5X5 Update 1: James St. Baptist Church

Five different shots, each lasting five seconds, using natural sounds.  James Street Baptist Church on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

Chris Erskine



Heritage Church to be Saved – Almost

The heritage James Street Baptist Church is to be saved and developed according to local media reports.

CBC Hamilton reports that the Gothic Revival church was put up for sale this past summer for $1.1 million.  Last week, a sold sign was posted on the property.

The report also states that the developer wishes to respect the heritage site but not as a purely preservation effort.

Raise the Hammer reports that the developer wishes to “bold” changes to the site that “satisfy heritage preservation requirements.  Some of these bold changes may mean increased density to provide for parking and a possible condo or hotel structure.

Gore Park Buildings – I want to believe but I want to act!

To be demolished! To be saved?

I am willing to believe but I want to act!

I am willing to believe that the developer is a good guy with the best intentions for the downtown.  He appears to have saved and restored several buildings in the downtown area.  He is willing to be flexible and change some of his plans for two of the four historical buildings on King Street East.  He is willing to invest millions of dollars in development when many properties generate almost no income or stand vacate until they decay or burn down.

I am willing to believe that the City’s Economic Planning Council and City Council as a whole wants the very best for the people of Hamilton.  They want to bring people back to the core and raise their families and enjoy the many great things that this ambitious city has to offer.  They want both small and large businesses to thrive.  They want people to find good paying jobs that allow them to generate more jobs and more taxes and more services.

I want to believe and I do believe.

So, why are we surprised when the Planning Council or City Council want to say yes to developers who are willing to invest millions of dollars in our City?

Are we really so surprised that developers, who have grand visions and act with the best intentions, run into problems caused by unexpected costs, hidden structural problems, and hiccups with financial backing?

Anyone who buys an old house or has renovated a bathroom knows that nothing turns out as originally planned.

Crap happens!

Does this mean losing two 1870s buildings is acceptable?

My answer is no!

The buildings of Gore Park are the physical and spiritual heart of this City.  Any changes to this area must be given careful consideration, particularly when it affects buildings with history.

Buildings matters, architecture matters, landscape matters, and history matters!

Even trees matter, and if you doubt this just go to the library and look at the reaction of folks in the Hamilton Spectator to the cutting down of century old trees in 1983.

Urban landscapes matters because it affects our experience of that space and as a result, we are all stakeholders and we have a right to say how that space is used.

If you believe that we should leave it to the developers or the politician, you simply don’t know your history of the city, particularly when it comes to Gore Park.

Ask yourself, what happens if the condo market goes bust and we are left with a bunch of empty glass boxes?  Was that worth the destroying of our history?

My family has lived or worked in this city more than 100 years and I want to know that before you destroy something that it will be replaced by something of greater value.

Turning our backs on the past is not the solution.  It actually robs the character that many urban dwellers are seeking.  We used to live on Bold Street for a number of years in a 1850s stone and brick building with twelve foot ceilings, two great fireplaces and thick, thick walls.  We had a nice little coffee shop around the corner and the YMCA five minutes away.

When we sat on the porch we were surrounded by beautiful 1860s to 1910s buildings that had been modernized into apartments units that are now attracting top rents.  The developer of these buildings knew their value and knew that his investment in saving these buildings would pay off.

This is one vision for the City; another is the countless 1970s apartment buildings just up the street.

It is our city, the kind of development we get is our choice – all we need to do is act!