Comment 66243

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2011 at 14:48:45

Thanks you all for your insights!

It is always interesting to share ones perceptions and experiences of a place. Co-existence of divergent viewpoints and opinions is what makes most cities vibrant.

Denying others the opportunity or privilege of forming their own firsthand experience of a place in any city – is what transferring place bias looks like in action.

While appearing to be well meaning or harmlessly patronizing at first, any denial of opportunity for first hand discovery is an antithesis of higher learning.

Downtown Hamilton was never the Bronx of the 70’s.

Even Bronx is no longer the Bronx of the 70’s. People evolve, places change. Hamilton’s downtown core has changed in the last decade from the ‘imaginary Bronx’ to an urban core which is pretty much a blank canvas that is simply waiting for innovative conversations on urban ideas to begin. Conversations which do not rip the canvas into two – but the kind which allows the weaknesses of deferring positions to become the building blocks of a new kind of shared space which still evades our imagination.

How and why Hamilton's urban fabric got damaged so badly is part of public records, and one can go on dwelling on it endlessly. This won't bring change.

To set a new course which can alter the trajectory and the fortunes of this community, one needs to adopt a new openness to the imaginary tragic landscapes of this city, and attempt first hand discovery of neighbourhoods which have defied many odds and are already coming back to life.

Our university if it chooses can play a very critical role in starting such positive conversations in the many communities of our lower city. Not the kind seen at annual economic development summits or in its spin-off infomercials, or even in tax-payer funded medical research junkets into the bowels of our imaginary Bronx – but the more sincere kind that are based on a social conscience that has gotten tired of posturing on the campus and is seeking to build tangible legacies in living communities.

On cannot emphasis enough the importance of urban campuses in our times.

Below are some links to ideas and directions that many urban centered universities are taking across North America. Directions which our institution of higher learning in Hamilton needs to examine and adopt urgently if it wants to be more than just a provider of health services to the downtown core:

1)"University Park is an exciting opportunity to return to a traditional urban neighborhood where interesting people live, great ideas thrive and community is key. And we see a clear path for getting there."University Park Alliance: "’s important that this bill: The Urban University Renaissance Act of the 21st Century is out there to set a marker and help universities begin to actively engage in a long-overdue conversation..."

2) Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU):

Institutions located in metropolitan areas often do not fit the common definition of more traditional colleges and universities. Over two decades ago, leaders of metropolitan and urban universities realized the unique challenges and opportunities of their types of institutions as they looked to the future of higher education. CUMU was created in 1990 in recognition of their shared mission to use the power of their campuses in education, research, and service to enhance the communities in which they are located.

From the 21st Century Declaration of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities: " We, the leaders of urban and metropolitan universities, declare that our future as knowledge organizations will continue to be forged by sustained, reciprocal engagement with our cities."

3) Zoom out of this map and you will see the depth and scope of one such urban university's sustained engagement with its city.

To understand the steep challenges Hamilton faces in becoming a true knowledge economy, in spite of having a university on its edge or even a college on its brow – it is worth exploring our legacy of poor planning and its impact on our urban communities.

Lastly, this from the past may give us surprising insight into the dynamics behind the continuing lack of an alternate institution of higher learning in our downtown core.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-07-15 14:56:48

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