Comment 35163

By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://metrohamilt (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2009 at 13:17:20

Hello Peter,

While it is a pleasant surprise to finally see one more Architect and Urban Planner on this forum - I too do not think that anyone here is upset about Mr. Beckett's proposal for new park!

If anything - it is with the manner in which it is being suggested, that I presume most are shocked at.

In fact, the King William Street development plan already has a well conceived proposal for an urban park on the vacant lot which is bounded by John, Catharine and Wilson streets.

Within a five minute walk from this proposed urban park to the south - there is the Gore Park under redevelopment; there is the Beasely park just three blocks to the north east; and just two blocks west and fifteen feet up, there is the largest under-utilized roof-top garden over Jackson Square.

This plan for the new urban park on King William has been on display on the city website for a while now. What has also been on public display for the last five years is the slow but very steady re-development of many old and run down properties - which has resulted in the restoration of a large percentage of buildings in the core.

The many privately owned undeveloped lots to the north and east of the King and James are currently being used as parking lots - but it is highly unlikely that they will remain parking lots for long, in light of development pressures that will soon be coming into play by the oncoming growth cycle of the city.

Dressing these lots up in the interim may be a quaint solution for those who get offended too easily with urban chaos, but they should remember that market driven revitalization is always a work in-progress that is stretched in time.

Surely a green edge to these interim parking lots would soften their harsh impact - but what has an even harsher and almost devastating impact on our lives - are the public utterance such as: "We have a desperately sick inner core that is not going to be turned around by continuing to do what we have been doing for the past 50 years. Downtown Hamilton requires radical surgery" ---- which then goes on to suggest some very un-radical ideas.

Our urban landscape bears the bruises of the first botched up radical surgery in the core four decades ago --- a surgery which too was proposed by "a prestigious panel of leading citizens, planners, economists, thinkers, architects, developers and, yes, dreamers" - in an era that reveled in top-down thinking - and which naively cut bold boulevards and slammed concrete silos in the heart of the city.

The surviving proponents of this debacle blame this sorry escapade on the prevailing architectural style of that period - when in fact it was not just the architectural style that did this city in for decades - it was their self-serving heavy handed enclave-bred approach to development – with its infamous - "I have a vision", and "I belong to the prestigious panel of leading citizens...." which in fact ended up carving out our city's heart and proudly displaying it on a pedestal in our core for decades for the benefit of the oncoming generation.


What is radical in our times is suggesting many small ‘urban farms’ in the core.

What is radical in our times is giving an ultimatum to the Board of Governors and the Presidents of the three educational institutions in our city - to step up to their moral responsibilities to this city's core - or bear the consequences of decades of neglect and apathy - by facing intense completion from new locally and internationally funded top-lean educational institutions in our core.

What is radical in our times is morphing our EcDev into an i-Dev -- and turning this new Innovation Development department of our city into a powerhouse of progressive ideas and actions.

What is radical in our times is developing a new green and clean-energy industrial base in the downtown core that will offer our city's many young residents a fair shot at starting their own businesses in the core, and who in turn would be able to offer a decent livelihood to the many struggling residents of our city.

What is radical in our times is developing self-employment opportunities for our many active-seniors in the core and the surrounding suburbs - to enable them to share their deep experiences and offer guidance to those who are establishing the new manufacturing and industrial base in our core.

What is radical in our times is developing a new definition of the Arts and tying it with the new manufacturing and industrial base to create a sustainable future for the struggling creative residents of our city.

It is only from this kind of 'radical' - that true body heat will be generated on our streets in the core -- and it will be from the need to get away from this pleasant heat - that people will start to show up in the many acres of urban parks - to relax, mingle, listen to musicians, feed the birds and fishes, shop for locally grown produce in the urban farms and sustain store-front retail in the core.

Election reforms and integrity monitors, much like large empty boulevards and even larger proposed parks, be they innovation parks outside the core - are only soft solutions to the very challenging realities staring back at the Next-Generation.

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