Revitalization

Balance and Scale: An Interview with Craig Hermanson

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 18, 2006

Craig Hermanson lives in the vicinity of Locke Street south and runs the LockeStreet.com website. I asked him what he thinks about the recent controversy regarding the expansion plans for the West Town Bar and Grill.

Ryan McGreal (RM): What is your role in the Locke Street community?

Craig Hermanson (CH): Participant, facilitator, booster. Which is to say, much like so many other residents and business owners around here, I'm active in and passionate about our neighbourhood. I launched lockestreet.com in September 2000 to coincide with the first street festival. My vision was to promote the business area and provide an online space for the neighbourhood to connect.

RM: Do you think the owner of the West Town has a reasonable right to add a patio to his establishment?

CH: I'm not sure Joe Stanicak has a right to a patio, but he certainly has a right to pursue one. I also think neighbours have a reasonable right as stakeholders to participate in a discussion of what that patio might look like.

RM: Some neighbours are concerned that patrons on a late night patio will disrupt their peace with loud voices, smoking, and occasional vandalism and violence. Do you think these concerns are legimate - i.e. demonstrable and significant?

CH: People want to see balance and a sense of scale with the neighbourhood. A West Town that was double or triple in size would be out of balance with the scale of the neighbourhood. If two or three new licensed eatery/bars opened on Locke Street, they would each need to encourage and bring more of their business from outside the local community.

RM: What role, if any, does fear and NIMBYism play in the reactions of opposed neighbours?

CH: NIMBY has to be a factor. I love to sit on a patio with friends, but I'm pretty sure I would not be happy if one opened up next door, would you?

There is also a related issue of people wanting to protect a 'community shopping area'. There is a mix of businesses which are 'destinations', those which mostly serve the local community, and a number which rely on both.

New additions such as Beach Road Meats have a wider appeal, but really provide a great addition for locals too. Diversity is pretty key, and bigger establishments will mean less room for diversity.

RM: Can you think of an arrangement that would meet the owner's business needs while respecting the concerns of neighbours?

As I hinted at earlier, I think the patio is only part of the issue:

1. There is a lack of trust in the owner and his plans, because they don't match up with the plans submitted with the liquor license application.

Mr. Stanicak presented a very nice proposal for the Crepe house as a separate business. However, the license application (as I understand it) is under the West Town and include properties on both sides of the current establishment (from the corner through the optical boutique).

People are afraid that things won't go well for the new businesses, then it will be 'back to what we know' for the entire property, which seems to be what happened with the expansion from four years ago.

2. The second issue has nothing to do with the West Town directly. There are rumours going around that there are three or four other liquor and or patio applications in the works. People see this as the tip of the ice berg.

I heard one owner say he is waiting to see how this all plays out before starting an application for a patio.

3. People want to see balance and a sense of scale with the neighbourhood.

A West Town that was triple in size would be out of balance with the scale of the neighbourhood. If two or three new licensed eatery/bars opened, Locke Street, they would need to encourage bring more of their business from outside the local community.

I suspect the best way forward for the owner and the residents is for Joe Stanicak to revise his application to align it with what he has proposed in the community meeting. People's fears would be greatly allayed if the liquor application were under a separate business and better defined in terms of size.

Mr. Stanicak could also add some restrictions to his patio application. I believe his plan call for a 40 seat outdoor patio, but he has spoken to the community of a 15 seat patio with no music or smoking. A sensitively sized patio and creperie could be a vibrant addition to the neighbourhood.

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 jason (registered) | Posted July 20, 2006 at 09:48:58

I hope to see the other 4 or 5 patio applications go forward. I've yet to see a young drunk open a bar on Locke like in the village everyone so fears. I find myself spending less time on Locke in the summer due to the lack of patios. Hess, James North, Gore and the new Williams at Pier 8 are great examples of vibrant, bustling patio districts which enhance their communities. Hess may get out of hand on the weekend, but heck, at least there's some life left in our city on Friday and Saturday nights. If we keep up this NIMBY routine much longer we'll all end up heading to Toronto every weekend to simply enjoy life a little.

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