Nearly all of the Strathcona Secondary Plan is a great blueprint for future development, but it's a mistake to demolish the remaining high-quality homes along Devenport, Strathcona, Inchbury and Locke.
By Jason Leach
Published March 05, 2013
On Tuesday, March 5, the City will hold its final public meeting on the new zoning/development plan for the Strathcona Neighbourhood.
This secondary plan, as it's called, has been developed by the community over the past couple of years. Nearly all of it is a great blueprint for future development and urban intensification in Strathcona.
Strathcona Neighbourhood Secondary Plan Area (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)
This neighbourhood has developed a rare reputation in Hamilton as a neighbourhood that is open and welcoming to new development. Folks here understand the need for more people living in the urban core, and as a result, NIMBYism doesn't rule the day here like it does in many other neighbourhoods.
However, one aspect of the new secondary plan has raised plenty of eyebrows. It is the suggestion that the single family blocks just south of York along Devenport, Strathcona, Inchbury and Locke North being rezoned to high-density residential.
The concept plans [PDF] show those tree-lined streets of solid, century homes being replaced with mid- to high-rise apartment blocks. You can see computer images showing what Strathcona and Inchbury would look like with the homes demolished and replaced with apartment blocks.
Currently, these streets look like this:
As a ten-year resident of the Strathcona neighbourhood, including eight years on this very block of Strathcona North, I can confirm what many local residents will echo - our safe, walkable residential streets are what make this neighbourhood so great. These homes are filled with families, university students and professionals.
I'm personally aware of a teacher, scientist and McMaster professor who live on these exact blocks in question. It seems as though almost every home has a family with young children.
Anyone who has followed the revitalization of city centres, including our own, will state the importance of bringing families to live downtown. The added mix of students, professionals and seniors make this a truly great urban neighbourhood to live and raise a family.
I completely agree with the goal of adding residential density to York Boulevard. Two issues are important to consider while aiming for this goal.
First, we already tried neighbourhood demolition along this very stretch. History has not been kind to Hamilton's demolition craze in the 1950s through '70s. We demolished this:
York Boulevard when the world was still black-and-white (Image Credit: Metro Perspectives)
To create this:
If we've learned anything in Hamilton over the years, it is that destroying perfectly good buildings, homes and businesses for modern development purposes generally harms an area as opposed to helping it.
Second, there are 14 development sites along York currently from Dundurn to Queen that are perfect candidates for urban intensification without impacting neighbouring homes. I count eight on the south side and six on the north side.
These range in size from mammoth sites like the Real Estate Board, Grace Food Market, Midas and the Southern Ontario College building to smaller sites like the small law office at Locke and York and small marketing firm at Queen and York.
I would also recommend that the green space between Pearl and Ray be added to the development list, instead of being left in its current, unused state.
I can see small corner parkette development with trees, gardens, benches and perhaps some community vegetable plots on the small green spaces that exist at the southeast corner of Dundurn and York and on both sides of Inchbury on the north side of York.
Here's an example of what I mean in Chicago:
Chicago street garden (Image Credit: Local Ecology)
Urban street 'pocket plaza garden':
Melior Street Garden Pocket Plaza 14 (Image Credit: Flickr)
Melior Street Garden Pocket Plaza 17 (Image Credit: Flickr)
Street garden (Image Credit: Thunderbird Design)
Given the 14 available sites for more intense development, along with sites further east on York past Queen, I would suggest that any demolition of homes be removed from the plan, and some further garden/seating development of the aforementioned small green spaces proceed as a means of animating York further with wonderful little parkettes or pocket plazas.
Hamilton's urban neighbourhoods have come a long way in recent years. There is now great interest in the development industry of locating high quality, urban housing along some of these main streets that have seen very little investment in many years.
Destabilizing a successful, growing residential neighbourhood through needless demolition would be a step backward.
I'm convinced that we can still accomplish our goals of adding density to York without repeating the mistakes of the past.
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