No Soulless Condo Towers Needed

By Jason Leach
Published July 13, 2008

There's a great piece in the Star today about an historic stretch of Yonge Street with a similar scale and appearance to our King and James Streets.

I was walking King the other day from Three 16 Lounge to Jackson Square and found myself absolutely loving the mix of shops and services along the way: vintage clothes, Mideast convenience stores, great food from all over the globe, pawn shops, diners, shoes and downright crazy stuff at Crazy Bill's.

I love Christophers, Cheapies, Klassy Tee Shirt, Downtown Brownies, Out of the Past, Maxims (the Deli, that is) and the great history still visible in the old entrance to the Capitol Theatre and what looks like it used to be a two-storey five and dime as a current drugmart.

Strips like this need to be preserved and enhanced. Reading about the upcoming pressure on Yonge makes me glad to live in the Hammer, where plenty of development options exist downtown (aka – world's greatest parking lot) without having to compromise strips like this.

The rebirth has already begun, even though most folks roaring past in their cars have no clue. Nice apartments have been renovated into many upper floors along this stretch, especially east of Mary St in the International Village.

James North is now enjoying a similar rebirth as empty storefronts are snatched up by galleries and now upper floors begin to be turned into functional urban living and working spaces.

To that end, a new café/bar is coming to James, just north of Mulberry. The Brain will be a unique venue more reminiscent of vibrant College Street in Toronto. It's exactly what the future holds for King and James.

No soulless condo towers needed. With proper planning, Hamilton can enjoy the fruits of intensification on empty lots and parking lots and still maintain the great urban heart and soul of the city found in these wonderful rows of heritage buildings.

They are enjoyable to stroll past, full of unique and interesting shops and as the city continues to evolve the mix should get even better.

Perhaps Hamiltonians will begin to appreciate what we have as many in Toronto lament the constant loss of that city's soul.

Do yourself and take a stroll on James and King. The good, bad and ugly. It's all there and it's all a fabulous part of our city.

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 al Fresco (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2008 at 09:33:04

The Star article title, "On Yonge St., preservation by neglect" I love it!

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 14, 2008 at 10:04:22

yea, I thought that was cool. The title lured me into reading the piece and I'm glad I did. At least TO will still have streets like Queen, Spadina and College with that great walkability and urban vibe. Plus, it would take a lot of damage and demolition to ruin Yonge St. Still, they need to be on guard. Once the condo developers swoop in there's no telling how fast it could go down the tubes.

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