In recent years the city of Tacoma, Washington has struggled to get out of the shadow of Seattle, the big city just north up I-5. The city has decided to develop a niche market for artists and art-related enterprises in an attempt to become its own city with its own identity.
A new report outlines the successes and struggles Tacoma has encountered along the road, but also paints a glimmer of hope for cities in similar situations, such as Hamilton.
Hamilton will not redevelop itself by trying to copy the drab sprawl tactics of Halton or Peel region. Rather, we need to learn from cities such as Tacoma and Providence, Rhode Island and begin to develop our own 'Hamilton experience'.
As long as the Hamilton experience is one of sprawling suburbs and long commutes out of town every day, we can all expect our city to remain far down the list of desirable places for Canadians to live in or visit.
Urban revitalization must focus on more than just Gore Park. We must reinvent our city. We must look for opportunities to create a 24-hour experience downtown and then begin to court new economy companies to set up shop in renovated historic buildings or new postmodern buildings with a street presence in our many urban neighbourhoods.
Imagine office space, high tech labs, media firms and designers calling our city home in a wide range of buildings located in districts like Hess Village, Ottawa Street, Concession Street, King William, Gore Park, James South and North, etc.
This city could be home to some incredible districts that are full of nightlife, galleries, shopping, dining and office uses all in walkable, compact neighbourhoods.
Aqua, a new residential development in Miami, Florida, offers another example of how our land should be better utilized to add a higher number of residents, while still maintaining a high quality of life and design.
Hamilton must break free of the 'cookie-cutter single family home' mindset and begin to truly offer a wide range of housing options and neighbourhood options. Our home builders association always preaches the values of mixed-use neighbourhoods and a range of housing choices, yet has showed almost no willingness to actually build such communities.
It's time for the citizens of Hamilton to put pressure on our mayor and councilors to put limits on suburban growth and begin instructing the home builders to learn from the myriad of cities around the world who have redeveloped themselves with proper growth tactics and urban planning.
Talk is cheap, and Hamilton is broke. It's time to fix our city and time for Hamilton to become a great Canadian city once again.
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