Comment 56675

By A WellWisher (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2011 at 13:24:44


It is interesting you mention that we are facing: “an 'us v/s them' mentality not only of the urban/suburban divide, but also within the urban boundary itself.”

Very true. Indeed we are. And how did we come to a state where this 'dived' within our urban boundary is wide enough to be seen and felt so clearly, by not just locals but also outsiders?

A look into (research) how Hamilton city has evolved will tell us that our approach to redeveloping our city is fraught with a massive misread of our city’s growth pattern. Our polarization springs from this misread, and hence our attempts to redevelop a new future & recreate a past in the downtown core is filled with misadventures.

What we commonly refer to as downtown, in the lower city, is quite unlike the classical downtowns one sees in many older cities.

Suburbia in Hamilton did not start in the Greenfields, it began right at the doorsteps of our old urban core as soon as the core became a thriving hub of our economy and the living conditions started to deteriorate because of the original dynamic form of mix-use.

Since the flattening out of most of the core, many residents have been searching for the heart of our city, its core, its meaning; and upon not finding it, are --angry-- at the perpetrators of the destruction, --angry-- at themselves for being unable to find solutions; and in their well-meaning attempts to find answers are even --angry-- at the new suburban residents, who are blamed for the lower city’s historical malaise.

It is extremely important to realize that the outwardly speculative land development spirit of a bygone era, which inspired the original suburbs in the lower city, is what gave birth to our city’s skewed growth pattern which stripped it of any true urban characteristics ages ago, and which is what continues to afflict our city even now.

It is this very same speculative development spirit from our founding past, which drives to this day the outwardly expansion of our city into our Greenfields.

These always has been a historic demand for living on cozy tree lined streets outside the core; it is this demand which led to the creation of the lower city suburbia to the east, west, north, south, and later upper south of the core in the first place, and which still continues to feed the growing sprawl outwards in our age.

The architectural form that evolved in our new distant suburbs, is no doubt hideous when compared to the gracious Victorian themed homes from the earlier lower city suburbs; but there is well-meaning historical basis to families seeking refuge from the chaos of urban life and choosing to move outwards into quite tree lined streets.

Our downtown presently is the remains of a small struggling very old live-work core, with almost all of its old buildings flattened out, and left naked and vulnerable, in between the suburban sprawl of a much older era, to its east, west, north and south; with its with rows after rows of pleasant looking homes with a mind numbing repetition, all mostly with well groomed front yards and secure backyards where children can play in safety; with many more waiting to be groomed back to life in poorer neighborhoods to the east.

So, does our city have the bones for recreating the much sort after, throbbing modern city with its tantalizing skylines and 24/7 vibrant atmosphere with a people friendly old core enlivened with pulsating patios and intelligent conversations?

Look around. Do you really believe that we do? For, we are nothing but a grid bound, landlocked, sprawling suburb from the West of Bay Street to the Escarpment in Dundas, and from East of Wellington Street to Lake Ontario – with the in between lands of the old core – waiting in silence, puzzled and often fearful of the its future with its low to mid rise density driven secondary plan.

Meanwhile, the suburbanites living in our old suburbs immediately outside the core, are at war with the suburbanites living in the new more recent but distant suburbs. The former having read Jane Jacobs, look at themselves as the new urban order and feel entitled to hurl blunt bricks and sharp words on a dime, at the latter whom they feel are unbecoming of the new urban order by virtue of them having made the choice to live in the distant suburbs to give their children a back yard too.

If we are to ever begin envisioning a realistic urban future for Hamilton, and not the simplistic notions of urbanism thrown up every so often here at RTH, it is this creativity stifling, polarization generating speak which essentially springs from our older suburbs in the lower city, that we must first acknowledge and overcome.

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