A horde of onlookers with a penchant for architectural history roamed Gore Park Sunday afternoon to learn more about the area's storied buildings.
Robert Hamilton, the former president of the Hamilton branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) led the tour. He told CBC Hamilton it was organized as a direct response to the proposed demolition of a row of buildings that line the park on King Street East.
Wilson Blanchard, a property management company with big holdings downtown, applied for a demolition permit for 18 to 22, 24 and 28 King St. E. on Dec. 4.
City staff can issue the permit by Jan. 9 unless council moves to block the demolition — an unlikely possibility, as council isn't scheduled to meet again until Jan. 23.
"This is on the bubble," Hamilton said to the throng of about 75 onlookers while gesturing to those buildings. "I leave it to you folks. You have a say in what happens in Gore Park and your city."
The tour took people through the history of the park from its beginnings in the early 1800s all the way up to the squabbles of the present day.
"It's a space much loved by Hamilton," Hamilton said, citing the park's fountain, Queen Victoria Statue and Birks Clock (which now resides in the Hamilton Farmer's Market) as meeting places for Hamiltonians throughout the ages.
And though he spoke about cornerstones of the area like the Royal Connaught Hotel and the old Bank of Nova Scotia Building (which now hosts Chester's Beers of the World) the conversation always invariably came back to the string of buildings on King Street that are up for demolition.
"It's always been frustrating in Hamilton that heritage just isn't realized," said Lloyd Alter, the former president of the provincial ACO. "There are just such great bones here."
Alter, who came in for the tour from Toronto, said he feels Hamilton's "heritage struggles" are directly linked to its two-way streets debate.
"To me, it seems like all of Hamilton is a network of ways to get through it as fast as you can," Alter said. "Slow down. Pace defines how you treat the things around you."
Amidst the controversy, Wilson Blanchard doesn't plan to go ahead with the takedown of the buildings lining Gore Park until June 1, said Robert Miles, a property manager for the firm.
Miles said the company hasn't tabled precise plans for the redevelopment, and would consider preserving some historical components of the complex.
"We're open to discussions to maintain aspects of the building," Miles said. "It's an open slate, an open discussion."