Renewal Forum in Spectator

Posted on Oct 21, 2013 In Latest Updates

Here’s a short and accurate overview of last week’s Renew Hamilton Learning Forum written by Meredith MacLeod, Business Reporter with The Hamilton Spectator.

Indeed, it is Happening Here, forum says

When Colina Maxwell (left) bought her first building in downtown Hamilton in 2004, friends and family flooded her with calls.

Not congratulations, mind you. They were urging her to rethink.

“They said (the downtown) was going nowhere,” she told Renew Hamilton’s Learning Forum on Friday October 18

Maxwell, owner of Centre3 for Print and Media Arts on James Street North, bought her third building in 2012 at 121 Hughson St. N. She now gets a call weekly asking her to sell the three-storey former spice factory that became a gay bar for many years.

Hers was among numerous renewal stories presented at the day-long event held under a tent on a vacant lot beside the Lister building.

Renewal stories came in all sizes and sectors:

  • The transformation of the notorious site of the Plastimat fire into a community park;
  • The real estate crawls showcasing the Barton Village BIA that have brought 10 new businesses since June;
  • The growth of the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s World Film Festival;
  • The news that a former gas station at the corner of James and Burlington streets will be turned into seven townhouses;
  • A new boutique hotel in a historic building in Ancaster;
  • The gutting of the former home of city builder Isaac Buchanan to become Radius, a cafe serving local and organic food

“I always want to say that Hamilton is back,” said Radius owner Paven Bratch. “Those who have lived here for 30 or 40 years remember when it was a grand old city.”

City staff presented an advertising campaign called It’s Happening Here aimed at recreating Hamilton’s image. It includes a series of videos as well as posters that are displayed on GO trains.

“We’re focusing on the idea that you don’t have to give up anything to come to Hamilton,” said Glen Norton, the city’s manager of urban renewal.

Architect David Premi said true urban renewal goes beyond fixing up old buildings. It improves quality of life, boosts economic prosperity and engages citizens in their city.

He documented plenty of initiatives underway in Hamilton but pointed out the hinderances and misrakes, too. He cited bureaucratic red tape, the demolition of historic schools and the downtown school board headquarters, the “senseless location” of the football stadium and the continuous suburban sprawl as steps backward for Hamilton.

Keynote speaker Martinus Geleynse traced the forces shaping cities for the good and the bad in 1913, 1963 and 2013. He concluded, quality of life, transportation, building a successful economy and the importance of human interaction have been at the heart of it all but that lessons learned are often ignored.