Category Archives: Opinion

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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In Defense of Tivoli Condos

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Last week Diamante Investments and MSA architects released their recent renderings of Tivoli Condos, a 22-storey, 106 unit, mix-use condo situated on James Street North.

In many ways, the proposed condo is a daring design for the city. The building is a bold, new, and contemporary style of condominiums.

However, the real daring in its design is its height. Like much of James Street North, the property is only zoned for three to six stories, meaning this development will require amended bylaws.

More about the bylaws here: What the 22-storey Tivoli Proposal Means for James Street and Downtown

The proposed amendments to change zoning requirements for its height, setback, and parking have sparked controversy. The arguments against the proposed changes are that the building will be out of context with the neighbourhood and could harm the downtown’s future development.

James Street North is in the midst of a revolution. A street of predominately three to four storey buildings, coffee shops, thrift stores, restaurants and many other small businesses have made this old cultural hub vibrant and popular again. It is unsurprising for the neighbourhood to be cautious of any development that might deadlock its progress.

However, as this city gains momentum through potential investments like this development, changes are inevitable.

As design evolves and infill is required to create density, regulations will need to change to accommodate the growth of a city. Heritage plays an integral role in the cities future, but it also shouldn’t be what slows it down. For years this city has seen an unchecked growth in sprawl, straining the core and hindering its economy. Now, as the urban pattern shifts, the city needs to think big. In order to intensify the core, the only way to build is up.

The Tivoli Theatre proposal is far from out of context. A three storey commercial podium at street level, as well as the renovation of the old Tivoli Theatre, will not only connect the building with its immediate streetscape, but also add to James North’s walkability and commercial viability.

The remaining 19 storeys of residential space are an appealing prospect. With the James Street North GO expansion, SoBi Hamilton Bikeshare, proximity to the Bayfront and its location on one of the hottest streets in the city, this development will have no issues finding buyers.

As we build higher, we will see more people in the core, more business, more investment, and what’s most important to the city, more tax revenue.

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I Heart Hamilton and Cut From Steel present The #HamOnt Blog Fair at The Casbah

Don’t have any plans before our hometown Hamilton Tiger-Cats face the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 101st Grey Cup? Come out to the #HamOnt Blog Fair, have a couple drinks, and mingle with some of Hamilton’s best bloggers.

Presented by I Heart Hamilton and Cut From Steel, the blog fair will take place at The Casbah from 2-6pm and admission is free!

Bloggers include:

• I Heart Hamilton Tour (http://ihearthamilton.ca/)
• Cut From Steel (http://cutfromsteel.com/)
• This Must Be The Place (http://www.thismustbetheplace.ca/)
• Extreme Nonchalance (http://www.extremenonchalance.com/)
• Not My Typewriter (http://www.notmytypewriter.com/)
• The Hungry Gnome (http://www.thehungrygnome.net/)
• Hamilton Small Fries (http://hamiltonsmallfries.wordpress.com/)
• Steel and the City(http://www.youtube.com/steelandthecity)
• Rebuild Hamilton (https://rebuildhamilton.com/)
• Hustle and Glamour (http://hustleandglamour.com/)
• 100 Mile Microphone (http://hundredmilemicrophone.blogspot.ca/)
• Love It A Lot (http://www.loveitalot.com/)
• Oh Summer Candy (http://ohsummercandy.blogspot.ca/)
• When Words Fail, Photography Speaks (http://chandarys.blogspot.ca/)
• Greater Hamilton Musician (http://www.hamiltonmusician.com/)
• The Starfish (http://thestarfish.ca/)
• Katherine Lamb (http://katherinelamb.com/)
• Fat Girl Food Squad (http://fatgirlfoodsquad.com/)
• Kitestring(Chris Farias) (http://kitestring.ca/)
• Dirty Mac Poster & Design (http://www.dirtymacposter.blogspot.ca/)
& MORE

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The alt-electro-dance duo of Dear Rouge will be performing at 5pm; so don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes. And if you’re hungry, Jonny Blonde Food Truck will be on location to satisfy your cravings.

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/613952171983986

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Sounding Off: Mirvish+Gehry. Does Toronto really need a Bilbao effect?

On Monday, David Mirvish and Frank Gehry presented their new vision for Toronto’s Entertainment District, Mirvish+Gehry – a complex consisting of three 85-storey condominiums, an art gallery, six floors of retail space, and a new Ontario College of Art and Design building.  If approved by City Council, the new development is bound to be a world famous complex, but is it what Toronto needs?


The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

“The Bilbao Effect” is a term used by architect Witold Rybczynski – named after Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain – to define a work of architecture that puts a city on the proverbial map. Toronto isn’t like Bilbao, however, or even Los Angeles, where Gehry’s other piece of monolithic architecture – Walt Disney Theatre – stands out.

The city already has the CN Tower, the six Toronto-Dominion Centre buildings (which single-handedly modernized the Toronto Skyline in 1967), the SkyDome (also known as Rogers Centre), One King West, the recently completed Trump tower, and countless other iconic buildings with character that adorn the sky.

The Entertainment District is growing at an exponential rate, so why stymie its progress by another blockbuster development? Many prominent architects and urban planners believe that cities develop best organically and a project this large could very easily create not only visual, but also physical borders in an area that thrives off walkability.

Sure, the architecture will be brilliant, with one of the most revered architects in the world, Frank Gehry, designing super-structures for his hometown. There will also be a new 25,000 square foot OCAD building called “The Public Learning Centre for Visual Art, Cultural Studies and Art History” that will be the University’s first satellite campus, but it appears this project is more about egos than people.

For example, another piece of the mega project is a 60,000 square foot art gallery that will exhibit David Mirvish’s personal collection. However, in order for the art gallery to be constructed they will have to tear down Princess of Wales Theatre.

Although the theatre is only 19-years-old, it has become a landmark on King Street and tearing a theatre down to create a personal exhibit has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Torontonians.

There’s no doubt that the Mirvish-Gehry development would bring in plenty of tax revenue for Toronto through condo fees and retail space. However, it’s something that is far too grandiose for the area and even Toronto, in general.

After All, King Street is now the hub of the Toronto International Film Festival, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on the stars of the festival and not the surrounding buildings?

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The Final Labour Day Classic

Canada’s National Anthem being performed before the last Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Even though the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a shocking fourth quarter comeback, the final Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium was a game to remember not only for it’s dramatic ending, but also from the overall Labour Day experience that’s never failed to disappoint.

The Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium is known around the league as one of the most intense, important, and hotly contested games of the regular season. Toronto Argonaut players hate it, Hamilton Tiger-Cat players love it, and just about everyone in Hamilton wants to be there for it.

Scott Park, which is located across the street from the south side of the stadium, was over-capacity with tailgaters consuming their fair share of alcohol and sausages hours before kick off. The atmosphere surrounding the stadium before the game was almost celebratory, with a cheerful crowd passing the turnstiles, ready to absorb every second of a famous last game.

Ivor Wynne Stadium is a relic; a stadium of times past; a reminder of better days in The Hammer, when jobs were in abundance and industry was booming. Previously named Civic Stadium, it’s inception was in 1928, ages before modern monolithic, boring stadiums. With wood seating, pillars blocking fans views in some sections of the south side, and no variety of concessions, it’s easy to see why management is so eager to see a new stadium erected in it’s place. Most Tiger-Cat fans, however, would disagree.

The stadium is sandwiched between Melrose and Balsam Avenue in East Hamilton, where many would call the “heart” of the city. Parking is scarce, so often you find yourself parking on the driveways and lawns of residents (thankfully, my grandfather lives a block away and always saves a spot on his front lawn for me) within the areas surrounding the stadium. If you’re taking the HSR, you get a free shuttle ride upon brandishing your ticket as the city increases the transit schedule for the additional ridership the game brings.

In an unexpected twist, the halftime show was the Syracuse University Orangemen marching band. They were seated in section 21 during the game (directly behind where I was seated – awesome!) and were a great boost to the home fans, performing Hamilton chants and classic marching band songs in-between plays. Needless to say, they overshadowed the traveling Toronto Argonauts band, “The Argonotes”.

A perfect day was only mildly disrupted by a tough loss. But one thing is for certain, it’s going to be a very sad day when this stadium is torn down. Many memories were made here, over several generations. It will be interesting to see how the new stadium will turn out, however. Will they change the stands from North-South to East-West? Is there going to be more than just beer and hot dogs? And will the citizens of this passionate city accept their new mecca?

Bring on 2015 and the new Labour Day traditions that will follow. Us Tiger Cat fans are hungry for more.

Oskee Wee Wee.

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