City Life

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Stop asking if the next project will finally revitalize downtown: it's already happening.

By Jason Leach
Published September 20, 2006

A recent CHML online poll asked, "Will the new connaught hotel, and condo project help revitalize downtown Hamilton?"

I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Every time a new project is announced in the downtown core, the local media asks the same question: Will this be the one that turns it around?

Your answer was the same five years ago when the Chateau Royale condo tower and Core Lofts were proposed as it is today - Yes!

Downtown Hamilton already is turning around. No single project will be 'the one to turn it around' because it's happening every day.

The same day as this poll, there was also a great piece in the Hamilton Spectator about the new Corktown Tavern on Young Street.

In it, the new owner of the Corktown Tavern makes the following observation:

"A lot of people don't understand what goes on downtown," he says. "There's a whole community of professionals starting to live here. They're here for the downtown experience. And they're very loyal..."

I'm willing to bet that in ten years time, after dozens of new condo and loft buildings have been built, more restaurants, galleries, shops, entertainment venues, waterfront projects and a new Rapid Transit bus system are in place, someone will propose a new 25 storey, five-star condo.

The local media will fall all over themselves and ask the question: 'Will this be the one that turns it around?'

The owner of the Corktown is exactly right. People have no clue what's going on downtown, largely because nobody tells them.

Here at RTH, we have made it our mandate not only to dig deeper behind the flashy front page news story, but also to tell you the great things going on in the city's core.

In only the past two years, we've documented over 1,000 new units of higher-end housing being built; over 40 new restaurants and cafes; dozens of new art galleries and studios; new streetscape projects and urban spaces; and the rebirth of historic buildings and the ever-growing number of historic downtown homes that are being bought and renovated by folks rediscovering the fun and vibrancy of downtown living.

And yes, we are loyal.

We live, play, dine, shop and entertain in our very own neighbourhoods. We have a vested interest in seeing the new Asian bistro or vegetarian restaurant succeed, because when they succeed, we all succeed. Hamilton succeeds, and like a giant snowball rolling down a mountainside, the momentum just seems to grow stronger and stronger every day.

Unfortunately, those who don't live downtown and aren't experiencing this rebirth firsthand are constantly left with the impression that nothing at all must be happening. After all, if everything described above has happened in only a few short years, why would any local resident or media outlet ask the question, 'Will this be the one that turns it around?'

Your guess is as good as mine.

The Connaught project is one small piece of the puzzle. Along with the many other great projects taking place right now in downtown Hamilton. If you haven't been downtown in a while, come on by for dinner and a show. Or hit the farmers market and James North on a Saturday morning.

Whatever you do, don't wait until you hear that 'things are finally turning around down there'.

You'll be waiting forever.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By I disagree (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2006 at 10:49:29

Already turning? yes, dowtown is perpetually turing, as it swirls down the drain.

Nothing has been done to help those downtown homeless and jobless wholurk aroudn evry corner in search of change. In fact they now boldy enter shops to ask patrons for money. In a small restaurant yesterday a man came in and sat down at my table in order to ask me for change.
Add to this the obvious drug use and sales, yes Downtown is really picking up! The new cafes and such opening up, many come and go with few exceptions.
Cosmetic changes and an increase in a few more non-impoverished folk living downtown is not enough.
Help for the less fortunate rather than merely an attempt to overwhelm them by turing their neighbourhoods into condos they cannot afford, is what is needed. That and changing the core from a drive thru through way to a vibrant community people will drive, walk and bike TO is what is needed and it is still not happening.

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