A once-drab place like Tacoma proves once again that any city in any location can revitalize itself when the political will exists.
By Jason Leach
Published February 09, 2007
Tacoma, Washington: a smelly, industrial city living in the shadow of beautiful Seattle.
In the past decade they decided it was time to revitalize and take advantage of their location instead of always believing that their location was somehow a hindrance (sound familiar??) Focus was put on three main elements:
The results? See for yourself.
Chelsea Heights Condos rendering (Image Credit: Chelsea Heights Condominiums via Skyscraper page)
There is so much that Hamilton can learn from Tacoma.
We are already seeing our artistic institutions and communities revitalizing and growing in the downtown core.
We've never been able to convince any post-secondary institute to locate downtown, not withstanding the free rent deal McMaster has in the old courthouse. Sure, it's nice, but a campus it isn't.
Finally, our city council has developed study after study and heard from urban revitalization experts over and over about the need to balance our downtown transportation networks instead of keeping these one-way freeways from the 1950s.
Their response? 'Thanks, but no thanks. We aren't really that interested in urban revitalization. We're just trying to pretend to be.'
The Chihuly Bridge of Glass and Museum, Tacoma (Image Credit: Flickr)
Seeing the nifty design and quality of the projects shown in Tacoma should be a wakeup call to everyone in Hamilton. This is what happens when a new sense of civic pride is developed. People care. Developers care. Politicians care.
A place once called 'Tacoma Aroma' begins to lead the way in urban revitalization. They are now being viewed as a cheaper, cooler alternative to Seattle by many young people and new residents.
I've long said that Hamilton holds that same potential and in fact hear comments like that from the many new Hamiltonians who now reside in my downtown neighbourhood after moving from Toronto.
Tacoma Light Rail (Image Credit: Flickr)
Some proposals for Hamilton:
Hamilton city council needs to secure a large sum of money from upper government levels in order to have our proposed BRT route from McMaster to Eastgate Square be developed as a modern streetcar system instead of BRT.
BRT will be very effective on our Mountain East-West routes and North-South routes along Upper James and Hwy 20. The main urban corridor through some of our most underdeveloped neighbourhoods will see a massive boom in investment along a light rail line as opposed to BRT. Who knows; perhaps we'll use light rail for future North-South lines as well.
Develop an architectural review board instead of always agreeing that 'it's a good idea' will go a long way to ensure that new construction in our city is a benefit and a boost to our city instead of adding more drabness and lousy design.
Continue to fix the tax inequities that see urban businesses and residents subsidizing suburban residents as has been the case for several decades of urban decline. This is more of an issue of fairness and common sense. Neither has existed in abundance at city hall for the past few decades.
Actively lure a major post-secondary institution to locate a new campus in downtown Hamilton. Current buildings such as those along King William or Wilson Street could be renovated and new construction can take place on the plethora of surrounding parking lots to develop a full-fledged urban campus. The University of Toronto and York University come to mind as great potentials.
Nurture the arts community. I wrote 'nurture', not interfere, over-regulate or squeeze the life out of them. Downtown streets need to be opened up as artistic canvases for our arts community to liven up with murals, sculptures, fountains, lights and creativity. Give them loose guidelines and let them go for it.
A once-drab place like Tacoma proves once again that any city in any location can revitalize itself when the political will exists. I'm not convinced it does exist in Hamilton, despite some good vibes from our new mayor.
Now, with a four year term staring them in face, is the time to move quickly on these ideas and lead the way in seeing Hamilton become the hip, fun, livable alternative to crowded, expensive Toronto.
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