Scott Weir, an associate with ERA Architects and occasional freelance columnist for the National Post, let the cat out of the bag this past Saturday in a laudatory piece on Hamilton.
Titled "The Secret's Out", it presents the other side of Hamilton to out-of-towners (chiefly Torontonians) whose opinions of the Hammer are formed mainly by the view from the Skyway.
Exploring what is becoming a common theme among Toronto-centric publications, Weir highlights Hamilton's great architecture, coherent downtown and relatively cheap housing, plus the planned electrifiation of the GO Lakeshore line and proposed light rail rapid transit.
He points out what the early adopters - artists and creative types pushed out of Toronto by high prices - already know: "Hamilton has become a viable option for artists, families and urban renovators wanting to sink their teeth into some affordable architectural grandeur."
Weir also blows a dog whistle for Hamilton heritage advocates with a glowing reference to our City Hall ("a masterpiece, one of the most beautifully executed modernist buildings in Canada") and a warning that such buildings are "often at risk of demolition".
(Aside: ERA Architects recently resigned from the City Hall renovation project after council voted to replace the building's architecturally significant marble cladding with precast concrete.)
Weir voices a real and growing concern among arts advocates in Toronto, who fear that their city is growing hostile to the very people who embraced and energized Toronto's hip downtown neighbourhoods in the first place:
Whether we realize it or not, Hamilton has new relevance for us in Toronto. Here, we have largely abandoned the ability to house and foster artists and musicians. The cheap warehouse spaces required to generate the creative process are now condo lofts, and the costs associated with living within the urban core are unreachable by those who have not yet made it. Artists are discovering that post-industrial Hamilton is an affordable toolbox of functional warehouse spaces and storefronts, as Toronto's downtown fills with bankers and lawyers.
Finally, Weir closes with a much-appreciated nod to your humble scribes here at Raise the Hammer, which he recommends visiting "for a reading of the city's tone".
People who live in Hamilton, and especially those of us who moved here by choice, have long known and cherished the city's latent charms. With the rash of exploratory articles coming out recently in Toronto - driven at least in part by Hamilton's inclusion in the Metrolinx regional transportation framework - the secret is finally getting out.
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