Lament for a Real Neighbourhood

By Jason Leach
Published February 25, 2008

In a Feb. 22 article in the Toronto Star, residents near a heritage district on Queen St. W. near Bathurst St. in Toronto wrote to share their grief at its loss. Here are a few brief excerpts:

It was one of the most eclectic, exciting neighbourhoods I have ever had the fortune of being a part of. ...

The area was wonderful, with tons of character, and lots of amenities nearby. ...

Few brick and mortar businesses have had a lasting impression in my life. ...

It's sad to think that an entire generation of Hamiltonians is missing out on this sort of dynamic relationship with our city.

Entire blocks of Hamilton could fall to fire and people wouldn't care. The Hamilton Spectator would say, "It's about time" and letters to the editor would pour in suggesting we "renew" the area with Walmart and McDonalds.

This is fabulous to read these comments from Toronto. It really gives you a sense of how captivating city life can be when the city functions properly as part of our everyday lives.

You wouldn't get this sort of sentiment from a fire at a strip mall somewhere where everyone drives to and from the stores. They'd just go around the corner to the other plaza.

A true neighbourhood like Queen West has people riding streetcars, cycling and walking...not just living a solitary life in a city, but living life within the city and as part of the city.

Ever since I started walking, biking and using the HSR in Hamilton, I've been amazed at how connected I feel to my surroundings.

I'm not just whizzing past buildings and people with my stereo blasting. I'm interacting with other people, helping an elderly lady pick up her dropped item, chatting with the familiar face at the café, noticing new activity in a building or just enjoying the changing of the seasons in Gore Park with its constant backdrop of activity and people living their lives.

Let's hope Hamilton can continue the turnaround currently underway, and more importantly, that the huge influx of young people and young couples moving into the core of the city continues for years to come.

Perhaps our kids will grow up with memories of King and James that are just as meaningful and nostalgic as those in Toronto who were a part of the fabric of Queen West at some point in their lives.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted February 26, 2008 at 14:18:28

One of the reasons Torontonians lament the loss to this part of town is because they live there. I'm sure folks in the Locke Street area, Ottawa Street or on James North or South would feel the same way if they're shops burned down.

I think part of the lack of sympathy for Hamilton's downtown and other areas is because many residents live in bland neighbourhoods on the mountain or in once sprighly areas - but now depressed - like the downtown.

You can't miss what you don't appreciate.

It's sort of chicken and egg I suppose. Until Hamilton's more derelict neighbourhoods can start coming to life there will always be people who don't appreciate them.

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