A different side of City Hall – Jackson St W, Hamilton
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Call it the end of an era, a new chapter, or a failure. No matter what you call it, change is coming to Gore Park.
As of January 9th, developer Wilson Blanchard was cleared by City Council for the demolition of 18-28 King Street East – a series of four row houses on the south side of Gore Park – to make room for a mixed-use condominium development. However, after community opposition, Blanchard has decided to withdraw his application to demolish all but two of the buildings. But was this a fair compromise?
These four Victorian-era row houses were erected between 1840 and 1875. Renowned architect William Thomas (famous for St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto) designed the three-storey buildings, 18 and 22 King Street (which Blanchard plans to keep). The buildings facades, with intricately designed cornices and arcade-style windows, are still intact.
All four historical buildings, however, should have been designated as heritage buildings by Heritage Canada, which would prevent them from being demolished.
The City of Hamilton’s Heritage Committee’s track record for preserving buildings is far from flattering. In 2006, the Province had to step in and save the Lister Block after it was slated for demolition. If it weren’t for community outcry, all four buildings – instead of two – would currently be under the wrecking ball.
These row houses, sometimes referred to as “streetwalls”, are integral to the streetscape of Gore Park – the city’s Civic Square.
The rows of these attached structures simulate continuity, essentially enclosing the square, therefore defining the space for the activities Gore Park can host. Like the Gore Park Master Plan – a pedestrian-friendly plaza closed off from traffic.
However, the outcome isn’t all that bad. Artist renderings released by the developer reveal the infill of buildings at a three-storey height beside what would be the two remaining buildings, as well as taller mixed-use buildings superimposed into the adjacent parking lot that sits idle.
Another positive outcome from this compromise is the active role the community played in shaping their city’s future development. This role is an important element in achieving a sustainable city.