Other North American cities are surging ahead with revitalized downtowns and booming economies. The only thing holding Hamilton back is an outdated mindset that refuses to change with the times.
By Jason Leach
Published June 17, 2010
Here at RTH we constantly preach about the wisdom that can be gained simply by learning from cities that have done things properly and are having success with the issues at which we struggle.
Portland may be one of the best to learn from. A dying downtown core lined with one-way freeways, high speed traffic and little sidewalk activity just a few decades ago, Portland is now a worldwide model of urban vibrancy and sustainable development.
Oh, and did I mention that Portland is in the USA, not Europe? It also pours rain for half the year, so it's no San Diego.
Portland's planning documents from the late 1970s would be a huge step forward for Hamilton here in 2010. However, if you're looking for even more vision, check out their new plan for 2035. Quite simply, it's stunning.
Where Hamilton sees lamentable decline:
Surface Parking in Downtown Hamilton (RTH file image)
Portland sees exciting opportunity:
Portland Likely Building Capacity(Image Credit: Portland Plan)
As someone who follows local news and urban planning follies in Hamilton, I sometimes forget what it's like in the 'real world'. Other cities aren't calling two-storey townhomes on farmland 'high density infill'. Other cities have long gotten past the idea of transport trucks and high speed traffic dominating the downtown.
I keep hearing politicians and business officials on Hamilton radio stations tell us, 'downtown will never be as successful as it once was,' and other similar sentiments. They usually follow up with some defeatist noises about how the world has changed and downtowns aren't what they used to be.
No kidding. Portland, Denver, Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and a whole host of other successful cities right here in North America will happily confirm the fact that their downtowns aren't what they used to be.
The only thing holding Hamilton back is an outdated mindset that refuses to change with the times.
If you're tired of reading about how cycling is the new thing in Vision 2020 and then stepping outside to a wall of transport fumes, take a pleasant browse through the Portland Plan. I hope you'll come away inspired to keep up the good fight.
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