Revitalization

Lessons for Hamilton Waterfront

By Ben Bull
Published October 02, 2006

Is it just me or does Rosie DiManno's take on the proposed Gardiner removal sound a lot like mine?

Okay, maybe it's just me. Still, at least Ms DiManno is spot on, for once, with her commentary. DiManno claims that too much damage has already been done to the Toronto waterfront, and that any notion that we can create a pedestrian friendly link, between the downtown and the "concrete curtain" to the south, is "folly."

She has a point. Between the city core and the lake, Toronto has constructed a railway, a wall of condos (which are still going up) and the Lakeshore "Boulevard" which promises to get even busier when the Gardiner is eventually torn down.

Leisurely stroll to the lake, anyone? Not in my lifetime.

Hamilton can learn a lot from this. An accessible, properly linked, people friendly waterfront is a huge draw for businesses and tourists. There is not so much to be undone as done with Hamilton's waterfront, and in this at least, the Hammer has a huge opportunity to set itself apart from its illustrious neighbour to the east and reap the economic rewards.

People love nature and any city that can successfully integrate the concrete with the trees is taking a step in the right direction.

I've witnessed this firsthand strolling through Central Park in New York; wandering under the eaves of Las Ramblas, on my way to the sea; or ambling along the boardwalks of La Coruna in Spain or Kelowna in BC.

These are all cities that have successfully integrated nature into their city fabric. They are all cities that work.

These towns have shown us how to do it right, while Toronto as shown us how to do it wrong. It remains to be seen which path Hamilton will choose.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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