Comment 78850

By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 22, 2012 at 19:31:25 in reply to Comment 78812

1. Is there a vision & strategy in place for revitalizing downtown Hamilton? Seems to be a lot of ideas and 11th hour proposals and grand plans that don't quite knit together. What do we want downtown Hamilton to be known for?

I'm no expert, but I believe there's been a fair amount of paperwork done and proposals presented and stategies agreed-to over the years. I'll leave that for others better-versed to provide the details. I guess the connecting questions to 'What do those plans consist of?' is 'How are we doing?' and 'Why does it seem we're stuck in neutral?'

2. Who do you want working, living and shopping in downtown Hamilton? This may be different from who's currently there. How much residential? How much commercial? Given demographics, how do we make the downtown senior-friendly? How do you entice the downsizing boomers to live the suburbs and relocate to the core? What services and amenities do they need?

The simple answer to your final question is 'Everything they're used to.' The problem is that when you're a suburbanite, you don't demand that everything be 'right there'. That's what cars are for. (Sorry Ryan, but this is the paradigm we've had, just not the one you crave for a more intense urban setting.) How do you entice them? Well, I think you've partially answered the question with the word 'entice'. There's nothing enticing about our downtown core as it stands. How can there be? It's in a state of disrepair. As for the mix... In a way, the downtown core is this incredible opportunity. I don't know of any major metropolitan centre that has as much 'available space' in its core as Hamilton does. As for 'who we want there'... Again, back to a mix. But I can pretty much guarantee that any 'influx' will be people who are not 'struggling financially'. (If we want to focus on areas of pure revitalization, rather than 'working with a blank canvas', then let's talk about the North End; *that's* the land of golden opportunity for everyone else. (Yeah, I'm gonna get blasted for that comment.)

3. What are the odds of turning downtown Hamilton into a dining, arts & entertainment district? Downtown retail is a challenge that lots of communities are up against and haven't solved. Entire blocks jammed with pubs, ethnic restaurants and fine dining would be pretty cool. Is it doable?

Can't see that happening. You'd have to have this tremendous shift to something that downtown Hamilton has probably never been, except maybe in wartime. Certainly within my memory, it's never been a 'mecca' for the high life. Even in its last iteration of vibrancy, when there were thousands of people working downtown in office towers, spending money every day in Jackson Square, the place was dead in the evenings. And given that there's just not sufficient 'locals with money' right now, it's not like you could parachute in businesses and they'd turn the place around. If we had a uni campus downtown...like U of T or Ryerson (or a Mac Liberal Arts campus, hint, hint)...then we might be able to accomplish something. But what's necessary is to develop the core from King to Cannon, James to Mary, getting some *real* development in there, bringing life to an area that's been dead for decades. (Bringing the distillary district in Toronto mind...but I think I'll let that one go for now.)

4. How do we get more destination shopping in the core? Right now, there's very little there that you can't find somewhere else. What would draw folks with discretionary income from Ancaster, Dundas, Stoney Creek and West Hamilton?

Go back to when Jackson Square opened. It was the premier mall in the area unil Limeridge opened. The mall as it stands now, sucks. (I used to work there, I saw it at its best.) Unless you were to reboot it at that level, forget about capturing those customers; that train has left the station. To me we have a most-invidious situation on our hands, one that the mall's owners don't seem to have a farkin' clue as to what to do with. (Um...how about a *supermarket* for starters?!?) And the reality is that as I said in the piece, the downtown core is a shit-pit, it's not a draw for anyone who doesn't have to be there...or doesn't have an attachment to it.

5. Why aren't established brands setting up shop in downtown Hamilton? Why isn't there a Starbucks? An 8 a.m. to midnight Shopper's Drug Mart? A stand-alone LCBO? Love 'em or hate them, the presence of these kinds of businesses is a good way to measure the health and vibrancy of a neighbourhood. Their absence is hard to miss.

Nobody wants to risk opening in a ghost-town. Unless there's promise. (Please, let's not inject the LRT element into this discussion. Seriously.) And there hasn't been promise in *years*. Shoppers doesn't do 'small' anymore (witness the impending makeover of the Dundurn & King location), especially without parking. There *are* lots to be bought, but without the critical mass of population... *sigh*

6. Why are landlords letting their buildings sit vacant? Is there no demand? Rent too high? Too much red tape with setting up shop downtown? Why aren't landlords trying to poach the best retail and restaurants from other parts of the city like Locke Street, Westdale and Ottawa Street? Imagine taking the best from these areas and putting them side by side on a street of James St. North.

These are fantastic questions. Ones I'm going to be working on providing a forum for getting some answers to, once I'm back in town. Stay tuned; we're in for some interesting conversations.

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