Revitalization from the Inside Out

We need to stop throwing money at developers on the fringes of the city and instead get serious about economic development in the core.

By Sean Burak
Published September 28, 2007

I have been slowly sickened by the activity at Clappisons Corners (Hwy 5 and 6) over the last year or two. At first, I couldn't believe that a power centre was planned, and hoped that level minds would prevail. After all, power centres cater exclusively to customers arriving in cars. This is inherently apparent to anyone who has tried to walk or cycle from one store to another in the Meadowlands area.

Meanwhile, Clappisons is less than ten minutes by car to two separate big box areas: Meadowlands and West Burlington. Do we really need another big box development here? Who is this development for?

To my dismay, all attempts to stop the project clearly failed and construction is underway. My taxes as a downtowner are trickling to these outlying communities, where roads and infrastructure are being built (and will need to be maintained for years to come) -- services that I will seldom, if ever use.

Now, as another slap in the face, the city is giving money to these developers? Meanwhile, our core is rotting away. We can't even muster the courage to tell downtown property holders that they have to meet basic maintenance levels on heritage properties.

Nobody can open a business in Hamilton without having to meet arcane, ludicrous parking bylaws that virtually require a neighbouring property to be flattened into a surface parking lot. How will the core ever recover?

It is time to lay it down for everyone - our councillors, the public, and the developers that have been riding the easy road for the past fifty years - we need to turn this city around now.

If Hamilton continues this trend and turns into another suburban sprawl wasteland (the way every community from Burlington to Mississauga has), the "old city" will wither and die while any and all forward-thinking residents move out with disgust.

In a world where rising oil prices are a reality, and supply depletion is a real possibility, can we truly say that this big box development represents forward economic development in the spirit of the ERASE brownfield remediation goals?

What happens in ten years when the just-in-time delivery system starts to fail while at the same time consumers won't be able to afford driving to the store every day and retailers start to feel the pinch when heating these monstrous stores becomes economically infeasible?

We'll be stuck with vacant buildings on land that is in worse shape than before these boxes were built and a downtown full of crumbling buildings that can no longer be occupied.

We need to get serious. We need to eliminate area rating on transit and use the additional funding to expand transit to the entire new city (which in the long run will eliminate the need for area rating).

We need to stop pussyfooting around this Provincial Transit funding opportunity and bring rail back to our core. The province is giving us a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend provincial money on our transit system.

There is no question that LRT or modern streetcar lines result in an economic boom everywhere they are installed. We don't need to waste time and money on more studies and research. The research has been done numerous times in numerous cities, and all that remains for us is to observe the results. We may never get this opportunity again. We cannot afford to squander it.

We need Mayor Fred Eisenberger to take charge and lead this city toward a brighter future. Our urban residents are numerically underrepresented in council - we are relying on the Mayor's leadership to show the entire New City that all of our lives are affected by the status of the Old City of Hamilton whether we like it or not.

We need to bring our beautiful town up out of the ashes and we need to do it from the inside (downtown) out. Downtown development will benefit all citizens, even those at the far reaches of our new boundaries. We need to stop throwing money at developers on the fringes of the city and instead get serious about economic development in the core.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.


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By damonallan (registered) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 09:11:32

I believe in this 100% however there are some major issues to tackle. We rely too much on the city and the public system as we know it to get things going on where there are plenty of inefficiencies.

For example, the city could use private monies to support projects which could have taken place with the fountain refurb and Birk's clock refurb. I know this first hand... ...So there is just an example of spending 150,000 which could have been paid for by private companies through sponsorship.

Clean house of inefficiences and this will help to put us in a better situation to tackle the core issues.

Add to the fact that we have to convince people to come downtown all the while them feeling unsafe due not to actual crime but due to "uncomfortableness" factor.

There are a lot of factors to be considered and perceptions should be at the forefront of any effort.

Damon Allan Core Supporter & Image Consultant

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By Frank (registered) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 10:24:59

I echo Damon's last comment only because I mention the downtown growth to friends and that's the comment I invariably hear. I think that people have a fear of the unknown and if you look at crime per capita, the core is most likely as bad as the Creek or Ancaster for that matter.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 16:20:25

your three years too early for a campaign speech :( but this is awesome! Exactly the kind of thinking the city needs.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 19:19:24

Damon - talk to the wonks running your BIA. With their leadership we can be sure that nobody will be clamouring to come downtown for years and years.

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By Andrew (registered) | Posted October 04, 2007 at 00:54:26

Great article, Sean.

I love this city, but come on, nothing seems to happen in terms of progress. For example, the Lister Block continues to sit abandoned, only decaying more and more by the hour. Several condo projects sit still ... until the the builder either goes bankrupt or gives up and leaves an unfinished product, for example, Trinity Landing.

We need to attract some big anchor tenants to our downtown ... Starbucks, Rainforest Cafe, The Keg ... etc. If you build it, they will come ... the city gave huge tax incentives to mountain businesses, now it's time to do the same downtown.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 04, 2007 at 17:29:01

Agreed. Actually, I tried to get MEC into town but they opted to build in Burlington's big-box-bonanza instead.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2007 at 12:21:15

By the way, this article was originally a letter I sent to Mayor Fred. I notice that within a few days of that, he has been ON FIRE with his downtown revitalization ideas. I can only assume it's because of this wake-up letter I sent ;-)

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2007 at 18:54:47

As a Hammer newbe, can anyome tell me what is going to happen to that beuatiful Royal Connaught Hotel?

Looks like a renovation but you never know.

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