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The Scott Thompson Show
News/Talk 900 CHML
Hamilton, Ont. CAN.
Hamilton’s own Tale of Two Cities
The Hamilton Spectator
August 10, 2010
No doubt 2010 will be remembered as the year of the great stadium debate, perhaps even overshadowing the awarding of the Pam Am Games itself.
“Too bad” some may say, blaming the whole celebration-turned-fiasco on the government of the day and others who control what we can’t seem to. Followed closely by the ever favourite in the Steel City, “I told you so!”
But I think the great divide in the city may not be one of stadium location. It’s much larger than that. Yes location is a factor but not concerning Hamilton’s stadium, but its citizens.
This is not about stadium location. It’s about the inner city vs. the Mountain!
I was on CHML having a discussion about the stadium news of the day when I finally noticed a trend that started at the beginning of this journey.
There was a definite negativity about the downtown from most of the listeners. Not all, but most. I can’t say I was surprised but since returning to the city five years ago I certainly can see the upswing has started.
It left me thinking that most Hamiltonians hate their downtown. Further proof came in our unofficial poll on the stadium that revealed most wanted the stadium on the east Mountain but when asked what was best for the city they answered west harbour.
What’s with the “hate on” for downtown?
So I asked some in the know, why Hamiltonians hate their downtown?
Margaret Houghton, archivist for the Hamilton Public Library and author of several books on the cities history lives downtown and says “hate” is too strong a word as it depends on who you ask.
“If you live downtown you love it and if you don’t, you’re indifferent.”
She also echoes what most say and suggests getting more people to live downtown is the key. More housing, condos etc. leads to more business as these people need goods and services.
Michael Marini with InvestInHamilton.ca agrees “hate” is too strong but adds people want to “see more for downtown”. They remember what it was like and can’t see the changes occurring yet. The fact that they are engaged suggests they care but are frustrated.
If no one was talking about it, we would be in trouble.
Martinius Geleynse creator the Hamilton 24 film festival and young Hamilton entrepreneur says there are “a lot of unknowns” downtown to others in the city.
Yes, there are parts of the city that have fallen on hard times and it shows, but there are also more gems than gravel.
Geleynse also agrees geography plays a huge roll in Hamilton’s complexion and is not to be underestimated. The average age of a home is 100 years in the lower city and new to 40-50 years on the Mountain, creating a whole different feel and esthetic he says.
But it’s the non-familiarity that helps keep them away. It’s not cookie cutter box stores and conventional chains downtown but smaller mom and pop operations that those outside the core don’t recognize. But once they experience the service and products they realize they’re often much better. You can’t offer people the same experience as a shopping mall and expect them to pay to park when they can get that in suburbia with less hassle.
We are not often willing to take the chance and try change but when we “peek behind the curtain” Geleynse says, and start discovering what’s there, we’re amazed. It doesn’t have to be a “chain store to be good” he concludes.
Certainly a far cry from the negative emails and comments that have come into the show lately but may shed some light onto what the city is thinking and why.
Most Hamiltonians look at the escarpment and boast of its natural beauty. Often forgetting it’s that very postcard view that is separating the city and its citizens.
As with a good neighbour, it never hurts to peek over the fence and see what’s really going on.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays 4-6pm on News/Talk 900CHML.
Visit his website at www.ScottThompsonTalk.com