Art & Culture

You’re Nobody Until Toronto Loves You

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Comments (18)
  1. Ronnie says:

    Steel CIty Studio is an affordable art studio co-op that should definitely be praised for keeping the Hamilton spirit alive – both in the type of artists they support, and in affordability. Take a tour! It gave me the old Hammer vibe strong.

  2. Nick Holmes says:

    I hear you Bilijana
    These things all suck. I”ve been looking for a decent workspace in my budget for a year and a half and still haven’t found anything—the prices are all just too high.
    But is the problem economically driven cultural sprawl? or is it just population boom and the inevitable steamrolling that goes with it.
    Canada, Southern Ontario, and Toronto are all growing at a fast rate.
    It might be fatalist, but Hamilton was ripe for the picking, and no amount of resistance can hold back population boom.
    And when you are in the densest area of Canada, in the richest country in the world–beard oils will eventually show up–its the Western way.

  3. Anne says:

    My concern is Brad Lamb and this notion that Hamilton needs to accept that 40 story condos are a must. Actually, we should all learn from Toronto and Vancouver that we shouldn’t go that route – no one actually likes to live in small glass boxes in the sky beyond a year or two. Medium density is just as successful across Europe and other parts of the world and it’s more livable – we need larger livable spaces for families and not just 500 – 700 sq feet condos. All you see in those downtown urban areas are young professionals, there is variety of different age groups or many kids etc. Why would Hamilton want to become that? Medium density should be the focus of Hamilton’s urban growth. No thank you to Toronto and Vancouver’s high density! Hamilton also need to focus on attracting jobs and building commercial spaces in order to attract businesses and not solely rely on attracting Torontonian’s because they can’t afford their real estate market thus creating Hamilton into a bedroom community.

  4. EM says:

    This is so poignant. Compellingly written. As a Hamilton transplant, I agree that much of what I adore about Hamilton is slowly disintegrating into the dust of Toronto-like gentrification.

    1. Tamara says:

      Agreed. Waiting for years to work in a vibrant theatre community only to find I’m shut out in my own city by the new wave which include some blatant transplants taking jobs and funding.

  5. Shardul says:

    First of all, I am wondering how Toronto’s working class can afford to buy a home in Hamilton (the commute to Toronto is crazy from Hamilton).

    Secondly, this is all business. As housing prices in neighboring cities (Mississauga, Oakville, Toronto) go up, it is only natural for Hamilton’s housing prices to rise. Although not as much as these cities.

    Anyways, there is little we can do.
    Space is always available around these places, for cheap if they are too expensive.

  6. Yuki says:

    I have mixed feelings about the changes. On the one hand we have lost that sense of “You can do anything in Hamilton,” but on the other, I do like the fact that abandoned buildings like the Knitting Mills, Gibson School and so on are finally being developed for mixed commercial/residential use. Prior to this boom, the old guard of city hall was focused on developing outwards, into the city’s green space, not revitalizing the downtown core. I think it took interest from Toronto/out of town buyers to reach that critical mass stage where projects could generate enough interest to kick off. As someone who lives downtown in an area homegrown Hamiltonians have always considered sketchy, I’m glad to see my area getting more diverse through, yes: gentrification. I like seeing old boarded up warehouses getting use, and I’m happy that people who got in at the right time have had the opportunity to open cool businesses on the cheap. I live off Barton, and frankly, if anyone wants cheap retail/band space/residential, that’s where you can find it. The boarded up storefronts all along my street would indicate gritty affordability is hanging on by its nails–if you’re willing to skip the trendier neighbourhoods.

  7. Janet says:

    I have to agree with Yuki. I too like to see the neighbourhood I live in go from being known as “Cracktown” to “Corktown”.
    Change is hard for everyone.
    I would like to be informed as to why some of these venues are being closed? Is it higher rent prices? Is it the lack of paying patrons? If it is because of the latter, it must be hard for an owner of a business to keep it open just to maintain the Hamilton art vibe. The purpose of a business is to make money not just sustain it.
    I am a commuter, I am an ex-Torontonian BUT FIRST a born and raised Hamiltonian who found work in Toronto for 14 years and moved back to Hamilton. I know what I left and what I came back to and I can only say that I see an improvement. The 90’s in my opinion, where horrible for Hamilton. Up to the 1980’s the city WAS cool, fun to be downtown with all the shops open and places to go, City Dances every weekend at a variety of venues. In the 90’s this downtown core you were afraid to go into. You could drive downtown and it was easier to count how many storefronts WEREN’T boarded or papered up.
    And Bilijana, if you were afraid of anything happening to Happy Hourz, you might be responsible for that one for even mentioning it and its cheap beer!! Shhhhhhhh!

  8. I loved this post. I have lived her all my life, with the exception of a couple of years, but I always came back to Hamilton. I have lived in the East end and in the West End. I have always been a proponent of Supercrawl, even when there were literally hundreds of people going instead of the hundred thousand of people going. I love the revitalization of downtown as I was frankly tired of the upper city having all the glory and the lower city being frowned upon. I lived right off Barton and Sherman so I know what Barton is like, and yes, there are many businesses that up and left and boarded up their windows. I would love to see this part of the city alive again with thriving small businesses as it used to be back when my Grandparents owned a Barber shop there. Now, here comes the but. We don’t want to be Toronto. I know that tapas bars and wine lounges are making their way into our world, and there are probably people who will like that but if we don’t give the same benefits to the small businesses that don’t have to charge an obscene price for their food that we give to transplanted businesses, our whole identity shifts. We have to speak up to City Hall to say “be careful what you wish for” Do we really want a place where our kids can’t afford to live? I don’t.

    On a side note, I wanted share a similar post I wrote for my blog on this very subject, if you get a chance.

    Thanks again for your awesome outlook.

    1. Thanks, Nicole. I’ve read your blog post and I completely agree. I think it’s a topic that a lot of people are grappling with. Thanks for reading!

  9. Lorraine says:

    The only ones benefiting from this growth are the land developers. Don’t kid yourself, it’s not the downtown core, it’s the overpopulated suburbs that are going to ruin this city. We do not have the infrastructure to support this population boom. Just drive through the city at anytime of the day and the roads are congested, parking lots are full, hospital emergency rooms are full, and the noise pollution is everywhere. I have lived in this city and the surrounding area for 57 years, I am not against change or progress, but I do think the population growth in Hamilton is moving too fast. The land developers need to be responsible for some of the infrastructure before building more unaffordable housing. Stop the madness.

  10. Shawn Selway says:

    Nice piece. For me, this is the crux:

    “After decades of surplus housing options, we have little experience with issues around affordable housing and rent.”

    The frequent references to the industrial past omit the essential: the people in those plants were organized, or, in the case of Dofasco, had a paternalist relation with the labour force whose terms were in fact set by Union contracts at Stelco next door. Bangladesh has a great deal of industry – it just doesn’t benefit the workers very much.

    Housing affordability is the cost of housing as a proportion of income. The cost of housing keeps going up, incomes are stalled or declining. As Biljana points out, we have continuing problems of poverty and displacement. Instead of working on some innovations to address them, the city is down the road courting investment which is as likely to hurt as to help. We keep hearing the same inane comparison to Pittsburgh, when we could be learning from the experience of Toronto and Vancouver how to avert some of the problems that have been allowed to develop in those cities.

    The city has no policy which sets a minimum ratio of two and three bedroom units in tall buildings, to prevent the exclusion of families from the central city. It has not opted into either section 37 or inclusionary zoning legislation, which give planning tools that can maintain some affordability in new buildings. Beyond those basic tools, there are a variety of alternatives to market built housing. The fact is that for people of low or middle income, the housing market is broken. The city simply refuses to acknowledge that fundamental fact.

    Vancouver is the Canadian market with the most extreme conditions, so all measures have been forced onto the agenda. Vancouver has a range of partial solutions: a proportion of 2 and 3 bedroom units may be required on rezoning of any property for redevelopment; secondary suites including laneway housing are permitted and encouraged; and there is a Vancouver Affordable Housing Authority, with a number of projects in the works, including co-ops and temporary housing on lots awaiting redevelopment.

    In theory, we in Hamilton are better placed to realize the solutions, because we have what Vancouver does not : lots of land, and lots of city-owned land. We still have a little time to plan to remain a distinct city. What made us Hamilton in the past was not just the presence of manufacturing, but the collective approach we took to how the benefits were shared. Right now we are just accepting this increasing division between us based on real estate values — instead of planning and implementing the known alternatives.

    Secure, affordable housing is a right. Everything is connected, and housing is at the centre. You can’t lead a decent life unless you have a stable home. But getting there requires organization, and all the perseverance and inconvenience that involves…

  11. Dave says:

    Until Hamilton gets a decent Ramen place I say keep up the gentrification.

  12. KATHERINE says:

    The real victims of gentrification are not artists and young people with post-secondary education who want to afford 3-4 nights of live music each week and afford a home or studio space downtown.

    James North was a living, breathing community before it became a cultural hotspot. Gentrification is not just a change in housing prices, but in the makeup and culture of a neighbourhood. In that way, artists, creative professionals and “cool” small business owners gentrified the downtown area first. Painting them as heroes who swept in and saved a desolate downtown with music and art completely erases the people who lived there before – low income, predominantly minority communities. For those individuals and families, t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “You Can Do Anything In Hamilton” was “frankly tone deaf, and completely out of touch.”

    I will not argue that there are difficult conversations that need to be had about the future of Hamilton. We cannot blindly blaze forward in the name of economic progress. Likewise, we should not pretend that cultural activity does not result in the displacement of vulnerable people and families.

    1. You’re right about that, Katherine. The cool arts scene is suffering but to your point – it goes much deeper than that. I didn’t mean for this to sound like the concert-going-arts scene are the true and single victims of this process. Many people have been displaced to make way for the downtown that some of us get to enjoy.

      Thank you for the great comment.

  13. Ken Allen says:

    Very good analysis of the situation Hamilton finds itself in!! However it will survive- it always has!!

  14. brorodeo says:

    Art crawl was a setup. I was there from the beginning. We were all set dressings from the bankers and rich kids who made a killing off our work and our passion. And now that whole street is full of basic hipsters posing in front of exposed brick walls. It’s pathetic and consumerist. What about Tim Potocic et al completely co-opting a community event and getting praised for it? It just goes to prove in Hamilton you need to be a) already rich b) well connected c) probably a white male. All those numnuts garage rockers got good government money to make shitty records for a long time. See what it got us? Bad dad rock and basic hipsters. Time to move on Hamilton. This ship has sailed.

  15. brorodeo says:

    I don’t have any mixed feelings at all. I don’t spend any money downtown anymore or frequent that corridor of hipster basicness. It’s just the revamped hess village now. Only rich kids from Toronto live there with the service economy Hamilton serfs serving them artisanal beer and chocolate. Everyone else had to leave when the rents doubles and the affordable houses all dried up. Fuck James North, fuck the dad rockers and fuck the shitty baby boomer rich woman shops. They’ll all be gone and nobody will know why in less than five years. Replaced by Star Bucks and Whole Foods. Mark my words.