Imagine a vibrant, cultural market district in the heart of our historic core.
By Jason Leach
Published July 05, 2006
Recent issues of the Hamilton Spectator have carried fabulous news about the changes coming to our Farmers' Market. My wife and I shop there every week and are thrilled at the various improvements planned.
I've written various articles in RTH about the missed opportunity our market represents. It should be the bustling, vibrant centre of our city instead of a concrete bunker with a dead streetscape.
One article highlights a UK study on the impact a farmers' market should have on its surrounding neighbourhood. Ours doesn't, most likely because there is nothing but blank walls on the four corners of York and McNab Streets, with roaring trucks and cars killing any chance for street life.
I wrote another piece discussing various ideas to improve the urban life of Hamilton. Specifically relating to the market, I wrote the following:
York Blvd between Bay St. and James St. The area bordered by Cannon, York, Bay and James has a ton of potential as Hamilton's market district and Chinatown. The Farmers Market building needs to be renovated to allow for removable walls in nice weather and street stalls. There are already three Asian markets in this district, but none have outdoor space due to the noisy traffic and lack of sidewalk space.
Imagine a revamped Vine St. with wide sidewalks and Asian banners. Same for McNab St. and Park St. These could become narrow one-way streets with ultra-wide sidewalks and plenty of street parking. A vibrant, cultural market district is born in the heart of our historic core.
Hamilton's potential is amazing, but will never be realized unless our city council determines to make the necessary and difficult choices to bring a balanced approach back to our urban neighbourhoods. Let's put cars in their place and people back in theirs the streets of our city.
I would love to see City Hall proceed with some or all of these ideas, especially in relation to the potential for a real "market district". I've heard that there may be a couple of new Asian malls or marketplaces built along Cannon St. near Bay St. and near John St. My wife and I regularly use these Asian markets, but are disheartened by the lack of street vendors or stalls as one would find in the Kensington Market/Chinatown area of Toronto.
As a side note, Kensington Market neighbourhood was recently voted one of the top ten neighbourhoods in North America. Imagine all the empty lots and parking lots in this area being replaced with multi-storey, mixed use buildings...markets, cafes and patios at the street level with apartments and lofts above. I believe the city could see this happen if we simply provide the basic infrastructure needed to lay the foundation for this type of environment to be fostered.
In today's paper, it was mentioned that the York Blvd streetscaping initiative will not address lane capacity or issues. We need to rethink this strategy. Fancy lights or urban braille will not get my family to walk along that horrendous highway just because a few stalls are plopped out front.
It's time for Hamilton to become a real city again and make changes that are proper, bold and will pay off with fantastic results. I'd also recommend that City Council look into changing the layout of McNab, Park, Vine and Cannon Streets as I mentioned above to create a walkable market district.
Suddenly that study from the UK would apply to us if we can connect the corner of York and McNab to the new market district immediately north. Perhaps a building addition could be added onto the McNab side of the parkade with some small vendor type huts or stalls like you see in New York City or the ground floor of similar parking garages in Portland, Oregon.
Let's not waste the city's money sprucing up York Blvd simply to continue to allow trucks to use it as a four lane, speeding highway. York needs to become a local street that is one lane each way with parking on each side and massive sidewalks in order to create a special, walkable market district.
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