Thursday, December 5, 2013

Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday, December 5, 2013

Not too late for city to learn from its planning mistakes

Hamilton has made “classic mistakes” it has to reverse if it wants to be a great city, Toronto’s chief planner told a large crowd Tuesday night.

Sprawl, streets built for cars, “an inconceivable amount” of torn down heritage stock are some of the “hard truths” for Hamilton laid out by Jennifer Keesmaat.

“You’ve made the classic mistakes. You are a product of your time. I call them classic mistakes because other cities made them, too. But you’ve paid dearly for them.”

She said Hamilton has built a downtown that is a “great place to drive through but not a great place to be.”

Keesmaat, who took Toronto’s top planning post 14 months ago, said there are no great cities in the world that are easy to drive through.

Streets have to accommodate all modes of transportation, neighbourhoods have to bring all uses together and cities have to find ways to drive density to its core, she said.

Keesmaat is a Hamilton native and shared her memories of growing up on the west Mountain, taking the HSR and hefting her bike up the escarpment steps.

Keesmaat was speaking at the first Ambitious City event, hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

Keanin Loomis, chamber CEO, says it’s time Hamilton reclaim the Ambitious City title, a moniker slapped on the city in derision by a Toronto newspaper in 1847.

Robert Smiley, The Spectator’s first editor, urged the city to proudly adopt the title.

“It’s time to take back the name and own it again,” Loomis told a large crowd in the LIUNA Station ballroom.

“Ambition is returning to the city.”

Keesmaat says Hamilton has a “great opportunity” to fix past mistakes with bike lanes, rapid transit, wider sidewalks, green spaces, adding density and including a wide variety of people in envisioning the city’s future.

She said urban experts have long been fascinated with Hamilton because it has all the ingredients for success in its downtown but hasn’t achieved expected growth.

Development incentives, two-street conversions and a growing arts scene are all pluses but haven’t achieved the animation of a great downtown because sprawl is still happening, she said.

“You can’t pull uses outward and still build activity downtown,” she said.
“It’s not about what is happening downtown but what is happening at the edges.” (Source: The Hamilton Spectator)