In its statement to City Council on its recommendations for the south leg of King Street at Gore Park, the downtown BIA mentions that they are a major stakeholder in downtown revitalization plans and therefore feel that their opinion should be seriously considered. It should be considered, but not seriously.
Their track record is less than stellar. I can't count the number of times I've had people ask me why it is that the immediate downtown BIA around the Gore seems to be worse off than their immediate surroundings.
Cross Mary street into the International Village BIA and you'll see what I mean. Same goes for the James South business district - and they're brand new.
James North has seen a rapid pace of revitalization over the past few years, and Hess Village suffers from being too popular and too small.
The Downtown BIA may represent businesses in the very heart of Hamilton, but they also represent the continued empty buildings, lack of shops, patios and basic life ammenities.
What they also seem to represent, and quite well, is lots of traffic lanes, timed lights and almost no summertime events that bring people together in our beautiful Gore.
The following excerpt is taken from the website of the Hamilton Municipal Parking system:
On Saturday, August 7th, 2004, The Hamilton Spectator published an article entitled "City parking prices attractive compared to T.O."
Reporter Jennifer Morrison, describes Hamilton as among the "cheapest" Canadian cities at an average daily rate of $6. By most standards, parking in Hamilton is cheap and is more in line with cities like Regina and Saskatoon, which rate at the bottom of the list as cheapest places to park.
According to the article, at all meters along King and Main Streets, you can expect to pay about $1 an hour and many side streets have free parking for up to three hours.
Speaking with a Burlington resident who attends client meetings in Toronto (paying $20 to $30 for parking), Morrison quoted her as saying the following about Hamilton: "'I think the rates are great,' said Burlington resident Donna Ballentyne, not balking as she paid a machine at the municipal lot at the corner of Main and Bay."
It is clear to any of us who live in downtown Hamilton and backed up by these stats that one thing we don't need more of is parking spaces.
I've said this too many times on RTH already, but people won't come to Gore Park and downtown to see a nifty new bunch of parallel parking spots on the south leg of King.
(By the way, there already is parallel parking - free at that - along this exact stretch. It hasn't led to 'revitalization Mecca' yet, and I'm willing to bet it still won't just because the cars are facing east.)
People just might come to the Gore if they know it will be Hamilton's Byward Market or Kensington Market type of neighbourhood. I've had a grand time in Boston's downtown market place and other bustling, vibrant city neighbourhoods on our continent. I still haven't flown somewhere to see their new parking lot.
I almost always advocate for city hall listening to the wishes of local business and residents first, but in this case I must side with the local residents - we know what potential lies in our downtown core.
It's a sorry shame that the BIA representing the area is happy to remain less than vibrant while James North, South, King East, West and Hess Village all happily boom back to life.
With a track record like that, I'd call them a minor stakeholder at best.
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