (registered) | Posted February 09, 2008 at 20:14:42

A comprehensive downtown strategy - that's precisely what I was getting at.

I don't accept any proposal to forcibly relocate private institutions such as the paper and the TV station (and not only because there is no real legal way to do this) but I do think its important to have as many vital institutions in the core as we can possibly get. If we are to attract these vital institutions to the downtown, this should be through soft rather than hard power (i.e. via tax incentives, low interest loans, etc.).

I think, as you mention, centralized planning and control of the downtown development is key (though of course one must strike a balance so as not to discourage interested private enterprise). We can insist on quite stringent architectural controls, as many midsized post-industrial European cities have done to considerable success (particularly in the UK - e.g. Liverpool, Manchester, and now even Birmingham), and end up with the quality of architecture traditionally seen in only the largest and richest of cities.

Although I would like it, a new streetcar network won't happen, at least in part because of the major capital costs involved, not to mention the enormous political backlash which the city administration would assuredly incur from our very car-dependent voter base. The closest we'll possibly get is the couple lines of light rail currently proposed.

I absolutely agree that the presence of disturbed and disadvantaged individuals is not to blame for the downtown's sorry state. Although I think their presence may to some degree negatively impact the city's image (and therefore marketability) to potential outside investors, this is far from being the city's major obstacle. That being said, I do agree that a moratorium should be imposed on any new social services agencies locating in the core, and that some should be encouraged to move elsewhere in the city. In the strongest of cities, where demand for property is voracious, these organizations do not pose an obstacle to gentrification, with developers happily building condos right next to them. In a city like Hamilton, where everything is so much more delicate, they certainly do.

I think your proposal to move the farmer's market to the Gore is ill-advised. While its location right now may not be optimal, the idea of turning it into an outdoor market is almost sure to lead to its complete demise. The convenience of shoppers must not be disregarded. People of "discriminating taste" are always drawn to farmer's markets because they like the idea of authenticity and are willing to pay for it, but their basic requirements must be accomodated. I know people here in Toronto who do about 90% of their food shopping at the St. Lawrence. Would they still go there if they had to buy their groceries in the snow or pouring rain? Absolutely not. While it would be nice to have some outdoor stalls in the nicest weather, to base the market out of the Gore would be a disaster. Look at the successful markets in cities like Toronto (St. Lawrence), Montreal (Atwater), Seattle (Pike Place) and London (Borough). Most of these started as outdoor markets but then developed into sheltered ones, and for good reason - it helped to stabilize business. The fact that Hamilton has managed to retain a fairly vibrant farmer's market is quite a miracle (and is one basis for our claim to be a truly urban community). We can't afford to play fast and loose with it now. I think a new (sheltered) home for the market would be nice, but that would of course just mean another large empty space in the core.

As for mixed neighbourhoods, if they are going to exist I think they should come about naturally. While engineered mixed income neighbourhoods can coercively be MADE to function, they will never be as vital as neighbourhoods whose demographic makeup has evolved organically. The simple truth is that people want to live amongst others who have approximately like experiences (e.g. in terms of education level, income range, leisure interests, etc.); this fact is extremely hard to deny. And as much as well-meaning liberal urbanists have tried to correct this tendency, pockets of demograhic uniformity are almost surely apt to keep popping up. So long as these pockets do not take the form of physically gated communities, I have no real objection to this.

I generally agree with just about everything else you mentioned above.

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