Revitalization

Streetwall Fail

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 21, 2008

We worried back in 2005 that the Centre Mall redevelopment would leave Barton and Ottawa with a big box conglomeration that would turn its back on its surroundings and destroy any chance of pedestrian life on Barton.

As more details of the redevelopment plan came out, our fears were confirmed. Instead of a truly urban and pedestrian-friendly dense, mixed use redesign that could still accommodate the department stores that populate big box plazas, they opted to go with more of the same old one-storey retail sprawl that has characterized commercial developments in Hamilton for a decade.

What we end up with is this:

Centre Mall big box store from Barton Street (Image Source: Flickr)
Centre Mall big box store from Barton Street (Image Source: Flickr.com)

Streetwalls are supposed to be articulated so you have a sense of scale, and porous with windows and doors so you can see what's going on inside and actually enter shops. This stark, blank wall offers neither; it is the blandly functional rear wall of a retail warehouse and nothing more.

If you want to participate in the activities of the new Centre Mall, you have no choice but to drive into the central parking lot, find a spot, and then walk through the same parking lot to the front of the store. When you finish there and want to visit a different store, you will have to return to your car, drive to a spot in front of the next store, and repeat.

What a tragic missed opportunity to create something with lasting value in an economy where the logic of universal driving has increasingly poor long-term prospects.

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 Hammerator (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 09:30:24

What he said! Such a wasted opportunity to spur Barton Street back to life, now the only people that go to Centre Mall will be people who drive in, get there stuff and drive back out. No multiplier effect at all, but more traffic and more exhaust as people cruise the parking lot looking for a spot.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 09:35:20

and no one saw this coming?

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By Egg Salad (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 10:03:51

^^Um, RTH did. In 2005.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 10:27:46

I recall emails I received from a certain east end councillor blasting me for daring to speak out with concern for this project. He and the development firm promised a 'streetwall along Barton' that would be pedestrian friendly and more mixed-use than any other retail development in Hamilton's recent history. I had the mispleasure of driving all through this site this week and it's bad. Centre Maul - they did just that.

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By Ed (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 13:47:44

It's sad to see just how bad this "new" mall is going to be. I remember what it was like before the mall was enclosed. Going from store to store was a real chore in the winter, especially if you had small children. This so-called new set-up is no better because it's just a step backward and the idea of these screwed up walls just makes it worse. After shopping at Center Mall for so long, I think Eastgate will be getting my business from now on.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 14:25:59

What a screw-up. Jason, I think it would be a good idea to make public those e-mails, for comparison alongside the photo of the actual results.

This is what happens when 'development' is done by people who don't live in the area and don't really give a whit about how it fits into the community. Hamilton's council should be ashamed this happened on their watch.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 15:48:44

Ryan, it would be interesting to see some numbers comparing the economics of streetwall design and big box design.

I grant you that streetwall design produces a nice small town feel, but does it produce as much income for the owner?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 16:10:07

Ryan, when were most of these streetwall designed buildings produced? They were produced prior to the development of the welfare state.

Is it possible that by shrinking government back to its core responsibilities, such as defence, justice, etc, that might bring them back.

Smaller government would mean less public transit, but it would also mean less public roads. Mass transit would likely increase, albeit privately delivered, but the effect would be the same.

What was that line... "be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." If you want the benefits of government, you also get the negatives. I think big box stores are one of those negatives.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 16:16:50

corporate greed= big box stores. plain and simple. It's governments role to care for the community and be sure that developments adhere to smart planning and will enhance the quality of life for ALL people in the community, not just those in cars. Lack of government leadership in Hamilton + corporate greed = big box junk being built in every corner of the city.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 19:19:42

Jason, why do you think you can get government to force corporations to build what you want without giving up anything in return?

Corporations are built by individuals who risk hard earned capital in the expectation that they can earn a profit. When government creates added costs and/or risks to these plans, it causes corporations to takes less risk. Less risk equals less investment.

To assume that corporations should embrace the demands of people who don't like their business plans and yet not have this impact on the amount of investment in the community is insane.

If you want to be treated with respect, why is it hard to accept that assume that corporations want the same thing?

However, don't let my simplistic theories of kindness and reciprocity cloud your mind, continue bashing business until you're heart's content.

Everybody knows the best way to get ahead in life is to treat others like crap. As soon as these corporations figure this out, Hamilton will be the most prosperous city in Canada.

All we have to do is wait...anytime now...honestly, just a couple more decades at most, it will happen.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 20:04:45

A Smith...you make a good point. It shouldn't be about 'forcing' business to care about the communities in which they do business.

What incentive does the management of a corporation headquartered in Illinois or Arkansas have to care about the community surrounding Barton and Ottawa streets in Hamilton?

Whether you like it or not, that community includes people who travel on foot, by bicycle and by public transit. Building in a form that is actively hostile to these customers is not only wrong aesthetically, it's bad business.

The lack of a streetwall and blank facade encourages graffiti (on a major artery in the city!) which is evidence of economic and social decline in local communities that also discourages business and encourages criminal activity.

Facing blank walls to the community also discourages any kind of connection between the business and the community, which is generally a requirement for successful enterprise.

Having standards about what goes into your community has nothing to do with "treating others like crap". It's about treating your own residents with respect.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 21:05:09

Arienc, the owners of this new development (CPP Investment Board - Federal Government of Canada, Osmington Inc.) are building in a way they feel will be good for business.

If you look at the Meadowlands in Ancaster, it is clear that these types of developments attract large numbers of paying cutomers.

Would streetwall developments attract more customers, I don't know? However, if you're correct, why hasn't anyone been building them recently? If corporations are greedy, then it seems natural that they would be.

If you accept that streetwall designs are not as profitable as big box stores, then you are arguing that government needs to force businesses to build them anyway. If this is the case, then you are in fact punishing businesses.

Since humans tend to respond positively towards to incentives and negatively to punishment, you need to accept that streetwall mandates will lower investment in Hamilton.

Considering that Hamilton is just beginning to come back to life (in large part because of recent business tax rate cuts), why put the brakes on now.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 22:25:41

corporations can still be greedy and yet build proper developments that fit in the neighbourhood. Of course big box stores offer even more money to their coffers. They are no more than big warehouses like you see at an airport slathered in stucco, unfinished inside and with no common areas to maintain for customer comfort like a mall or public parkette/plaza. So x corporation can make $11 billion in profit next year instead of a measly $9 billion had they built something in Canadian cities that will enhance neighbourhoods, respect citizens AND still make them a ton of cash. I don't fault anyone or any company for wanting to make money. Either way they're going to....why not show a slight bit of respect to the residents and neighbourhood in which they're building instead of building something that will be a blight on the landscape and even more so in the future when they close the place down and leave the mess for Hamilton taxpayers to deal with. Please be sure to come back to the message boards when that happens and tell us how wonderful it is for citizens and government to remove all guidelines and input and just allow companies to do what they want. That's a dangerous view of civic life to turn over the reigns to one entity with no accountability, rules, standards or public input. Welcome to communism.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 23:30:53

Jason, what is worse to walk by, a vacant old building, or a vibrant, yet car centric big box development?

Even though big box stores are not the ideal, perhaps they are a first step.

If property values rise in Hamilton due to ever greater demand from businesses for development, this will make low density, one story big box stores non economical. Over time, companies will look to maximize the value of their properties, which could lead to the very structures Ryan is talking about.

Therefore, the very greed that drives companies to build profitable big box stores, will eventually force them to switch to profitable high density stores.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted November 21, 2008 at 23:35:53

Back in August, Terry Cooke had some things to say:

Centre Mall revamp: This neighbourhood surely deserves better http://thespec.com/News/Discover/article...

The more notably prophetic words from Cooke's pen denoted our champion, our councilor and friend:

"Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla has been a champion of the project and is unapologetic to its critics. He points to skyrocketing property values in the area and the rejuvenation of Ottawa Street as direct byproducts of Redcliffe's commitment to invest $120 million in the area.

Merulla also cites the conversion of several depressed neighbouring apartment buildings into condos as evidence that redevelopment is fuelling a local economic renaissance, saying: "I was not prepared to jeopardize the largest urban redevelopment project in Canada over a few aesthetic concerns"."

I'm excited about the skyrockets in flight and the aftergloom delight. Please allow "the largest urban redevelopment project in Canada" time to materialize before passing judgment. It'll be interesting to see how Redcliffe manages snow removal.

Ottawa Street North, a great place for both farmers and Queens.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2008 at 18:28:51

Wow, WRCU2, that's some really selective reading on your part:


"It's going to create a friendly, pedestrian-oriented design, rather than a commercial island in a sea of parking along Barton Street" -- City planner Ray Lee on the Centre Mall redevelopment, quoted in The Spectator Sept 26, 2007

Except that it's not going to be any of those things. The tragedy of the Centre Mall redevelopment is that it represents such a missed opportunity for a neighbourhood that deserves better.

Make no mistake about it, if this urban redevelopment was proposed today in the heart of Burlington or Oakville, as opposed to a blue-collar section of Hamilton, the planners would insist on a substantially different and better design and the developer would almost certainly oblige.

But east end Hamilton gets stuck with an archaic power centre that fails every reasonable test of sound planning and good taste. With no fewer than six drive-thru's and buildings that will back onto Barton Street, the "new and improved" Centre Mall will be neither pedestrian-friendly nor architecturally redeeming.

The developer, Redcliffe Realty, seems to have simply ignored the intent of the city's planning guidelines, which call for "buildings oriented to the street ... to create a sense of enclosure, a more human scale and reasons for people to be walking ..."

Instead of higher density mixed use structures along Barton Street that would have created a visually interesting streetscape, passersby will see the back end of single-storey retail stores separated by vast expanses of parking lots and drive-thru lanes.

Rather than design standards that enhance the neighbourhood, the city settled for what can best be described as disposable architecture, indistinguishable from other big box sites that litter the North American landscape.

The city could have seized the opportunity to create a new east end transit hub connecting the CN mainline and Hamilton's busiest bus route, rather than approve a site plan that compels customers to drive because it will be difficult to navigate on foot or by bus.

Cooke concludes:


[I]t's hard not to conclude that the city sacrificed quality for expediency. Shoppers may come to love the new mall. But history is rarely kind to that type of bargain.

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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 06:26:05

Wow, this is depressing. Even though I'm sure we all saw it coming, it's still sad. Damn - whether you blame the welfare state, lack thereof, general apathy or what have you, this is a glaring example of a lack of forethought.

Can't help but think that this development will attract more than just graffiti. It's already in a challenged part of town, and it looks like the interior parking lots will be insulated from the street by blank warehouse walls.

A. Smith, I'd say the preponderance of this type of building is due less to the burgeoning welfare state than simply the automobile itself. To me, in fact, this particular case provides an example where some more effective, less passive, civic government involvement would have been welcome. Zoning is one way development can be tailored to suit a wider civic vision. Another is simply the stamp of approval required by city hall for projects like these. In Surrey (my current, though temporary, stomping ground), for instance, city hall simply refuses to approve large-scale projects that are aesthetically repulsive, and that do not square with the larger neighborhood plan.

Centre Mall is one project, at least, that should have - and could have - been sent back to the drawing board when civic officials saw that big, blank wall facing a street in a struggling part of town that they're trying to improve.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 08:34:50

one of the problems in Hamilton is that councillors generally defer to the ward councillor when deciding whether to approve a project or not. In this case, the ward councillor for this area thinks this project is the next Yorkville. There's no chance that a majority of council would open up a fight on this because he supposedly has the pulse of the area. It's a shame that our politics has become to ward-centric and without vision for the city or future.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 09:34:32

Geoff, if it seems like this mall is being designed to shield customers from the less than appealing neighborhood, it probably is.

The developers obviously are catering to their customers, those with disposable income and who tend to drive cars.

Why is it the responsibility of business to cater to those who do nothing but take?

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 09:35:42

Thanks for the Wow, but it wasn't so much selective reading Ryan as it were selective quoting. All I'm saying is mum's the word until it's done, then y'all can 'Have Your Say.' This part of the city is my stomping ground and few are paying closer attention than I am.

I have worked on a piece of this project's spin-off all summer long. I've rubbed elbows with landowners vying for poll position while residents were crying to extol their imposition.

I will admit this project was poorly planned but nothing can change that now. Big brother's big budgets don't always mean there are big brains behind them. The proof will be in the pudding.

"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding, if you don't eat your meat?" Pink Floyd - The Wall

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 10:03:37

And what kind of jobs are ocming from these developments for the people, nothing but low wage, retail jobs, that do not provide benefits, forget pensions. This does nothing for the community at large to alleviate the growing poverty issue.

I find it disgusting that only the developers and their money have a say, and not the people in the community at large. This is not a democratic society.

This is what is wrong when the people themselves have no input into their neighbourhoods.

But you can bet that those in city hall, will have their hands out asking for more money, more perks, more everything, while the rest of the community lives and struggles in poverty.

For shame, on all of you, that forget the families that struggle. Think you will get empathy from those in the castle, NOT, they could care less if you cannot pay your rent, if you cannot afford to buy food. Nope, they will direct you to many of the agencies that will stomp on your rights as a human and as an worker.

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 17:38:02

The Barton Street stores all all easily accessible by pedestrians via Barton Street without having to drive, park, then walk across the parking lots as was erroneously described in this blog. Yes, the store fronts are on the north side of most of the buildings running along Barton, but they all have broad walkways running in front of the storefronts, as well as walkways along both sides of each building to connect to the public sidewalk on the north side of James Street. The design may not be the kind of streetwall we had expected, but it is not nearly as pedestrian unfriendly as is being suggested here. In fact, it is more pedestrian friendly than I had anticipated (and many posting here would care to admit)

Seems like a lot of premature confirmation of self-fulfilling prophecy taking place here...

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 17:43:59

Quick correction to the above post. I meant Barton Street when I referred to James Street in my previous post. Apologies for the error

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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 20:11:39

A. Smith, couldn't agree more. Corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders; civic governments have a responsibility to their citizens. Wouldn't want to confuse the two.

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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 20:21:25

Should add, as well, that you're probably right. The final design was likely implemented at least in part to shield customers from the street.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 22:15:13

yea, this is a real pedestrian friendly design. Go to the Redcliffe Realty site and look at the plans. It's largely a massive parking lot surrounded by big box stores. Sounds like the pedestrian mall in Hess Village.

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 22:33:47

Quick correction to the above post. I meant Barton Street when I referred to James Street in my previous post. Apologies for the error

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By scooter brigade member # 72 (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2008 at 23:42:28

Pedestrian Friendly???? I don't think so. I use a scooter ie the mobility device, and I am less than enthusiasic to try and navigate the roadways of the new Centre Mall when it is completed. Mark2, did you notice where the new Zellers is located? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 00:53:30

Grassroots, nobody is forcing the poor to work at this new development, so why the hard feelings?

Furthermore, if you feel the need to supply low income people with higher paying jobs, the best way is to do it yourself. If you need help in fleshing out some ideas for a new business, I would love to help.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 08:21:32

Ah, A Smith, a breath of fresh air. Please help us flesh out some ideas for new business models. And also, help lead us to the required financing and a leg-up in the approval processes.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 09:19:00

A Smith: Sure I would welcome any help and or ideas. Maybe we can meet and feel each other out on our respective ideals and ideas.

I stand for the workers and what we need is worker input into ideas, the idea of a workers center is something I've been thinking about for a while.

Workers themselves may have ideas too but have no where to go to tell others about their ideas. The goal is to empower people, to stand up and take the reins. Maybe to start focus groups of workers themselves to brainstorm.

What do you think???? do you still want to meet???

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 09:28:53

scooter brigade member # 72, there are pedestrian walkways to Zellers. No need to ever navigate any roadway.

If you are proceeding via Barton Street, start along the walkway that begins at the southeast corner of Retail Block U (where Desjardin Credit Union will be located). Continue on this walkway past all the storefronts of Retail Block S. At the end of Block S, the pedestrian walkway turns east a few feet, then crosses the driveway to continue northward along the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the main access road. There's one more crosswalk and you are at the Zellers.

Alternatively, if approaching from Ottawa Street North, simply follow the pedestrian walkway that leads west from Ottawa North running in front of Canadian Tire, Retail Block F, then on to Zellers. In either case, there is a direct pedestrian walkway route with absolutely no roadway navigation (with the exception of crossing two roadways). Piece of cake.

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 09:34:35

Sorry, I got my road names mixed up again. My previous post's alternative route is from Kenilworth North, not Ottawa North.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 17:00:39

sounds like we'll need a GPS device to navigate these sidewalks from the street to the back side of this box complex.

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 19:49:38

...only if you have a hard time following a straight line.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2008 at 22:54:15

we'll see about this pedestrian accessibility after the first big snowfall.

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By scooter brigade #72 (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2008 at 23:43:36

...pededtrian walkways.....must be under all that dirt......and your suggested route, a colossal waste of battery power

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 25, 2008 at 08:30:29

A Smith wrote "Jason, what is worse to walk by, a vacant old building, or a vibrant, yet car centric big box development?

Even though big box stores are not the ideal, perhaps they are a first step."

I doubt it. Especially since, if you're walking by a bussling car centric big box development or trying to get to stores on opposite sites of the parking lot you're far more likely to get run over by the excited drivers looking for the closest possible parking spot to their favourite store. Mark2, the buildings surround the lot, they're not all along Barton. I suppose you'd limit pedestrians from using said stores?

An assinine, backwards facing, regressive development that can be seen as a shot in the head to the area surrounding it. As far as the sidewalks go, how does that change the street impact? How does it make a "neighbourhood" feel? It doesn't. All you see from Barton is an ugly butt of the building. Time to get rid of 'Stupid Centres'.

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By mark2 (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2008 at 15:35:27

Scooter Brigade, the pedestrian walkways don't currently exist. The pedestrian walkway improvements are part of the redevelopment.

The route I described is about 250m in length. If this is a significant drain on your scooter battery, then you gotta get a new battery!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 02:33:27

Grassroots, I love your tone, it's a lovely mix of apathy and self righteousness.

Your insistence on seeing the world as a zero sum game is pathetic, but it's obvious you're quite attached to it, so good luck.

Frank, let me get this straight, you would rather let buildings sit empty then be redeveloped into big box stores, which although not great works of architecture, provide jobs and increase the value of surrounding properties.

You are a poster boy for all things wrong with this once ambitious city. The new motto should be, "Stagnation and rot, if you want to live in the past, this is the place to be."

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 07:53:32

A Smith, you are a supreme disappointment. You have been called to help shore up the levee and yet choose to sling mud instead. You stand fast in the muck spewing grandiose things while those around you are rushing to fill sacks with sand.

Grassroots are the way forward, if you were to go ahead and set something up like a meet and greet, I'm sure you would find a few interested folks willing to gather, at least for curiosity's sake. You might even find some 'sandbaggers', those who lurk on boards but seldom speak, would make an unquestionable appearance. The ball is in your court, though I would suggest Sam's Club, otherwise known as The Queens on Ottawa Street North (formerly CD's) as an initial water level, testing point.

seancb of Hammerboard, I believe you are correct. We'll have to wait and see if current demand is any indication of an anticipated surplus:

Mild winter for Toronto? http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/...

"This year I'm seeing huge, huge demand for snow blowers," said Reg Crosgrey, owner of A1 Small Engine Shop, near Steeles Ave. W. and Highway 427.

The "normal" amount of snow for Toronto is about 115 centimetres, according to Environment Canada's Phillips. Last year, Toronto received a massive 194 centimetres, just 13 centimetres short of the snowiest winter on record: 1938-39.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 16:20:36

WRCU2, levee's are only needed when there is an external threat, Hamilton's problems are self induced.

If the people of Hamilton would stop focusing on what the government can give to them and adopt JFK's famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." things might start to turn around.

Some things I recommend to help Hamilton get out of its funk...

1.) Make business tax rates the same as residential, currently they are almost triple.

2.) Drop restrictions on developers ability to build what the market is demanding.

3.) Ensure that Hamilton residents are contributing at least as much as they receive from all levels of government.

Do these three things and Hamilton will awaken from its slow descent into selfishness and the resulting sickness that it has brought this once "Ambitious City".

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By Mike (registered) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 16:50:52

The potential within Hamilton for positive change is astounding. It's full of university students, full of good ideas, and I can see that it is full of people wanting something more human around them for a change. Unfortunately the choices being made suggest a preference to remain a smelly medieval society even into the 21st century. Please let's keep pressure on them for more livable cities. Also to the extent possible support small business and farmers markets. Let them build vast imperial complexes of big box stores only to have them empty and abandoned (one can wish!)

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 18:03:31

Mike, the true test of whether big box stores are good or not, is the marketplace.

If this most recent big box development is offensive as people tend to think it is, the market will get rid of it.

Conversely, if the next great trend in retailing is the "streetwall", it will not be long before we see more of that type of design.

Businesses want to make money, but in order to do this they need customers to approve of their offerings.

Therefore, rather than blame developers for lack of vision, blame every person who shops at this type of environment. Without their support, developers would stop building the big boxes.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 26, 2008 at 19:43:57

It's not quite as simple as that though. The playing field is not level. Among other things, zoning bylaws put big boxes at an advantage. In some cases the bylaws make big box the only model that is legal AND will make money. By zoning large swaths of land as retail, disallowing mixed use development, allowing fields of parking, we leave developers with few profitable choices BUT single destination large format stores.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 20:24:27

A Smith: Why are you attacking me now? You want people to resolve their own issues, yet when someone comes up with a idea to have displaced workers have a place where they can go and talk about their individual issues or should I say what they need in order to move forward, you lambast them.

Displaced workers may need to upgrade education or need retraining. They may want to go into business for themselves and need help to come up with a business plan or even access to funding. I have been working, as a volunteer, giving my own time, to try to organize temp workers, as many of these workers are denied access to some of the basics of employment standards. Sometimes, when one is going through an emotional period, it is good to hang with people going through the same experience, you know the saying, birds of a feather, flock together.

WRCU2: I will take up your challenge. How about a Sunday afternoon, to set up a time, to get together and meet fellow workers who are struggling. It would be appropriate to bring home the message about stat holidays for those who work in the temp industry and may lose three days pay, which puts those families already struggling behind the eight ball even further.

Would you like me to bring my banner?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2008 at 22:35:10

Seancb, it sounds as if you are saying the fault is with government policies rather than the business community.

Perhaps it would be better to let neighborhoods develop organically, rather than forcing development into a particular format.

If we assume that business owners have a vested interest in having attractive neighborhoods for their clients to visit, why not give them the freedom to build they way they feel is best.

Only if you assume that business owners are out to destroy neighborhoods, does setting rigid bylaws make any sense, to me at least.

Grassroots, I am attacking your ideas, I don't like your short sighted focus on the "worker". I think by dividing the world into worker vs business you are shooting yourself in the foot.

I have already stated that poor people need to drop the entitlement mindset and focus on offering the community something that they value, like business owners do.

Alternatively, you can at least limit the damage that you are causing yourself (and by that, I mean lower income people), by getting off the public trough. Make your focus to be independence from government assistance and you will begin to make headway. The less you rely on government for help, the more opportunities you will see in your life.

All government can offer is false promises and I think you already know this by now.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 26, 2008 at 23:22:38

A Smith wrote:

If we assume that business owners have a vested interest in having attractive neighborhoods for their clients to visit

We shouldn't make that assumption. Business owners have a vested interest in maximizing their own profits, meaning any penny spent beyond the absolute bare minimum esthetic standards that don't repel customers is wasted.

It's a collective action problem, in which individuals pursuing rational self-interest causes everyone to be worse off. Businesses do the bare minimum, which lowers expectations among customers, which in turn moves the bare minimum down in a classic race to the bottom.

Like all collective action problems, the only way that people living in a society can resolve it is by agreeing to regulations that are enforced consistently. As a result of regulations that mandate minimum standards of upkeep, cleanliness and so on, everyone ends up better off and the race to the bottom is transformed into a virtuous cycle of positive improvements.

Without those regulations, there will always be an economic benefit for property owners to do less, and the inevitable race to the bottom ensues.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 27, 2008 at 00:20:46

A Smith: You do not see my vision, you are too busy attacking and not listening. You view things from your perspective, you make assumptions about people that have no basis in fact.

Yes of course there is a symbiotic relationship between business and workers and it is important for both sides to listen to each other, to be transparent, socially responsible.

I have a post secondary education in accounting and now I am taking Labour Studies, so you see I can see things from both sides, more than you know.

Let me ask you if this is fair, a temp worker who worked at the same job assignment for over a year, had a family emergency and took one day off. Not only did this person lose their job, the temp company made sure the worker was denied EI benefits as well. This worker had not taken a day off before this.

But then profits before people, right????? Socially responsible, I think not!!!!!

Is this an example of open communication between business and labour?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2008 at 01:35:15

Ryan, in the marketplace, making your customers happy and doing it consistently is vital to a strong business.

Therefore, when one company comes up with a cost effective way to increase customer satisfaction, it forces others to match that level of service, or be left behind.

Rather than race to the bottom, businesses are constantly looking for cost effective ways to make their customers experience more enjoyable.

Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonald's Restaurants understood this. He made sure that cleanliness was the cornerstone of every restaurant and to good effect.

The government didn't force McDonald's to be religious in their desire for cleanliness, it came from within. However, by giving customers peace of mind, they developed a reputation as a company that could be relied upon.

Trust, honesty, fairness, are all qualities that come at a price, but ultimately return much more than they cost. Successful businesses understand this and will use it to their advantage.

There is a reason why people trust brand names, such as Duracell, Coke, Holiday Inn, Nike. Each one of these companies offers great products that people can count on, at prices that reflect the value they give to consumers. The customer wins by knowing they will not be screwed over and the business wins because it translates customer loyalty into a healthy profit margin.

Business is not about a race to the bottom any more than having friends is about a race to the bottom. If your analogy was correct, we should all be looking over our shoulder to see when our so called loved ones are going to stab us in the back. The fact that this usually doesn't happen means that we understand the value of reciprocity. If I am nice to you, you will return the favour.


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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2008 at 01:53:05

Grassroots, first of all, any company that fires a good employee over one missed day will probably not be in business very long.

Reliable employees are hard to come by in this world, so your analogy, while likely true, probably doesn't tell the whole story.

Was it fair for the company to have fired this employee? Of course it was. Companies do not exist to provide jobs for people, they exist to provide profits for the owners.

If you don't like this, then create your own company, hire as many people as you can and watch yourself go out of business in a couple of months.

Just because you were born in Canada, does not give you the right to expect others to provide for you. All that people should expect is freedom from violence and perhaps enough food and shelter to keep one alive.

If you can pull your head out of your communist fairy tales for a couple of minutes, perhaps you will learn that the best way to success is to think about what you can contribute to society rather than what you can take from society.

Society is nothing more than other hard working people, who don't feel the need to coddle a group of people who would rather complain to government than create something people might want to buy.

Stop reading about the down trodden worker and start thinking about how to help businesses make more money. If you can help these greedy capitalists become even wealthier, you too will become rich and then you can give your money away to whomever you want.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2008 at 02:04:31

Grassroots, I also recommend you cut up your government subsidized health card. By taking this leap of faith, you will force yourself to come up with solutions that ensure that you can buy any health coverage you need.

I cut mine up a while ago and it definitely changes the motivation level. Since you now feel the need to provide for yourself, your mind looks for every opportunity to do exactly this.

Like that story of the Spanish Conquistador who ordered his men to burn the ships before battle, making things harder on one's self is a great way to focus your energies on the task at hand.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted December 06, 2008 at 16:07:18

A Smith, you make a number of valid points. This is my favorite:

"I have already stated that poor people need to drop the entitlement mindset and focus on offering the community something that they value, like business owners do."

As for me, I ask myself whenever I read your posts, what does this guy do? He posts all weekday afternoons and well into the wee hours of twilight. Times when I'm usually working, or sleeping because I need rest for the next workday.

Grassroots are the way forward, I have no idea what your banner is, perhaps we could save that for later. Or if you have a JPEG version you could email me the details and the banner:

farmer6re9@execulink.com

I'm sorry for being away so long. It is only because I'm losing interest in the blogosphere and the embattled corpse of my IT department. There's no point in beating a dead horse now is there?

Maybe we should get Ryan's blessing before any of us meets off the record.

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