Don’t let the decision makers of Hamilton destroy one of the few architectual icons in the city. In the past I haven’t been so kind to our poor City Hall, as this 1998 editorial cartoon illustrates. But over the past few years I’ve learned to appreciate it better and better despite it being neglected and allowed to fall apart by negligent politicians. It needs upgrades, it needs some scrubbing, surrounding features need to be changed or renovated, but most importantly — it needs a lot more love by Hamiltonians and its politicians.
Here are my reasons for why we need to save Stan Roscoe’s City Hall:
— Hamilton can’t afford a new City Hall. This is a choice between renovating at $69 million, or rebuilding from between $115 to $150 million. The extra amount to rebuild is money the city doesn’t have — that is unless they add it on our already high property taxes which they most certainly will do.
— We’ve been down this road before. City Council voted to go with renovations beginning in 2005. Work has already begun and contracts have been made to continue what was decided upon several years ago. There are more important issues to deal with.
— It was designated as a heritage building on May 9, 2005. That means most, but not all, of the buildings’ heritage features will be maintained during a costly renovation. Any decision by council to demolish the building is going to be met with litigation.
— The elected politicians of Hamilton never received a mandate by voters to tear down City Hall as it was never raised as an issue in the last election. While it might sound hokey, a City Hall is more than just an ediface, it is like a legislature, or a Parliament, or an icon that belongs to the people, not by the politicians who work there on a day to day basis.
— The replacement will be an on-the-cheap, unstylish monster. Ask yourself this: has there been any civic building constructed in this city over the last 25 years which really stands out as an attractive architectural marvel? Is the 21st century style of the new Federal Building or the Juravinski Addition any better than the 1950’s International meets modernist Style of our current City Hall? Have a look at this website to see some of the monsters built in Hamilton over the past 50 years.
— As a further point to make on a rebuilt City Hall one really has to wonder if such a new structure is going to stimulate development and people friendliness around the building as Mayor Eisenberger suggests. That’s highly doubtful given the 5 lane Main Street highway directly in front of City Hall. The only way pedestrian traffic will increase is if the city commits itself to radically altering the flow of vehicular traffic in the area, and that simply isn’t going to happen in a place like Hamilton.
— Is it really in our best interests to demolish a building and fill a landfill up with the refuse at a time when we’ve been talking about saving the planet and doing our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle? It seems pretty irresponsible to do such a thing with a building that was intended to last several lifetimes, not just a 47 year span.
Admittedly, the building ain’t a pretty sight these days. The white marble is blackened, the grey forecourt looks horrendously shabby and the council chambers above the entrance has the appearance of a frat house thanks to interior renovations which ignore how it appears on the outside. Do the necessary restoration to return the once handsome building to what it once was. And finally, never let what represents the heart of this city whither away to resemble an embarassing dump.
I think it’s possible for private investment to mix with public dollars to build a shiny new City Hall that we can all be proud of and not have to be taxed to the gills on. No matter how much they spruce up the present City Hall it’ll always look boxy, drab, and out of date. There are some really great new city halls in Ontario, eg. Kitchener’s city hall.
T.A. Trocker (May 14, 2007)