Downtown Bureau

Gore Park Promenading on a Lovely Friday

At some point, even the most die-hard squelchers have to admit that the downtown they love to hate is not the place they think it was.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 30, 2014

People were outside at Gore Park today. It wasn't a festival or anything, it was just lunchtime. People were enjoying a meal (some of them from a local restaurant or food truck), socializing, conversing, reading, listening to the live music, sitting on the grass, strolling around, taking in the ambience. You know, doing human things.

People outside at Gore Park
People outside at Gore Park

What is this, Europe? Nope, it's Hamilton. Turns out we're not situated in an urban planning twilight zone after all. Things that work in other cities work in Hamilton, too.

It is worth noting that people were congregating today at Gore Park despite the fact that most of the block between James and Hughson is boarded up, completely deactivating what should be a lively urban streetwall.

Gore Promenade with 18-28 King Street East in the background
Gore Promenade with 18-28 King Street East in the background

Can you imagine if, rather than removing the tenants and clearing out those buildings for demolition, the owner had instead renovated them - as small-scale entrepreneurs are successfully doing throughout the downtown core even as we speak - and put in retail businesses that open onto the pedestrian plaza?

Can you imagine how nice a patio on the Gore Promenade would be? There were lots of people sitting outside restaurants the next block over, between Hughson and John, despite the fact that the pedestrian plaza does not extend that far.

People sitting outside on King between Hughson and John
People sitting outside on King between Hughson and John

Can you imagine how many people will be in close walking proximity to Gore Park once 150 Main West opens? And once the new 73-unit building opens across the street at 149 Main West? And then once the Residences of Royal Connaught opens? And once the Treble Hall restoration is complete? And once LIUNA goes ahead with the new condo they have planned behind the Lister Building? And once the Acclamation Lofts go ahead?

The new building at James and Vine is already well under construction and will bring 36,000 square feet of new office and retail space with it, most of that already tenanted. That's a lot of people within walking distance during the day. The McMaster Downtown Health Campus will bring another large group of people.

At some point, even the most incorrigible die-hard squelchers and defeatists will have to admit that the downtown they love to hate is not the place they think it was.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 15:06:57

It's worth noting that the Downtown BIA opened the Promenade a couple of weeks earlier than last year and have expanded the hours. As last year, the Promenade run every Wednesday through Friday 11:00am-5:30pm but as of this season, it will remain open until 8pm Thursdays. This should help introduce office workers to downtown after 6pm.

downtownhamilton.org/2014-gore-park-summer-promenade-kick-week

Looking forward to the day when this kind of street life and atmosphere is supported by on the strength of indigenous bricks 'n' mortar businesses, restaurants and music venues.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 18:26:32

It is lovely to see Hamilton getting better. Like watching a sick person gradually recovering their health, life and strength.

I am an optimist and believe that Hamilton will continue to improve. There are so many, many cities around the world that have transformed themselves into lively, vibrant, human-oriented cities where people want to live, work, worship and play.

They changed. We can too!

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted May 31, 2014 at 00:18:01

That's awesome, they should make it permanent, extend it to Hughson and give the parking to the food trucks. There's really no reason cars should have to drive on that side of the Gore. Is the big chess board back?

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By Sure there is (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2014 at 21:47:45 in reply to Comment 101877

>>There's really no reason cars should have to drive on that side of the Gore.

Unless you need to go to the bank, and all the parking is occupied between John and Hughson.

This drives me nuts. I have 0 problem with blocking off traffic from inside there from, say, 7am to 7pm (or even 9pm, or midnight, or whatever) but if you can NEVER park in there, it's a problem. If I'm only running in to the ATM I'll go elsewhere and just avoid the Gore.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 02, 2014 at 07:56:29 in reply to Comment 101912

Unless you need to go to the bank, and all the parking is occupied between John and Hughson.

Problem?

If I'm only running in to the ATM I'll go elsewhere and just avoid the Gore.

Solution!

You don't compromise the design of a street for the people who need to park their car to use the ATM..there are other bank locations and other ATMS, and there is lots of parking if you really need to go to this location. The cost of having enough parking that you could always park within 20m of the door is that the space would be ruined... but it turns out that you don't even need that because you can just 'go somewhere else'.

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By Sure there is (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2014 at 06:01:17 in reply to Comment 101920

Yup, I guess I'm not needed in the core. Even though I too spend money, am ACTUALLY IN THE CORE DOING BUSINESS, but if my business isn't wanted, than I will go elsewhere.

What's the point in having a building you can't get to easily?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 04, 2014 at 14:31:27 in reply to Comment 101951

We can make it so you can get there easily in a car. Or we can make it so you can get there easily on foot, on a bike, on transit, on rollerblades, etc, etc. We can't do both. If you really want to drive that easily, drive to a suburban bank and park there. If you want to go downtown easily, don't bring your car.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2014 at 00:15:45 in reply to Comment 101912

If you're just running into the bank, then by all means, avoid the Gore. I agree with no parking, and even removing the street completely on the south side.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2014 at 08:07:41 in reply to Comment 101877

Or go crazy and remove parking from a pedestrian piazza.

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted May 31, 2014 at 08:46:26

The more people living downtown the better. The conversation about revitalizing downtown Hamilton for too long has focused almost entirely around how to properly attract people to the core who live elsewhere. This resulted in alot of time talking about parking and traffic. In the end I think we will see that the real tipping point will be a new generation of people calling downtown home. The rest, at least for me, is secondary (important but secondary).

Making Gore Park an actual Park instead of a bus terminal or parking lot as it has been in the past is a step in the right direction.

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By do you live downtown? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2014 at 23:01:34 in reply to Comment 101893

Are you pontificating or do you live downtown?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2014 at 08:53:10 in reply to Comment 101916

A healthy, liveable downtown benefits everyone, even if you don't live there, heck even if you never go there. How is it 'pontificating' to advocate demonstrably sound planning policies?

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted June 02, 2014 at 22:19:48 in reply to Comment 101921

I do live downtown

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By Stinson (registered) | Posted May 31, 2014 at 20:44:33

The summer of downtown '14. Nice to read some good news here. Kudos.

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