Word on the Street

Ben Bull guides us through the sweet sounds of the downtown Hamilton symphony of life.

By Ben Bull
Published October 21, 2005

Word On The Street

With files from Jason Leach and Trevor Shaw

Well this past two weeks have seen Rheem slip quietly away, and here in the Hammer we are all still awaiting a resolution to the ongoing Stelco saga. It seems that day-by-day we are destined to become a town that doesn't actually make anything.

But don't despair! One thing we can always make is noise! So let WOTS lead the chant as we bring you another ear bashing bout of urban static. Let's turn that dial to 11, and tune in once again for everyone's favourite feedback - the Word On The Street!

Let's start with a sound check - What the hell is that noise? It sounds like a car, a big one...maybe an SUV? And it's rumbling down the Mountain - could it be a Mad Mountainite? Yes it is! It's RTH Suburban Bureau Chief Trevor Shaw, taking another trip downtown to see what all the fuss is about. What's going on, Mr Shaw?

"Well, I was in the Effort Square complex," writes Trevor in an email last week, "and I noticed they are renovating the interior. It's looking quite nice, and there was a cool cafe in there along with some other small businesses. I was impressed. A wider sidewalk on Catharine with only one lane of traffic instead of two would be great, and then a flipped-around streetwall (like the Eaton Centre needs too, and Jackson Square for that matter)." Thanks for the update, Trev. We'll catch up with you later.

Woa, what's this? Sounds like one door slamming to me, and another one opening! According to nobody in particular (in other words, we ain't sayin'), Loren Lieberman (from the Tiv) has either bought, or is leasing, the old CH Theatre on King West near Locke. His plan is to put back in the 300 or so seats and get another theatre up and running.

If this is true, and somebody says it is, then kudos to Lieberman. Most folks would have packed up and shipped out after what happened to the Tiv. Downtown Hamilton will be that much better if this new theatre venture gets off the ground.

Okay, what's that strange gurgling? Cappuccino? Mad Cap Mixed Media Head Honcho Dave 'H' Kuric has his spiffy new store up and running on James North. Dave tells us he has grand plans for an extensive magazine and book section, with chairs so folks can come in and grab a coffee (he's already got the cappuccino machine there - nice move Dave!).

Dave also has plans for a website all about James North - the history, shops, services and events, and he's planning some special events in the store. Here's hoping the entire James North arts district will continue to evolve and make monthly openings a Hamilton staple.

As former Portland resident Jason Leach points out, "Portland has a monthly, 'first Thursdays' art crawl, so why not start a 'first Friday' art event here in Hamilton? The potential is there to make it a great monthly event." Notch up one more great idea to the bearded Boy Wonder.

Now what's that strange clicking? Sounds like some stick insects on the downtown grapevine. Let's listen in: "the owners of Dan's have retired and sold their building. The new owners are opening a new restaurant called YaMan! It will have Caribbean food but with lots of vegetarian choices. They plan to open December 1, 2005. They are very nice people, who moved to Hamilton from Toronto three years ago and just love Hamilton and downtown ." Thanks guys, keep on clicking!

Okay, who's up for the soothing sounds of the beach? Well, clearly Jason is as he seems to spend all his days surfin'. Jason has been slacking off at work, not that I'm trying to get him into trouble or anything, but in the event that his boss is browsing, and is wondering what Jason was doing when he said he was "in a meeting" at about 2.47 pm last Tuesday afternoon, I would be the last person to suggest that he sent me a long email full of up-to-date links, which he told me took him "ages" to put together. That would just be downright mean. Anyway, here they are. Be sure to check em out, and please send us anymore interesting sites you find!

Interesting links sent by Jason during regular working hours the other day:

Ah, at last! The sound of silence! But hold on? Aren't we outside the Chateau Royale? Where's all the construction?! Jason Leach contacted Project Manager Shari the other day to find out what they would be doing with all that commercial space. Shari told us, "Our confidence in the potential of this area is evident in the effort put into Chateau Royale. For the commercial space, a French style bistro would add another flavour to the Augusta St restaurant offerings. If you know of anyone interested, please let me know. We have a personal trainer in the CCR health club and he will also put into the space other beauty Rxs."

Okay, now what's this, a flutter? Yup, we're downright giddy with anticipation about what the MacMaster Innovation Park architects are going to do with the old Camco site. RTH's Jason Leach sent some ideas to Robert Graham, Principal at the Diamond and Schmitt Architects Incorporated (the firm handing the site development).

Robert replied, "Thank you for your thoughts. We will certainly apply all of our design abilities to engender a real sense of community and architectural excitement in the MIP development." Well, if words were buildings those would sure be worth a good look. Here's hoping these folks come through.

Okay, now who's up for a good ole 1980s sing-a-long? Altogether now: "Little Red Quartet! Ooh yeah, Litt..." Hold on, that's not right. But it was an extraordinary intro to our update on the 'Red Quartet Lounge' on King East (between Ferguson and Walnut).

Looks like these folks will be getting a liquor license. International Village BIA Chief Mary Poicus tells us this place is going to be a Chinese restaurant and lounge. The building was bought by folks who moved here from Toronto (does this sound familiar?) and they "love" the area.

Not content with this update, Downtown Bureau Chief told his boss he was off to another meeting and strolled down King to check it out. Let's put Jason on Speakerphone and find out what he made of it. "The door was propped open and folks were working on the inside. It looks amazing. King east is really going to get on a roll with these trendy new places popping up now, along with galleries."

Thanks Jason, you'd better get back to work now (so you can send me some more emails).

Okay, now what's that familiar tinkle? Could it be the annual City Council Merry-Go-Round? Methink it is, and according to nobody in particular, we might be seeing Messrs Merulla, Samson, Bratina, Bruckler, McCarthy, Kelly and Mitchell hit the road before the next election. Bratina is rumoured to be gunning for Mayor, Kelly on his way to the Feds, and so on and so forth. That would be seven out of 15 leaving. One way or another we are gonna be ringing the chimes of change in this town folks.

Alright, now, what's that ringing in my ears? It sounds like gibberish ... it sounds like Jason! Let's listen in on Jason's latest update:

"There's a big sign up on Cannon now with a picture of the "Hamilton Chinatown Centre" that will be open in spring 2006. It's basically a two-storey long plaza type building. It doesn't face the street lengthwise, but widthwise due to the narrow and long property. The cannon street façade has a picture of a restaurant and patio. The parking is on the side of the building instead of the front, which allows for a patio right to the sidewalk. Lower level is for retail/dining. Upper level is for offices, etc. The design is actually fairly decent. A third storey dormer-type of loft at the cannon st edge of the building presents a nicer appearance at the street. A good development on an ugly, empty brownfield. It's been empty for years now. The site is west of Kim Hoa BBQ and east of the Phnom Phen market. Basically across the street from B&T. I'm glad they're using the name 'Chinatown' in the name. It will help designate the area."

Okay, who's up for an interesting fact? Did you know that Hamilton is one of only four cities in the entire country to have a "world class sewage treatment system"? Did you even care? Well, according to MacLean's Magazine this week, Hamilton ranks right up there with Calgary, Edmonton and someone else for cleaning their sh.. ah, sewage. Hey! We'll take our compliments wherever we can get them! If you hear any other "word class" comments about the Hammer (and surely we can do better than this…!) please drop us a line!

Okay, I'm choking on car fumes again, which means it can only be Trevor Shaw! What's on your mind, Trev? "I talked to a construction worker on site at the Salvation Army/Halfway House." Wrote Trevor in an email yesterday. So what did you say?

Trev: "What's going on here?"

Guy: "Renovations."

Trev: "Are you taking out the windows?"

Guy: "Taking them out, putting new ones in."

Trev: "I see. What about the halfway house?"

Guy: "I think they're expanding it."

Trev: "What?"

Guy: "I think so."

Trev: "You gotta be kidding me!"

Let's hope he is. This could be troubling news. We'll get to the bottom of this, folks. That Halfway House should be long gone by now. Making it bigger is the last thing any of us wanted. We'll find out what's going on and get right back to you.

Okay, let's wrap this up right where we began - where all the noise is - Downtown. Now is it just us, or are there more people biking and walking and bussing it around the core these days? New lofts, bike racks, benches, restaurants, galleries .. it all goes together to stoke the slumbering embers of our old downtown. Now if only City Hall would realize how simple it is to get those 30,000 folks living downtown out of their cars, and onto the streets, what a noise that would make.

Okay, it's time for us to hush up again for another fortnight, folks, but rest assured we'll be back in two weeks - louder than ever. And why not join in the chorus? If you're reading RTH, and wondering what you can do to help the Hammer along, why not drop us a line with a WOTS update, a question, a comment, an article, or an idea?

Better still, get in touch with your councillor and tell them what you think. If we work together we can really pump up the volume in this town, and make a real change for the better.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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