Comment 71136

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 11:53:53 in reply to Comment 71115

That's quite a lenghty response, I'll try to keep mine brief.

1. Physical appearance - Many of the buildings you cite do have charm that is hidden either physically, or by their present poor condition. That's no reason to "tear down the building" not by itself anyways. Look at 118 James St. N. What did it used to look like, all boarded up with siding over the upper levels? Look what it's become now. You have only to look across the other side of John St., where rennovations are underway on what I'm sure you would have previously dismissed as an equally dilapidated and useless building that should be "torn down". Physical appearance is a poor reason to trash a building in my humble opinion. It's a good reason to force owners to maintain their building, and to pass bylaws that regulat what you can and can't do with the facade (i.e. cover it up with giant signs ala subway).

2. Clients - Tearing down the building will certainly get rid of the current businesses (although as a poster above noted it's odd you singled out the indian restaurant previously...what's wrong with them?). However there' no guarantee a new build will bring better clients. If anything a new build could (a) sit empty like the Gore Building and the McKay building are or (b) end up with the same types of tenants. Tearing down a building seems like a rather EXTREME way to get rid of the tenants of that building, especially considering the substantial cost you're proposing the city undertake.

3. Limited Improvement/Reuse Options - While I agree that these particular business are unlikely to ever become "high density" developments, I don't see why Gore park, the downtown core, needs to have high density right on it. Would it not be sufficient to have high density surrounding an historic core? In fact I'd prefer this, to keep some of Hamilton's historical character. Look at Front St. in Toronto, just east of Union Station (east of Scott to be precise) around the Flatiron building - many of the buildlings there are small 2-3 story buidlings with a park in the middle. Continue eastward and you see further 2-3 story buildings and a new small low-rise condo development. This is a stone's throw away from Front and Bay, union station, and some of the most expensive commercial real estate in Toronto. Yet these buildings are not being "torn down" to make room for higher density development. Maybe we want to look at this area as a model of what our downtown should be like, as the two are not very dissimilar. Why do we want to tear those buildings all down and make 15 story condos? Do we want to lose that history and that "human" scale around Gore Park? I think this should be discussed, and it's certainly not clear to me that we should definitely demolish these buildings because something higher density in front of gore park is "better".

4. The cost of repair is likely high, but I don't think it's any more than the cost to raze and rebuild. Also there are plenty of well-maintained smaller buildings which would suggest that you don't need "large businesses" to make a go of the repairs. Look at the Black Forest Inn, the rennovations happening at the corner of John and King, Capri restaurant (around the corner on John), and the wide variety of well kept small art venues on James St. North. If they can maintain their buildings, then surely it shouldn't be difficult for the owners (not the tenants) of these buildings to do the same. The building owners should maintain their properties in a good state of repair, and if they can't afford to because their rent is too low and they won't make a profit, they should sell the building to avoid their failed money-losing venture and give someone else a chance. As it is the building owner is making a profit at the expense of needed repairs and causing an eyesore - and potentially a hazard, for the rest of the community. In essence we're all subsidizing their profit.

5. Lack of History/Culture - I'm certainly not an expert, and if you asked me, I would say that Pagoda building at the corner of King and John has absolutley no historical value whatsoever, but I'm told it's one of the few pre-confederation buildings in the city. So I'm not going to say I know or don't know that there is historical/cultural value in these particular buildings, but I feel that they have some value simply through age. These buildings were there when your grandparents used to sit in Gore Park and enjoy the original Gore Park Fountain - is that not historical enough? Can we only keep buildings that have a plaque on them?

6. High Potential Location - I agree, downtown Hamilton is a high potential location, and there are many high potential things that could be done down there. I agree lofts and high density development needs to surround and envelop the core, but I don't agree the stores on King St. itself, between John and James, have to be demolished for this vision. I don't want to live in a sea of condos, and I don't want to be faced with large condos when I drive down this strip, I'd rather have the condos off to the bank, and have a historic and human-scaled core betwee James and John. I wouldn't be as opposed to your plan in other parts of the downtown (say the north side of king william, between John and Hughson), or east of the core (although there are some nice buildings that way too). But I think we should strive to maintain our historic core between James and John.

Also, I think the Delta Bingo would be a great parel of land for a potential urban grocery store - the lot seems big enough, there's lots of bus access, and maybe they could do underground parking for those woh do need to drive there.

As an aside, I'd just like to say never underestimate laziness as a reason for why things are they way they are. It might not be necessary to "tear everything down" as we did when Jackson Square was built (how well did that work out?). Often time adaptive re-use can happen successfully, but most people, and this is aimed at many of the existing landowners, are either too lazy OR too risk-averse to make anything happen.

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