Comment 78644

By Sucralost (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2012 at 18:21:20

While I appreciate what recovering Torontonians see in Hamilton’s centre-east end, it is apples-to-cabbages.

Being 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 kilometres from the heart of downtown Toronto is a dynamic that is pretty hard to replicate in Hamilton. (We can do better in terms of proximity to beach/marina, but not both, as in Leslieville.) On top of that, Downtown Toronto has had a fevered real estate market for some time – 20 to 30% of the housing starts in the GTA for the last 30 years have been in the City of Toronto, which started regularly posting 10,000-start years in the late ‘90s. Hamilton’s real estate attractiveness owes to the explosion of zany Toronto price wars, and transplanted owners seem to be of the happy-to-hold ilk, which dampens the market turnover that feeds sky-high valuations. It seems as if only the moneyed and driven have stayed in Toronto. Many of the others have been defecting to the 905, even if it means commuting back into the city to work.

When real estate is hot and the marketplace is competitive, those who are active in the market tend to have financial muscle and ambition. When real estate is affordably priced and the marketplace is forgiving, investors are less obligated to make something happen right away. The small-town-big-city/big-fish-small-pond reality of Hamilton is as much of a constraint as any of the detrimental factors you’ve cited.

For years, most of Hamilton’s new development has taken place in the deep suburbs; Glanbrook is where the action is, and downtown Burlington is closer to downtown Hamilton than many new subdivisions.

Downtown Hamilton is still trying to bootstrap its way out of the 1982 recession. There is precious little new residential development happening in the lower city, and the majority of new investment in the core has come from the public purse. And the population in neighbourhoods along King and Main has eroded for a decade or more, even as other parts of the city experience robust growth and transformative investment. The climb

Toronto has a large and comparatively wealthy population accustomed to restaurant dining (for status as well as practicality, space-challenged condos lending themselves to eating out). A lot of people eating out a lot of the time. That becomes a precursor to gentrification, as conspicuous consumption and disposable income can be casually quantified. While there has certainly been a modicum of this evident on Locke or in Downtown Dundas, these cases remain somewhat isolated and their value as a restorative tonic for more a few blocks is unproven. It's certainly a stretch to say that anyone is considering building a condo because of Quatrefoil or Chuck's Burger Bar. This has historically been a very cautious and conservative developer ecosystem, and while that is changing, it is changing gradually.

I suspect that Hamilton’s variation on the “recipe for success” will be uniquely its own. As much as some yearn to make the city around them more like Toronto’s, many more ache to see it regain some of its former greatness on its own terms.

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