Revitalization

Another Surface Parking Lot in the Making?

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 14, 2011

This planned demolition should be cause for serious concern - not only, as the article notes, because important architectural and artistic heritage will be lost, but also because a depressingly likely result will be that the block framed by Main St., Bay St., King St. and Caroline St. will end up almost completely empty.

The supposedly-illegal surface parking lot on the adjacent HMP site at Main and Bay remains open after three years, and there is no reason to believe the site of a demolished Federal building would enjoy a different fate.

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 serbia (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:24:20

Too bad our mayor's best friend owns the building. And the illegal parking lot. And gets away with whatever he wants.

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By VranScam (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:31:25

Vranich wants to tear down the Federal Building too?
We're screwed as Serbia noted as he and Bratina are quite buddy buddy.

I'll believe a development on that site after, and only after, that hotel is built at the demolished HMP site.
or after a Shoppers/LCBO/Staples is built on the lot directly west of it.
Or if Vranich didn't take 6 years to renovate a small King West house into his new office.
Or if Vranich ever did anything with the Convent building at King & Queen.
Or if the Vranich's weren't caught up in a storm of controversies.

Ya, I could go on as to why I don't trust this plan.

Isn't it hilarious that developers from all over and popping up actually building things here while Vranich & Co have been sitting on the same sites for probably decades? And yet all they know how to do is demo?

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:59:14

The comments on the Spec about this are even more ignorant and absurd than usual. One of them is literally "It's old and empty. Tear it down."

The other comments are the usual "another eyesore in the downtown, tear it down!". Yah... cause that has done wonders for the handful of other beautiful buildings that we've ripped down in the downtown.

I guarantee that when Vranich rips this beautiful building down, it will remain an empty lot for years, much like the HMP. Or possibly an illegal parking lot. He will not be doing anything with this property as the economic situation has not changed from the last time he referred to it being the reason why he hasn't developed the HMP site.

His buddy Bob the mayor will push the papers through and we'll be seeing wrecking balls at 150 Main Street West in a month.

Comment edited by MattM on 2011-01-14 12:00:30

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:59:26

So wrong, why can't this building get the Pigott treatment? I loved going in there when the building was in use, it felt like an old government building should, respectful, formal and unshakable. This is a crime and a very sad chapter in Hamilton.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:06:11

It's simple, if he demolishes the building his property tax goes down and he doesn't have to spend money to secure the building. That's right, Vranich makes slumlords look good by comparison, at least they have tenants.

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By serbia (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:08:37

and our mayor - the representative of the people - is a mouthpiece of the serbian mafia who will defend this creep to the death

I dare you to prove us wrong bob

SICKENING

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:14:33

I really hope the murals get preserved. If he wants to demolish the building, that's fine but it's not going to take much effort to save the murals and donate them to the art gallery of Hamilton.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:23:50

@-Hammer-, a donation of them to the gallery would be ideal, but how about attaching them to another heritage project - oh say the one at King William and James? James St N Art Crawl, the work they are doing to preserve the history and look and craftmansship of that building. I know these pieces aren't part of that site, but putting them perhaps up the corner of the building for passers by on King William and James to admire, would be something. For them to remain outside as part of a building more visible to everyday traffic, would be something.

Of course, just getting them off this guy is the first thing. Looking at it on Google street view, there doesn't seem to be a lot wrong with it, other than all the windows being boarded up?

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:24:04

Since this is probably a fait accompli, what are the odds we could talk Vranic into letting Russ from backyard harvest dig up the ashphalt and till and farm the entire city block. What an amazing transformation to come to the heart of 'steeltown' and see a working farm in the middle of the city. He'd have a helluva csa going.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:25:36

IIRC when the ACC was built in Toronto out of an old postal outlet, the bas relief sculptures were preserved and incorporated into the new facade. I believe it was a requirement of the city.

Wouldn't a similar solution in this case only lend to the beauty of a new structure?

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:32:59

I tell ya @Jasonallan, I think that would be something indeed. An extension of some sorts, to the Famers Market. Not neccesarily tied into the Market, but adding to the local farmer support in that area would create more of a showcase for it. Isn't that guy (and excuse that I can't remember his name or where he lives), who has a little farm of sorts right at his house, in that general area? You know that art exhibition they have every year in the Locke/Aberdeen area where artists open up their homes to browse artwork and mingle with the artists? Imagine if more people used their homes/properities for mini-local farms, and we had a similar tour in the downtown area - including what you proposed at the old federal building site. Surely this guy isn't going to sell us the land, but maybe we could snatch up the illegal parking lot on the old MIP lands(why is it illegal if someone could share that), just imagine.

I have always been attracted to things that are very different. And a working farm downtown, it's crazy but those are the kinds of attractions that stop people and garner a response of 'really? Cool!'

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-01-14 12:34:51

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:58:26

@lawrence - yes, Russ is the guy in Strathcona who farms not only his backyard, but six others in Strathcona and Kirkendall. We were part of his CSA last year and the food was amazing, and plentifull. It's not such a crazy idea - I read of a city in Oregon who have recently started tilling as much 'unusable' public greenspace as possible (medians, etc, not parks). It's an idea who's time may have come.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:04:21

Some of the urban gardens are also built into raise planters.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:13:04

The inside of the building is pretty rough. Most of the pipes and other metals have been ripped out, and none to gently either. There is water damage in a number of places and that was a couple of years ago. They have planned to demolish this building for quite some time. The feds moved because the building was in pretty rough shape at that time. Why doesn't somebody else step up and buy it? Why didn't somebody else step up and buy it when Vranich bought it? Pretty easy to criticize others and a lot tougher to put up the cash.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:13:41

@lawrence, there is a bylaw that you can not tear down a building and create a parking lot in the downtown area.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:26:05

Typical Mr Meister making excuses for the powerful and negligint.

The inside of the building is pretty rough.

It's structurally solid and sound, perfect for an awesome reno, he can even put a slim tower in the courtyard behind the L shape, of course that would require him to invest and take a risk, why do that when he can demolish it and see his taxes go down.

Other developers are buying old properties, gutting & renovating them and making awesome adaptive reuse, check out Herkimer at Bay, Witton Lofts, lots of renos on James North.

Vranich is typical downtown Hamilton developer, sit on a vacant property, demolish, turn into another half empty parking lot. He should be ashamed, and you should be ashamed for making excuses.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:26:31

there is a bylaw that you can not tear down a building and create a parking lot in the downtown area.

Not that it gets enforced if you're name is Vranich.

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:29:00

Without question, the sculptures need to be saved.

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:36:47

I believe Mr. Vranich bought the building for $1.8 million from a city property tax sale.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:45:45

In 2007 I spearheaded an initiative to attract Mountain Equipment Co Op to this very building - this was before they had even purchased the land in Burlington let alone opened a store there.

To the city's credit, staff did a great job of taking the idea and running with it. They spoke to MEC and attempted to speak with the owner of the building (Vranich)

The city was excited about this prospect because at that time, there was a plan on the books to build condos in the upper levels. The owner had told the city that the only thing holding him back was lack of interest from potential main floor tenants and without a key retail tenant the project would not be profitable.

But when the city called Vranich to discuss the MEC potential, in order to put together a complete proposal for the MEC directors, Vranich simply didnot return the calls.

In the end, MEC went to Burlington for many reasons, and Vranich was not one of them. But the applicable moral of this story is that Vranich NEVER had a plan to renovate this building, despite promises to the contrary.

So, hey, lets reward his behaviour!

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:46:12

I think our old dominion public building (now the John Sopinka Courthouse) stands as an excellent example of how you can keep a structurally intact older building,ad integrate and expand it with a more modern facility. Nevermind the Toronto buildings that have done similar things.

Truth is he doesn't want to do so, and I suppose that's his choice as propertyowner, but after his track record of tearing down buildings and not rebuilding anything, I think the city should think this over carefully. They can't grant him a demolition permit unless he has a plan to bring up a new building, and if I were the city I would want more than just his word this time around.

He developed the property on market street into a "hotel" with city funds, and then after a year or so of operation it became a retirement home (I believe), which the city would never have given money to build.

Doesn't he also own the Hess-King Apartment complex which is open to the rain/snow, crumbling, and has forced the closure of the sidewalk on one side of King?

I thought we had a by-law that forced owners to secure properties from the elements so they wouldn't decay to the point they have to be demolished? Is that not being enforced here?

This whole thing stinks, as many posters here have noted.


Fool me once...shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 13:57:38

I don't want to get to far off topic but the sculptures cut into the B of Education building may well face the same fate.
Maybe there's a case for City Council to be proactive and incorporate these artworks into a downtown development.

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By renegauthier (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:29:01

Welcome to Downtown Hamilton! We may not have a lot of buildings, but man check out those parking lots!

We are getting close to having more parking lots than buildings. What is the city doing to attract businesses into the downtown core and what can the improve on to get buildings on those parking lots?

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By George (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:30:53

So does that mean the 140 unit, 20 storey condo story is false; just a ruse to knock down the current building?

Comment edited by George on 2011-01-14 14:34:38

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:32:47

Is the that baloney to get away with the demolition?

Yes.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:33:08

Thanks Steve.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:35:11

Thanks Jason. That sounds pretty amazing. And farming medians instead of planting flowers, sounds like a good idea too. Imagine driving down York and there are carrots and what not growing in the centre. :)

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:35:24

Heck, put up the artwork on the sides of the Hunter St GO station failing anything. I really wish something was put up on those bare walls. The place almost always have cabbies parked around the area so it's stay relatively graffiti free.

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By George (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:36:29

Man, how about a Whitestar like stadium/condo/retail proposal on that site bounded between King and Main, Bay to the back of current Hess village buildings?

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By Tnt (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:42:16

Paging Matt Jelly....turn from mild mannered council wannabe into BYLAW MAN!!!!

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:44:05

Well, I do think Main Street should pass as a "driveway to driveway experience". You can ride the greens all the way to the ti-cats. 150 points if you take out a pedestrian on the way.

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By George (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:48:06

LRT on the King st side?

Even if Main were converted to two way, it's still quite close to the 403.

Sorry to veer off topic, but it would develop a lot of the current barren parking lots.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 14:51:37

So does that mean the 140 unit, 20 storey condo story is false; just a ruse to knock down the current building?

Based on Vranich's track record? YES. And I for one would love to see a 20 storey condo/retail complex there. But these guys have proven themselves. Ultra slumlords.

I agree with other posters that the murals should be incorporated into a new building, but there's just one problem with that idea. There won't BE a new building on that site to incorporate them into. Maybe we can use them on the facade of the little parking attendant booth that will end up being built here.

Comment edited by jason on 2011-01-14 14:53:17

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:00:05

An soon to be empty block except for the Village Atrium building on George, which is an attractive development. The Detroitifaction of downtown Hamilton is progressing nicely: death from a thousand parking lots. I think these lots should be turned into urban farms.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:25:34

That atrium building on George is absolutely beautiful. I took a really good look at it a few weeks ago and noticed how well a job they did at restoring what looks like an older warehouse/industrial/commercial building. It's a gem in a pile of crap.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:25:47

The Detroitifaction of downtown Hamilton is progressing nicely: death from a thousand parking lots.

Beautiful!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:27:35

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By George (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:31:17

MattM wrote:

That atrium building on George is absolutely beautiful.

Why thank you! (combing gesture with right hand from front of right temple to back)

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:38:45

This entire dialogue makes me laugh. This is hardly a matter of left wing vs. right wing; it's a statement about lack of development. More power to anyone that has the means to start a development or purchase property, but for Heaven's sake - DO SOMETHING WITH IT. For example ...for 30+ years a handful of wealthy business owned much of the property on King Street, East of James. They did absolutley NOTHING to improve or maintain their buildings and let them decline. Which is exactly why guys like Vranich have either develop their property or sell it. We already have enough derelict buildings and vacant lots.

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By Hrvatski (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 15:38:47

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 16:15:56

Nobody was labelling him for being an immigrant. They were labelling him for being an ignorant.

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By told you so (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 16:43:47

You might want to get the city to ease up on the set back requirements the city demands in case of road widening if you want to see a building go up on the one site he owns. Its actually city red tape thats blocking construction and creating open spaces where there should be none. Its sad to see how the city is part of the problem

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 16:53:45

This entire dialogue makes me laugh. This is hardly a matter of left wing vs. right wing

Ignore the troll. Must be an American who thinks the whole world lives in left vs. right. The real world, as we know, doesn't.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 16:54:49

What has Mr. Vranich ever done to you other than buy some property downtown?

Exactly. We live here and love the place. And he's destroying it.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 17:01:01

When I began reading this article, I was taken back to a year ago, with The Century Theatre and what its owner, Zoran Cocov perpetrated on this city's architectural heritage...and on all of us by extension.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 17:03:17

It's so sad to see this building go. On the bright side, this new condo will look great next to the Hilton Hotel that was built on the demolished HMP site. The King/Hess building is looking quite organic with trees growing in the top floor. It reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright's falling Water. Add one more urban waterfall to our expansive list. Heck, I nominate him for Builder of the Year. If we have so much red tape, why can't we use it to stop the wrecking ball? I don't think red tape is the problem - it's a total lack of creativity.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 17:18:00

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 20:49:59

Remember what happened to The Dynes Tavern on the Beach Strip?

This one will probably be called from the same playbook unfortunately. $50,000 fine to construct 36 units priced between $400,000 and $500,000. Like that's a deterrent. $50,000 in fines spread over 36 units is a cost of $1389 per townhouse. We need to get some real penalties for this kind of developer behavior.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 22:20:25

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2011 at 22:33:19

Respectfully, if you believe commentary on any Internet site is what dictates development in the city of Hamilton, I think your critical thinking skills and information on city processes need an update.

Comment edited by Meredith on 2011-01-14 22:34:09

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2011 at 23:49:42

Vranich's background is in strip clubs, that's how he made his money. Yep, just a struggling immigrant trying to make his way in this rough and tumble world.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 03:43:39

nobrainer - I have not been in the building in about 3 years. If you have been inside since then and it is in better condition than I stated I stand corrected. When was the last time you were in there? I find it somewhat puzzling that it is in better shape now than it was 3 years ago. By the way I was not making excuses for anybody, I was simply stating the facts as I saw them. The reason the building is (was) in rough shape is because all the pipes and other metals were ripped out for their scrap value. Many, many tons of scrap have been pulled out. At one point they were filling one of the huge dumpsters every other day. The whole operation was being run by the brother, not sure of his name but I think it is John Vranich. If my memory serves me right he also ran or owned a bar at Macnab and Vine.

If you know so well what would work on this site and what needs to be done why didn't you buy it? It went for very little considering. Someone posted $1.8 million, not sure if that is accurate. You could really show Vranich how it is done.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2011 at 08:27:35

At the risk of pointing out the obvious...while shucking my Gloves of Sarcasm and Cape of Cynicism...and not wanting to diminish the intent of this article for a second...

In considering the seemingly endless chunks of revenue-generating empty land (ie parking lots) in Downtown Hamilton, does anyone else experience almost flu symptoms-like sensations (light headedness, a certain transcendency of thought) akin to hope?

Though I am a staunch critic of how things have (not) been handled in the downtown core for 25 years, and I've shed tears on numerous occasions (I'm old enough to remember the most-often-forgotten-or-ignored tragedies of us losing two Thomas Lamb cinemas on the same street almost four decades ago now), more than this, I look at the potential, the possibilities of Downtown Hamilton and actually feel uplifted. For me, the area is a blank canvas. A neglected, abandoned, even abused one, but blank nonetheless. Meaning, to the optimist, 'possessing opportunity and chance only limited by the observer's imagination'.

No, I don't have any answers, I would never claim to have sufficient enough insight as to how the area could best be reborn; I was able to propose redesigns of Downtown Stoney Creek, but Hamilton's scope is beyond my remit at the moment. (I am, however, aware of some people who are capable of bringing to bear substantial insight and ingenuity to the notion. I'm hoping we'll be hearing a lot more from them in 2011) But I'm genuinely hopeful about the long-term potential of Downtown Hamilton. If we can only hold on long enough to witness its unfolding...and find ways to inform the process, participate in it.

I'm not asking anyone to catch this fluey high with me, merely to consider that while as things are presently designed, we're not 'players' in any of this, not in any real sense...yet as much as I believe this, I also believe that we have far more capability to effect the kind of change we're interested in seeing than we realize. How can this be true? The first thing I'd recommend considering is the verité of this expression:

'Live with a cripple long enough, and you learn how to limp.'

We need to unlearn our 'afflictions', begin creating a new mindset, and empower ourselves.

Hat's off to Editor Ryan and RTH's efforts continue to keep us talking.

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By Wheelchairbound (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 09:18:08

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2011 at 11:42:20

I was in the building before they ripped that big chunk on the side off. Other than one big busted pipe in the basement, the whole building still had water and power (including roof-mounted solar panels), was almost totally intact and had no obvious problems. I suspect having a large piece ripped off during the HMP demolition hasn't helped, though.

The Vranich family are by far the largest culprits in this kind of property "ownership" downtown. Vacant lots, derelict buildings, frequent fires - this is real estate, Detroit-style.

We know how this game is played. It's old-fashioned blockbusting. Buy keystone buildings at firesale prices, and let them sit and rot, dragging down neighbours until they, too, can be bought up. The rot then continues as each of the buildings are demolished, in turn, over more years (as they can "get away with it") and then they sit as a parking lot until some extravagantly profitable deal can be made to redevelop the whole thing as some extravagantly profitable super-development.

It's the Lister Block all over again, except the Federal Building is bigger and nicer. Another sad day for downtown.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2011 at 12:14:17

It's the Lister Block all over again, except the Federal Building is bigger and nicer. Another sad day for downtown.

Where's our own Christopher Hume when we need one?

(Yeah, yeah, I know; another topic entirely.)

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 12:40:23

Where's our own Christopher Hume when we need one?

If I had more time I'd do it for RTH. Hume is a great read. Paul Wilson is Hamilton's closest, but he's gonna be gone soon.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 13:35:04

Meredith >> if you believe commentary on any Internet site is what dictates development in the city of Hamilton, I think your critical thinking skills and information on city processes need an update.

I agree, development in Hamilton is dictated by nature. That's why the areas of the city where public handouts are high, are also the areas that produce nothing of economic value. That's why we need more subsidized transit downtown, because without it, the people who live in the area may just become self reliant again. If that happened, the whole myth of socialism would start to unravel. NOOOOO!!!!!

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 14:04:47

"Respectfully, if you believe commentary on any Internet site is what dictates development in the city of Hamilton, I think your critical thinking skills and information on city processes need an update."

Meredith,

My critical thinking skills are quite well developed and I have spent more time working the system at city hall than I care to remember. I know exactly how the game is played. I am not nieve enough to think that commentary on this site or any other site dictates what happens in this city. But the same people commenting here are the people emailing councillors and attending public meetings. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but it skews the view that elected officials get of the publics point of view.

The squeeky wheel gets the grease. All it takes is a handful of individuals to derail any project in this city. I might also add that works conversely as well, with the few getting projects approved without the majority being onboard. We have seen it over and over for the last 40 years.

Comment edited by bigguy1231 on 2011-01-15 14:17:02

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By Yikes (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 14:19:12

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 15:28:31

well, I'm no Hume. He's one of the best in the country at what he does. Didn't mean to sound as though I could just whip up pieces of the same quality as him. My point was - I'd love to have time to do some researched and urban-centric pieces about Hamilton like he does in TO, and help present a sustainable vision for the Hammer. RTH as a whole does this pretty well, but it would be awesome to have someone like Hume here.

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By Yi8kes (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 15:39:43

Well, give it a try Jason. Who knows?

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By jeff_stock (registered) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 17:35:29

On occasion Mr. Hume does turn his gaze upon the city. He covered the revamped AGH and our issues regarding the stadium recently. I emailed him inquiring about offering his sage advice on Hamilton architecture more often but he never responded. Perhaps some more requests would work?

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By A WellWisher (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 21:03:53

jason: "well, I'm no Hume. Didn't mean to sound as though I could just whip up pieces of the same quality as him. My point was - I'd love to have time to do some researched and urban-centric pieces about Hamilton like he does in TO, and help present a sustainable vision for the Hammer. RTH as a whole does this pretty well..."



Well, jason, if it wasn't for Yikes, you could have almost succeeded in convincing unsuspecting RTH readers that you were in league with Christopher Hume.

The recent past has clearly shown that RTH as a whole does a pretty bad job by presenting issues that are blatantly biased, ill-researched, and which are rammed down our throats by an ill-mannered pack of anonymous commenter who are freely allowed to curse, abuse, and make insane connections and conclusions. These individuals then go to up-vote each other, while all those who try very hard to retain a rational, centrist view on topics are down-voted and quickly shut out.

Regarding your rushed Hume gaffe, time is really never to be 'had', it is always to be 'made'; and you don't simply do 'some researched and urban-centric pieces about Hamilton'. What you do is serious research if at all you are serious about offering your views to the public.

If you were serious about your views, you would have made the time for research to find that more urban-centric pieces about Hamilton is not what Hamilton needs in 2011, as much as it needs a better understanding of what constitutes urban-centric & suburban-centric biases; and respectable ways to overcome them.

When the world is already moving fast towards regional-centricity to overcome urban sustainable issues, you and most avowed research-challenged RTH'ites are still pushing an outmoded 'us v/s them' view of cities, and forcing Hamilton's suburban residents and its urban residents to remain suspicious of each others intent and motives.

So please read more carefully and research a lot before you dive into offering views on topics that you may think you know well. The diverse people of this city deserve much better than the loud and often angry biases which have been on full public display at RTH recently.

Hamilton deserves real Hume's who speak from real world experiences, and not dilettante urbanists who profess urban-centric biases in the name of progress.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2011 at 21:49:00

@ A WellWisher

Wowza.

Genuflection until Ibuprofen is indicated.

I owe you a coffee.

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By jeff_stock (registered) | Posted January 15, 2011 at 23:15:49

A WellWisher, the problem with a city like Hamilton is that you are facing an 'us v/s them' mentality not only of the urban/suburban divide, but also within the urban boundary itself. As the downtown core changes and evolves, significant resistence arises in an urban space that has, for lack of a better word, rotted away for the better than a decade. Those who are passionate about improving the downtown core face two fronts: the urban resistors to change and the suburban residents opposed to inequitable urban investment and improvement. Much fear and resistance has developed for preserving and improving the cityscape as a result of geopgraphic apprehension jealousy.

Alas, that is the nature of the 21st century environment.

Regarding your disdain towards Jason's method, isn't that the nature of the blog itself?

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 01:38:53

What about signing the petition to save the Holbrooks? http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42038...

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By told you so (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 04:12:05

How about a $10 donation with every signature to help pay the extra costs and show that you are serious as well as good intentioned

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2011 at 09:46:07

Not wanting to gum up the works any further in this Comments section, here are some personal thoughts on Christopher Hume...and the notion of showcasing a 'Hamilton's Hume': http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2011/0...

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By Yikes (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 12:00:14

I don't know who WellWisher is obviously, but I'd like to thank him/her for articulating the reservations I have had with RTH as a forum that although it pretends to, does not really advance public discourse. His observation:

"When the world is already moving fast towards regional-centricity to overcome urban sustainable issues, you and most avowed research-challenged RTH'ites are still pushing an outmoded 'us v/s them' view of cities, and forcing Hamilton's suburban residents and its urban residents to remain suspicious of each others intent and motives."

really explains it all. I for one love Hamilton, but also see it as a community that has changed and is changing every day. For it to succeed, all hands must be on deck to vigorously debate but even more importantly defend each other's right to dissenting opinions. As much as Hume or Paul Wilson have contributions to make in their communities, each only represents a slice of the reality of Toronto or Hamilton. RTH speaks to that slice and sadly downvotes anyone else who tries to bring in a rational, thoughtful contrary opinion.

As we have seen in Arizona, the rhetoric of disdainful extremism doesn't help anyone. We don't shoot people here, thankfully. But words are even more powerful than weapons and in terms of that we not only use the occasional weapon, we arm the anonymous contributors with Glock-like weapons of mass destruction.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 13:10:13

it's also important to remember why RTH started up in the first place. Paul Wilson was long the ONLY voice of urbanism in a city that adores strip malls, box stores and farm-field townhomes. If there is any 'anti' sentiment deeply rooted in Hamilton, it's an anti-urban sentiment that is pushed by 95% of our old media types. The Spec has only slowly started to bring a bit of balance in their reporting since RTH arrived.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2011 at 13:56:46

I love this piece that Mr. Hume did recently: http://www.thestar.com/videozone/916499-...

Entitled 'Demolition by Neglect?' here's so much here that's germane to this discussion (never mind that we saw something similar happen in Hamilton just last year with The Century Fiasco), but I especially appreciated his final thought:

"Until we actually get our heritage act together, this kind of thing can be expected to happen again and again."

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By Yikes (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 14:03:30

@Jason: I don't recall there being any columnist with a regular three times a week column in the Spectator that praised the virtues of 'strip malls' as you call them. In fact, Wilson has long been the main urbanist on the paper's staff, not the only one. I would say that Jeff Mahony in his own way is one; I'd say that Terry Cooke's column certainly had that bent. I'd say that the remaining occasional columnists from the predictable Evelyn Myrie to the newest members of the inner city club: Pike and the other lady whose name isn't coming to me, are all championing the virtues of the inner city...and the inner city does need champions for sure. But, in creating champions we shouldn't also be creating enemies. That is WellWisher's excellent point. If you do, you succumb.

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By told you so (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 14:09:25

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2011 at 14:18:22

For it to succeed, all hands must be on deck to vigorously debate but even more importantly defend each other's right to dissenting opinions. As much as Hume or Paul Wilson have contributions to make in their communities, each only represents a slice of the reality of Toronto or Hamilton. RTH speaks to that slice and sadly downvotes anyone else who tries to bring in a rational, thoughtful contrary opinion.

Which is why I find 'downvoting' to be part of the quiver of the adolescent. You do not foster great dialogue, constructive discourse by essentially blowing raspberries at others. You wouldn't do it in real Life, why do people default to this behaviour online?

As I suggested on my own site recently, there should be two options for readers. A 'Like' button, and a 'Reply' button. And this second one because all 'conversations' need context. The simple kind of context, the straightforward kind, not some progamming-weenie's kind.

If you're the kind of person who needs to 'downvote' someone, guess what? You're probably not adding much of anything constructive to the mix. It ends up being a gesture less about solving problems than about reinforcing factions and schisms and divisiveness.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 14:56:52

@yikes, Wilson and Mahoney have consistently espoused the virtues of urbanism, but if you look through the archives you'll notice a HUGE difference in the angles of other columnists in the past 4-6 years since RTH came aboard. The editors, Dreschel and many of the regular columnists were downright frustrating back then. Its why I cancelled my subscription. And I'm not just referring to the Spec. 900CHML, Cable 14's 'opinionators' or whatever they're called now, Brabant papers etc..... The Spec has seen some balance take place, but the others are as bad as ever. I have no problem with various views and ideas, but when it requires publishing lies to make the point, I draw the line. Just recently on the radio and in print we've heard anti LRT arguments that "the trains can't scale our Mountain" (as though it's Everest), "can't run in snow", "will cost $50 billion" etc..... the old media becomes no more trustworthy than the National Enquirer when they are required to publish nonsense for the sake of having readers hear 'the other side'. Maybe, just maybe, in some issues in life 'the other side' isn't really worth hearing.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 15:24:02

Jason >> I have no problem with various views and ideas, but when it requires publishing lies to make the point, I draw the line.

Jason, here is a chance to answer some honest questions from an LRT skeptic...

Why is it a good idea to spend $130M on a mode of transportation that will only reduce the time it takes to go from Eastgate to McMaster from 32 minutes to 31 minutes. In your opinion, is a one minute time savings that substantial that it will cause people from across the GTA to invest billions in new condos? Do you think that makes sense to the average taxpayer?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 17:07:44

As we have seen in Arizona, the rhetoric of disdainful extremism doesn't help anyone.

Worst. Analogy. Ever.

You should be ashamed, sir.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 18:19:43

Jason >> I have no problem with various views and ideas, but when it requires publishing lies to make the point, I draw the line.

Do you have a problem with the view that says saving 1 minute on a 32 minute commute is worth not spending $130 million of taxpayer dollars? Or that the view people aren't moving to downtown Hamilton because most don't want to pay 50-100% higher taxes on a 200k condo?

If you don't have a problem with these views, why do you and your buddy Ryan support them being erased from this site?

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 18:27:16

mystoneycreek,

You do not foster great dialogue, constructive discourse by essentially blowing raspberries at others. You wouldn't do it in real Life, why do people default to this behaviour online?

And yet when I was back and forth with another poster on the accuracy of her statements somebody wrote this about me. This is what you wrote after that

@ProLine: Does that PhD in Sarcasm come with a tattoo...and a secret handshake...? Man, that was deadly-incisive. "genuflects"

after I challenged you this came from your keyboard:

Couldn't agree less. And since when is slaggiing someone off for their method of expressing themselves...especially when so deftly crafted...de rigeur?

You are a hypocrite. What right do you have to to make the to critisize others for their conduct towards others on RTH.

Look in the mirror... and save me the arrogance of your self serving justifications here.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-01-16 18:31:24

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By Yikes (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2011 at 23:21:20

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 17, 2011 at 00:11:05

If you were serious about your views, you would have made the time for research to find that more urban-centric pieces about Hamilton is not what Hamilton needs in 2011, as much as it needs a better understanding of what constitutes urban-centric & suburban-centric biases; and respectable ways to overcome them.

Once again, an important issue gets brought up, discussed, largely agreed upon, then the attacks begin again. Not that I've really seen anything on here rebut our arguments about Vranich or the Federal Building (or even a word on the topic since WellWisher stirred the pot). Just more arguing over downvoting, "biases" and "agendas".

How exactly is this an urban vs suburban issue? Where do suburban issues come in at all? Another false dichotomy that claims to lump enormous chunks of public opinion into simple categories which are easy to dismiss.

There are New Urbanists, heritage advocates, geography students, anarchists, businesspeople and all manner of people who are far too complex to fit easily into any one category. For most issues, a common preference does show up after thirty comments or so, but if you pay attention, the same people often end up on very different "sides" on different issues (LRT, Stadium, downtown etc). I'll agree, there are certain demographic/cultural/philosophical commonalities, and many voices which are not present, but that does not invalidate the right of those who are here to say their piece.

I'm very tired of hearing about how people are "meddling" by raising these issues. The "buy - neglect - demolish" trend by downtown developers has devastated the core and impacted tens of thousands of lives. Similar properties are available a few blocks in any direction. It IS our business. And it isn't surprising at all that so many people are upset about it.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 17, 2011 at 08:10:32

yikes, toldyouso,wellwisher,etc,

Since when is an article's merit (and by extension, that of the 'publication' it is posted under) determined solely by the comment responses? And specifically by picking out the comments you least agree with?

Do you judge the spec based on the comments on its articles?

Did you just arrive on the internet? Do you need someone to give you a tour and explain how it works?

Give me a break.

Comment edited by seancb on 2011-01-17 08:11:41

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By told you so (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2011 at 08:55:02

Since RTH is a community blog the comments reflect its readership. Since I don't believe I've argued what you accuse me of I think you owe me an apology

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 17, 2011 at 10:52:38

Yikes,

My comments are directed at mystoneycreek and msc alone, nobody else. I actually have no clue as to what this WellWisher person even wrote, msc's comments and past behavior are all that I am focused on.

Clearly if you re-read my post you will see that I start with "mystoneycreek,". I'm an older guy and I don't like directing a comment towards someone specific like this, "@mystoneycreek". Maybe I should start using @, but I really don't want to. As to the grammar mistakes, I saw them only after the 'Edit' option had passed. Shouldn't have made the grammar mistakes, saw the grammar mistakes, too late to correct the grammar mistakes. Re-wrote the sentence a couple of times and didn't back track and remove the all of the old material. Embarrassing, for sure, response worthy....?

Many posters here are guilty of 'RTH skim', scanning something quickly and not really comprehending what the comment is about. I've been guilty of it and had to eat humble pie a few times because I didn't take the time to read something someone wrote thoroughly.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-01-17 11:09:24

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 17, 2011 at 11:25:47

Can somebody explain how Vrancor makes money like this? It seems like buying buildings and letting them rot doesn't sound like a winning investment strategy.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted January 17, 2011 at 11:32:26

Can somebody explain how Vrancor makes money like this?

It's just property speculation. If someone else does the heavy lifting and downtown turns around, these lot squatters can sell at a profit without having to do any work, the problem is that there are so many lot squatters in downtown Hamilton that there's no one left to do the heavy lifting (except for a few in James North etc). So they all sit around waiting for someone else to make the first move but refuse to sell because they'd take a loss. It's a catch 22.

Comment edited by nobrainer on 2011-01-17 11:32:44

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By A WellWisher (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2011 at 13:24:44

jeff_stock,

It is interesting you mention that we are facing: “an 'us v/s them' mentality not only of the urban/suburban divide, but also within the urban boundary itself.”

Very true. Indeed we are. And how did we come to a state where this 'dived' within our urban boundary is wide enough to be seen and felt so clearly, by not just locals but also outsiders?

A look into (research) how Hamilton city has evolved will tell us that our approach to redeveloping our city is fraught with a massive misread of our city’s growth pattern. Our polarization springs from this misread, and hence our attempts to redevelop a new future & recreate a past in the downtown core is filled with misadventures.

What we commonly refer to as downtown, in the lower city, is quite unlike the classical downtowns one sees in many older cities.

Suburbia in Hamilton did not start in the Greenfields, it began right at the doorsteps of our old urban core as soon as the core became a thriving hub of our economy and the living conditions started to deteriorate because of the original dynamic form of mix-use.

Since the flattening out of most of the core, many residents have been searching for the heart of our city, its core, its meaning; and upon not finding it, are --angry-- at the perpetrators of the destruction, --angry-- at themselves for being unable to find solutions; and in their well-meaning attempts to find answers are even --angry-- at the new suburban residents, who are blamed for the lower city’s historical malaise.

It is extremely important to realize that the outwardly speculative land development spirit of a bygone era, which inspired the original suburbs in the lower city, is what gave birth to our city’s skewed growth pattern which stripped it of any true urban characteristics ages ago, and which is what continues to afflict our city even now.

It is this very same speculative development spirit from our founding past, which drives to this day the outwardly expansion of our city into our Greenfields.

These always has been a historic demand for living on cozy tree lined streets outside the core; it is this demand which led to the creation of the lower city suburbia to the east, west, north, south, and later upper south of the core in the first place, and which still continues to feed the growing sprawl outwards in our age.

The architectural form that evolved in our new distant suburbs, is no doubt hideous when compared to the gracious Victorian themed homes from the earlier lower city suburbs; but there is well-meaning historical basis to families seeking refuge from the chaos of urban life and choosing to move outwards into quite tree lined streets.

Our downtown presently is the remains of a small struggling very old live-work core, with almost all of its old buildings flattened out, and left naked and vulnerable, in between the suburban sprawl of a much older era, to its east, west, north and south; with its with rows after rows of pleasant looking homes with a mind numbing repetition, all mostly with well groomed front yards and secure backyards where children can play in safety; with many more waiting to be groomed back to life in poorer neighborhoods to the east.

So, does our city have the bones for recreating the much sort after, throbbing modern city with its tantalizing skylines and 24/7 vibrant atmosphere with a people friendly old core enlivened with pulsating patios and intelligent conversations?

Look around. Do you really believe that we do? For, we are nothing but a grid bound, landlocked, sprawling suburb from the West of Bay Street to the Escarpment in Dundas, and from East of Wellington Street to Lake Ontario – with the in between lands of the old core – waiting in silence, puzzled and often fearful of the its future with its low to mid rise density driven secondary plan.

Meanwhile, the suburbanites living in our old suburbs immediately outside the core, are at war with the suburbanites living in the new more recent but distant suburbs. The former having read Jane Jacobs, look at themselves as the new urban order and feel entitled to hurl blunt bricks and sharp words on a dime, at the latter whom they feel are unbecoming of the new urban order by virtue of them having made the choice to live in the distant suburbs to give their children a back yard too.

If we are to ever begin envisioning a realistic urban future for Hamilton, and not the simplistic notions of urbanism thrown up every so often here at RTH, it is this creativity stifling, polarization generating speak which essentially springs from our older suburbs in the lower city, that we must first acknowledge and overcome.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 17, 2011 at 13:39:41

@ A WellWisher

Bravo! Great stuff.

I have lots to say, but want to chew on your offerings some more.

Thank God for substantive dialogue. (And nobody should feel that non fact-based dialogue is somehow less weighty than the facts-and-figures stuff, such as with the stadium.) The way we see our city, our lives, our world is what informs what we do with those highly-vaunted facts-and-figures.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2011 at 16:36:15

Pushing a urban agenda isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I congratulate RTH for it's connectedness to those that want a thriving and proud city core.

This sort of criticism of this "website" is flattering and I think it seems to acknowledge a level of importance and relevance.

Is wellwisher issuing a challenge of sorts for RTH to reflect so that it may step up a tier or two in its importance and relevance to the community?

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted January 19, 2011 at 22:20:39

A reminder to the anonymous posters that don't like the down voted faded out text: Simply register and you can turn off the fading out under "manage profile." Register for democracy!! Register for free, easier to read, speech.

Just to keep this on topic. Could the stadium fit in there once the former Federal building is torn down? :)

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted January 20, 2011 at 22:19:18

According to an article by Steve Arnold on the spec.com website tonight, the municipal heritage committee voted unanimously today to seek to place an historical designation on the federal building now owned by Vrancor Group, a company belonging to developer Darko Vranich. Vrancor's application to demolish the federal building has therefore been put on hold. A spokesperson for Vrancor said that they will fight the historical designation application: http://www.thespec.com/news/business/art...

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-01-20 22:23:55

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:29:18

Jason Farr in the paper again on this story. Looks like he's willing to service any rich and powerful person in town. I was asked by some Ward 2 folks to give him a chance but he keeps making it harder.

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By 2bhonest (registered) | Posted January 22, 2011 at 19:52:15

The greatest concern with heritage buildings, is the by-law or council 'effectiveness' at stopping the 'buy and neglect' cycle, before it starts. Preservation before demolition. I realize that owners have rights, but there needs to be more rules in place to stop rampant land speculation BEFORE it happens. Selling heritage buildings or any building of architectural importance, should have better governance than the rules that seem to be in place now. Monopoly anyone?

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 09:08:09

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/480974--developer-says-heritage-sculptures-are-safe

In a letter to downtown Councillor Jason Farr presented to the city’s planning committee this week, Vranich says he has “retained a heritage architect and an appraiser to assist in the removal and preservation of the art works.”

Vranich also said he’ll foot the bill for removing and storing the art.

However, Councillor Brian McHattie, a member of the municipal heritage committee, says he wants more protection for the carvings.

“I think that the letter or ‘trust-me’ approach from Mr. Vranich – nothing personal — is not good enough,” he said. “It’s great to see more downtown development and I’m really keen on that, but we also need to pay attention to the heritage features downtown.”

McHattie is now pressuring the federal government to enforce a covenant Vranich signed when he bought the building from the feds in 2004. In the document, which was uncovered by Terry Whitehead and presented at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday, Vranich promised to “conserve, protect and maintain” the heritage features of the building.

The city can’t enforce the covenant, but it can pressure the highest level of government to do so, McHattie says. He has already been in contact with the federal public works department.

“The federal government appears ready to step in and defend their covenant. That will be a stronger response than anything council is doing,” he said.

Tyler McDiarmid, chief financial officer of Vranich’s company, Vrancor, said they are aware of the covenant. He affirmed that Vranich is committed to preserving the reliefs.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 09:20:38 in reply to Comment 59184

It’s great to see more downtown development and I’m really keen on that

Anyone thinking the Federal building footprint will turn into anything other than more surface parking is fooling themselves.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 20:52:24

God love Terry Whitehead. He's out-McHattieing McHattie on this file.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2011 at 23:27:05

And the Feds step in.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

I guess that covenant had to be respected after all.

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