Monthly Archives: December 2014

PHOTO OF THE DAY – December 28th

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Hamilton Place at night – 10 MacNab St S

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December 28, 2014 · 11:28 pm

PHOTO OF THE DAY – December 26th

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A festive City Hall on Boxing Day

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – December 25th

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Christmas Time at the Whitehern Historic House and Garden – 41 Jackson St. West

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December 25, 2014 · 8:53 pm

The Tims They Are a-Changin’

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On Saturday, the newly built two-storey Tim Hortons Store Number One, located at Ottawa Street and Dunsmure Road, opened its doors to the public.

After a slow down in growth and decreased market share due to the emergence of independent coffee shops, smaller coffee house chains, Starbucks, and other global chains like McDonald’s McCafé, Tim Hortons have rebranded themselves as a “café and bake shop.”

Part of this rebranding strategy is building stores that have an urbane feel to them. Stores that accommodate the in-and-out customer they’re used to, while providing a welcoming atmosphere for all demographics that wish to stay. This new design strategy is largely due to the ground they’re losing in larger markets, like Toronto, as small towns are already saturated with Tims at just about every corner.

The new Store #1 fits into that rebranding strategy that’s been contracted to WD Partners Architecture + Engineering, a global firm responsible for the design of many large retail companies like Whole Foods, TA, Big Lots, and Walmart. They are responsible for building and remodeling over 1,200 Tim Hortons locations and providing them with a ubiquitous look, complete with fireplaces, comfortable seating, and a more relaxing atmosphere.

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The exterior of the building resembles many of the newly constructed prefabricated Tim Hortons throughout Canada but with some notable touches, like the two-storey glass curtain walls, and iron I-beams projecting horizontally between storeys, paying homage to Hamilton’s industrial past.

The location of the entrance at the corner of Ottawa and Dunsmure is a much better location than before, when you had to make your way through a busy parking lot and risk getting hit just to reach the door. However, the new parking lot located at the rear is very small and bottlenecks at the entrance. Cars have to complete intricate dances in order to get in and out of the postage stamp sized lot.

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The landscaping isn’t very welcoming. Apart from the building being nearer to the street, and a beautiful statue of Tim Horton, there is nothing to keep patrons around. There is no seating, unless you want to sit on planter boxes, or the base of Tim Horton’s statue. Hopefully with summer comes a patio, like the initial renderings show.

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Inside, the counters are within close proximity to the entrance. If there is a lineup of more than six or seven patrons, you will be standing inside the vestibule of the building, or even outside the front doors. Although there is sixty seats in the new store, there is very limited seating on the main floor. Just a slender tabletop facing a window, with a handful of backless padded stools.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Sarah Dawson

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There are two flights of stairs, as well as elevators that take you to the second floor, where the “Memory Lane” museum and additional seating is located.

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As you make your way to the seated areas, a hallway of Tim Hortons memorabilia and souvenirs welcomes you. This trip down Memory Lane begins at the top of the stairs with a retro Tim Hortons counter, like the original store in 1964, and ends in the future, as you pass the by-gone eras of an iconic Canadian franchise.

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The upstairs seating area is open and includes communal tables, armchairs, and a panoramic view of Ottawa street. The light is there, but the warmth isn’t.

Although the outcome of the new Store #1 is better than expected, it would have been nice to see this project go to a design competition, where local architects could submit their concept designs. After all, they understand the context of an evolving Ottawa Street better than a firm that designs Walmarts.

At least there’s still no drive-thru.

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Toronto To Hamilton

Yesterday, I received an email from a resident of Toronto who told me that she is thinking of moving to Hamilton with her boyfriend. She wanted to know more about the neighbourhoods and the happening places within the city. This was my response:

Moving to Hamilton is a big step, but totally worth it.

Hamilton is evolving rapidly, a progressive social, political, and physical change is happening in this city. There is a bike lane network that is ever-expanding, as well as a bike share program set to launch this spring; a push for better transit (including an all day GO station on James St North slated to be complete by next year); more walkable neighbourhoods to raise a family; a reviving core; developments popping up daily; shopping districts worth visiting; historic buildings worth admiring; and bountiful satellite towns for getaways, just to name a few things.

I’ll start off with the streets that we know: Locke Street, James Street, and Ottawa Street.

Locke Street is a beautiful, lively street. It has everything: antique shops, coffee shops, thrift stores, a grocery store, delicatessen, cheese shop, flower shop, gym, book store, bars, salons, and numerous restaurants that are worth visiting. Not only does this street have just about every ingredient a Toronto resident is accustomed to on their commercial streets, but it is also surrounded by some of the nicest neighbourhoods this city has to offer. Kirkendall North and South are home to quiet, quaint streets with heritage houses, condos, apartments, churches, schools, and beautiful parks (you definitely need to check out the H.A.A.A grounds).

James Street is vast. From North to South, both areas offer distinctively different experiences. James Street North is undeniably the hottest street in the city. It is the “go-to” street when visiting. Home to Supercrawl and monthly Art Crawls, you could argue that it’s the artistic hub of the city. It connects to our urban shopping mall, Jackson Square, the friendly Farmers Market, the beautiful Hamilton Public Library Central Branch, and has a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants. In relation to Toronto, this street is a lot like Ossington. The neighbourhoods that surround it (Beasley, Central, and the North End) are some of the most diverse and liveable neighbourhoods in the city – another great area to start a family.

James South is quieter, if that’s what you’re looking for. It has some of the city’s best restaurants and a strip of bars on Augusta Street that are always worth frequenting. The James South area is surrounded by amazing neighbourhoods to wander: Durand, Corktown, and Stinson. These neighbourhoods are full of architectural riches. Neo-gothic, Tudor Revival, Colonial, Georgian, French Revival, Neo-Romanesque, Queen Anne, Modern, Post-Modern, Brutalist, Art Deco, Contemporary, and just about every other style of architecture imaginable are on display throughout their historic streets.

Did you know Ottawa Street is home to the first Tim Hortons? They are currently building a new two-storey Store #1 complete with a museum. This street was once the textile street of Hamilton, but has evolved into a lively shopping district. New commercial tenants are moving in all the time and it’s quickly becoming one of the most happening streets in the city. Crown Point and Delta are also great family friendly neighbourhoods and they aren’t too far from Gage Park, a lush park designed in the City Beautiful style.

Westdale Village really is a village within a city. It’s a great escape that is a short bus, bike, or car ride away from the core. Westdale offers a lot in the way of amenities and is home to Westdale Theatre, a historic theatre that turns dinner and a movie into something magic. The area has a lot of history (like all of Hamilton, really). The neighbourhoods are sprinkled with young families, established families, and student housing. If you’re in the area, McMaster University is definitely worth visiting. Architecturally, this University has some breathtaking buildings and scenery. It’s also compact and offers a real communal campus feel, which you don’t quite get with the vastly sprawling University of Toronto.

King Street, one of Hamilton’s main arterial roads, is a street on the turnaround. From Wellington Street to Dundurn Street this area is sprinkled with just about everything. While in the International Village, swing by J.H. Gordon Books, browse the racks for vintage clothes at Girl On The Wing, and grab a coffee at Cafe Oranje before continuing West to Gore Park. Situated at the James and King corridor, the park is a slice of tranquility, where cultures meet and Hamiltonian’s co-mingle. On the way, stop at The Royal Connaught and take a peak at its newly renovated grand lobby. Once an illustrious hotel, this condo development will completely alter Hamilton’s core for the better.

Also be sure to visit The Art Gallery of Hamilton. It always has incredible installations and exhibitions that are worth the price of admission. Currently, they have a Cézanne exhibition that runs until February 1st. From there you can head to Commonwealth Square. This public space offers a beautiful vista of our masterful City Hall and Hamilton Place, where the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra regularly serenades patrons with beautiful, moving music.

There’s also the Strathcona neighbourhood. The area is affordable, with Victoria Park (which includes tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, a pool, and a community garden) close by, and within proximity to just about everything. You could go to De La Sol for yoga, The Mustard Seed Co-op for locally sourced groceries, and Dundurn Castle to tour the grounds of a remarkable piece of Canadian history.

One of our hidden treasures is the Bayfront. Travel North on Bay Street and you’ll find it. The Waterfront Trail is a beautiful walk, wrapping west around the bay towards Westdale. You’ll see the city from many wonderful vantage points. If you decide to travel east at the Bayfront, there’s Pier 4 Park, a great place for a picnic or a casual stroll. In the summer, it’s always nice to sit and watch sail boats gracefully sail about the bay or walk to Pier 8 and grab a coffee from Williams and take the West-Harbour Trolley, rent some bikes, or enjoy the roller rink and live music at Sarcoa Restaurant.

But it’s about more than just neighbourhoods. Hamilton is brimming with a creative class. There is a palpable energy within the city that is contagious. Shops are well supported, streets are inviting, and friends are easy to make when you’re downtown. Hamiltonian’s are enamored with their city and it shows. Hamilton is going places and it’s not City Hall that’s driving this city, it’s the people.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. I could go on and on. It’s easy to ramble about ones love affair with this city. However, the best thing to do is grab the GO train or bus, walk outside of our GO Centre on Hunter Street and explore. The brightest gems are the ones you discover yourself. Leave all the pre-conceived notions of Hamilton at home and you’ll quickly fall for its charm. It has it all and then some. There’s so much heart to this city. You should give it yours. It will welcome you with open arms.

My apologizes for any grammatical errors. This post is verbatim.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – December 12th

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A different look at the beautifully ornamented, early modern Medical Arts building.

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December 12, 2014 · 1:00 pm