By Bill Curran
Concerned that ads and lawn signs include troubling mistruths by the North End Neighbourhood Association (NENA), I don’t want the City to cave to a few people that I consider NIMBYists trying to derail an approved housing development on this vacant land. As a North End resident and architect I wholeheartedly support this needed infill and intensification project.
(As disclosure, our firm are the architects only for the new CityHousing apartments that will be built at Jamesville; we have no interest in this land parcel).
FACT: IT IS NOT A PARK AND NEVER WAS
This property was occupied for decades by businesses and homes that the City purchased for redevelopment. This 1911 map shows the site fully occupied:
Purchased for an off-ramp for the cancelled Perimeter Roadway along the rail line, it is simply vacant land awaiting its next use.
The Sunset Garden is a few people using public land for their project. Created as a ‘garden’ when those people ‘noticed’ the land sale, they developed a garden plan using the name of esteemed North End activist Gil Simmons until her family objected, then changing to the ‘multi-cultural garden’ in an effort to legitimize the name.
This land is only about 1/6 used for the ‘Sunset Garden’ flowerbeds. The City provided a temporary lease in 2014; there is a written contract! And they got $10,000 in taxpayer money for their project. The City already found a new home for the Garden across Bay Street and agreed to fund from taxpayers’ money to relocate the Garden; both the Gardeners and NENA know this, so it is troubling why there is even a campaign. It has never been a park, and is not a park today!
FACT: Our entire community approved this development numerous times.
During the Setting Sail Plan process starting in 2001 this vacant land was slated for residential development. This plan was approved repeatedly by the entire community, including by NENA.
This Map clearly shows this land as ‘Low Density Residential’:
Approved in 2012, the sale started in 2017: CityHousing Hamilton now accepting Requests for Expressions of Interest for redevelopment project | City of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada;
FACT: The vacant lot is not being sold for cash for the City.
This lot is being sold with the Jamesville housing to a developer. In return the City is receiving 46 new affordable housing apartments on James Street AND 117 affordable housing apartments built by Indwell. Redeveloping the property for market housing will pay for this. In my opinion, it is a mistruth to say the City is selling this vacant lot for cash. There is significant, clear benefit to the City from this sale! If this land is now removed from the agreed deal the City will receive fewer affordable housing units.
FACT: An unused ‘park’ is an unneeded ‘park’.
Few use this vacant land because it is across the street from the huge, popular Bayfront Park, and people gravitate to the powerful water’s edge.
The North End fortunately has abundant parks: Bayfront Park, Pier 4 Park, Bayview Park, Pier 7 park/rink, the Waterfront Trail, Eastwood Park, Jackie Washington Park, Bennetto School/Rec Centre Park and the Wellington Street allotment gardens. We also have the huge new Copps Pier 7-8 park. The Jamesville redevelopment includes a new park at the corner of James and Strachan that is larger than the Sunset Garden! Do we really need this as another park?
FACT: We cannot stop Sprawl and urban boundary expansion without Infill and Intensification.
A majority voted against Sprawl and for infill and intensification instead, so the City must develop all vacant, publicly owned land to its highest and best use. If we don’t intensify here, then where? You cannot have it both ways!
FACT: This could be seen as an example of NIMBYISM.
A few people are demanding that our long-approved Setting Sail Plan change and theirs is but one voice to consider. In my opinion, some people against developing this vacant lot are the same people who appear to be simply anti-change, objecting to EVERY new development in our neighbourhood, including at 468 James St. N., 600 James at Burlington and at Pier 7-8.
A healthy, vibrant city is more than parks, it consists of a balanced mix of homes, workplaces and recreation spaces. A neighbourhood can have too much park space, reducing vitality and the number of homes possible.
We, as a City, cannot afford to own and maintain unlimited parks. Look at the failure of the recent John-Rebecca Park, (called Tupperware Park), built with millions of tax dollars and now unused, sad dead trees, plants and asphalt. Did we really need this park, 2 blocks from 3 other parks? Can we afford unused parks when other neighbourhoods have needs and our city infrastructure dollars are stretched?
The City already provided a new home for the Garden across Bay Street and committed to again use thousands in taxpayers money to relocate the Garden, and both the Gardeners and NENA know this, so it is troubling as to why there is even a campaign on this issue.
Tax dollars are precious and must be spent to achieve maximum benefit to ALL our citizens.
Can we afford to miss opportunities to build homes and the vitality and taxes that they bring? Where will we intensify if we turn everything into parks???
Subject: Fwd: Save our Parkette Saga
Thanks for your note. My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I appreciate your efforts to let me know what is happening in the North End, particularly in connection with my mother’s name and the parkette.
Here are my thoughts:
From an urban design perspective I do not see how an argument could be made to retain this as a parkette. I can see how those living in the immediate vicinity would object to this parcel being built on. Few people would want to see development happen on an empty park-like property adjacent to their house.
There are some instances where empty lots should be retained. This isn’t one of them. Development of this land makes a great deal of sense. There is plenty of adjacent and nearby parkland, both passive and active.
What the North End truly needs is increased density as well as varied zoning and building types. This part of the cityscape is an open wound that could be healed by thoughtful infill. The neighbourhood would be helped by a mid- to low-rise residential or mixed use development at this location, screening the community from the rail lines, providing more active street life and upgrading the local housing stock.
Everything I learned studying Urban Design at Harvard and in the intervening 20 years practicing architecture in communities like Hamilton, supports the development of this site. I think Mum would agree as would most planners and designers.
I have a fairly accurate view of what my mother would have thought. We spoke a great deal about precisely this kind of issue. She was very much of the Jane Jacob’s school of thought. I would be glad to speak with anyone about this issue if that would be helpful.
All the best,
Patrick Simmons, OAA, RAIC, LEED AP