Comment 92333

By BillCurran (registered) | Posted September 19, 2013 at 16:07:32


With all due respect this surely smacks of NIMBYism. You’ve made it clear before that you want a small parkette at the end of your street, but that is not what is best for the community. You seem against any change in your ‘hood, or the loss of any houses. You are concerned about the quality of your street but you are missing the critical issue of fixing York Boulevard.

You also are quite incorrect to say that this neighbourhood is unchanged since 1867. York Boulevard was created and significantly altered from Dundurn to James Streets in the 1970’s. Large apartment buildings were built on both sides of York Boulevard and by Victoria Park in the 1970’s and much along and east of Queen Street has changed. And within the last five years the Greek community have built a large housing project west of Victoria Park and we built Good Shepherd Square, replacing an empty lot of 30 years duration. This is far from a static neighbourhood, and this is not a neighbourhood of landmark homes, many are worker cottages and simple working class homes. I’m not saying all the changes have been great, I just want to be clear that this is not Cross/Melville or Chedoke/South Street.

York Boulevard is a critical major street in our City, a major entrance to the City and a poor, flawed ‘urban renewal’ mess from the 1970’s. At the time it was approved Council erred and did not allow redevelopment along York Boulevard deep enough from York to allow for proper lots for apartment buildings with underground parking garages. Without proper lot sizes along York, they will NEVER be redeveloped appropriately, as the lack of development in the last 30 years has borne out. Council also balked at enforcing the key design elements needed: buildings that extend across most of their frontage as any good urban building does, no surface parking lots and they caved on the concept of a covered continuous pedestrian passage along York Boulevard. All of which lead to the mess we have today: single storey buildings, surface parking lots, some colonnades and the former Simcoe-Erie Insurance Company office cuboid ‘tree’ canopy elements. The vision was a Boulevard worthy of the famed Rue de Rivoli in Paris, which has a similar continuous covered walkway along it. Oops.

Cities should be generally 6-8 stories, the average height of most of the best and most loved cities in the world – Paris, London, Barcelona, etc.. This is a mid-rise height of sufficient density to support transit, retail, etc.. Main streets and boulevards need to be at least this height, but are best higher.

If we do not set the zoning to allow the right building form we will not get them, and a hundred years from now we will continue to have too small, unappealing buildings and surface parking lots on a major boulevard, and it will continue to be a bleak, forlorn, pedestrian unfriendly street. It is essential for our community that we fix the blight of York Boulevard. Fixing one side is not a solution.

By zoning deeper south and north along York Boulevard we will allow larger land parcels to be assembled to allow higher density development. The intended depth is modest and appropriate to achieve this, it is a very good plan prepared by a very capable urban design firm. This is not ‘neighbourhood busting’ as you describe it. It is part of the natural transition of urban neighbourhoods from farms to taller, denser buildings. This is good city building. City planning staff and Councillor McHattie (a trained Planner, fyi) get it and they are right, and any good architect or urban designer will back this plan.

Yes a few small, nice, but non-descript houses may be lost. But the net benefit to the community more than warrants this loss. We will trade a few houses on the absolute edge of an evolving urban neighbourhood (not in the centre, which is important). This is tweaking the neighbourhood, and most of the neighbourhood will remain unchanged and protected. Neighbourhoods are not static, they evolve, usually with increasing density, the healthy, normal growth of a city.

This is a good plan and we need to get this approved and implemented ASAP to make Hamilton better.

PS: Ironically, City planning staff and Council have balked with dealing with the exact same issue along the LRT corridors, and it likely will be the same with the implementation of the Setting Sail plan on Pier 8. This means that the much needed intensification along the LRT corridors will likely never happen, or certainly will be diminished.

Since the 1950’s our Zoning Bylaw has set King and Main Street as-of-right to be fronted with 8 storey buildings (as we built at Good Shepherd Square). The new Bylaw reduces that to 6 storeys, making redevelopment less cost effective, reducing street vitality and making it far less likely to happen.

If you do not plan to allow for suitable, economically viable buildings and parking garages, it just simply will not happen. The rules of what works are fairly simple and real. York Boulevard is a testimony to what happens when you ignore reality. Buildings only get built when they work and are economically viable. Dreams are not enough; you need good, strong, practical rules in place and allow viable things to happen.

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