by Kit Darling

When I first moved to the North End 30 years ago, it was a very different place. Many of the residents had been born here or lived here all their lives. My 90-year-old neighbour proudly stated that she was born in the North End, married a North Ender and she lived here until the day she died – less than a month before her 100th birthday. It was reminiscent of a small town – there was even a butcher shop for a while. By the waterfront – it was lovely if you only looked in one direction – west toward the marina, yacht club and Leander boating club. The high-level bridge could be seen through the trees. There were even ice boats on the harbour on occasion. On the other hand, straight ahead on Pier 8 it was cracked concrete and weeds, rusting sheds and some rusting coils of steel. All inhabited by Canada Geese and other critters.  But times change – as we all do. And thankfully so. I am not what I was 30 years ago nor is our neighbourhood. Slowly but surely the waterfront is becoming a space to walk from Princess Point to the Haida. Williams Café has replaced an underused sailing school. The rusty sheds and their inhabitants are gone. We have art installations recognizing and celebrating the Indigenous people who lived here long before any of us arrived. There is music and ice skating and much more. And we are replacing the concrete and weeds with an addition to our community. A mixed residential, commercial and institutional development that is not eating up scarce farmland. It will have housing for families and couples – old and young. There will be affordable housing. There will be room for larger units for families, either in the tower or in the other smaller blocks. And it will bring life to our neighbourhood. I know there are some who wish we could go back 100 years to a green/working harbour. With fish plants and freighters and ice cutting in the winter – but we also know that is an impossible dream. That was then – this is now.

This development – in particular the tower beside Williams and the Discovery Centre, has caused a great deal of debate in our neighbourhood and beyond. Many see it as catering to developers and ‘yuppies from Toronto’. There is a misapprehension that they are the only people who have enough money to buy or rent here. We may indeed see more people moving here from outside the City. We will also see Hamiltonians – some who may be downsizing and others who have been looking for housing near schools, parks and public transit. And others who have been waiting to move into our neighbourhood, because that’s who we are – neighbours.