Paul Wilson: Knock down Hortons, light up Lister
I’ve been off for a couple of weeks. My time was not spent just stuffing down Christmas cake. I was busy thinking about this old city of ours, about what might come to pass in 2013.
Ten thoughts for the year ahead:
1. You learned right here that the Hortons corporation recently took over the first store, Ottawa North and Dunsmure, because 2014 is the chain’s 50th anniversary.
Headquarters isn’t sharing its plans, but there’s just one way to go – knock that place down. It’s not original anyway.
Build something that looks like 1964, with sit-down counter, old-time jukebox, staff in original uniforms, walls laden with memorabilia.
2. Dear Lord, let 2013 be the year that Harry Stinson finally puts people into his endlessly-delayed condo project at the old Stinson school.
One deadline after another gets missed, but Harry tells me now that all 66 suites will be ready to go this May.
Why all the holdups?
"Weather, surprises, this, that and the other thing," he said. "This place is a Rubik’s cube."
Hunter Street GO station
3. The planning for all-day GO continues this year. Most new trains will stop at James North, but please don’t leave the beautiful Hunter Street station out of the picture.
There was long and vigorous debate years ago over whether our GO Centre should be at the James North station or right downtown.
That narrow tunnel under Hunter is a bottleneck to be sure, but the TH&B is one of Hamilton’s finest public spaces.
4. All this year I will continue to worry about the Westdale, the last single-screen theatre in Hamilton.
There’s no budget right now to fix the A, the L and the E on the old marquee, the roof needs work, and there’s the matter of that dinosaur projector that needs jumbo spools of film to put magic on the screen. Meanwhile, the world’s gone digital, and film copies of movies are just about extinct.
5. While we’re at the pictures, save some worry for the Empire six-screen at Jackson Square.
Burlington just lost its downtown movie complex. It could be my imagination, but I sense Empire is not investing in a future in Jackson Square. I hope I’m wrong.
In the meantime, it would be great if the mall found a way to erect a Hollywood-style sign out on King to tell passersby what’s playing inside.
6. There’s great concern about the south side of Gore Park this year, where developer David Blanchard and partners want to knock down a row of 1800s buildings.
At very least, we must save the facades of these structures, as important to the feel of the core as the fountain that stands directly before them. Blanchard must be convinced it’s a mistake to blemish his good track record on heritage in the core.
7. If 2013 expires without something happening at the decaying Royal Connaught, I do believe we’re well and truly sunk.
I never did hear back from the owners after trying my best for a little dialogue. However, from those in the know, I’m still told to look for a Connaught Condos sales trailer in the coming months.
Meanwhile, city staff are wrapping up work on the hotel’s designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.
8. I’m really looking forward to walking through the doors of the new Nations Fresh, opening this spring at the Bay Street end of Jackson Square.
I’m lucky enough to live a 10-minute walk from that location and the thought of being able to stroll home with a bag or two of groceries makes me nearly giddy. It’s been 11 years since downtown had a full-size grocery store. That would be The Barn, Hess at York.
Development around Main
9. The construction cranes are going gangbusters on Main between Bay and Caroline. Suddenly, a 16-storey hotel appeared, and condos are underway at the old Federal building beside it. So surely 2013 will finally be a year of activity one block due west, a barren and bumpy expanse.
Dozens of affordable housing units vanished here 25 years ago for a condo that never got built. The Toronto owners have sat on it ever since.
10. Let’s light up the Lister. We spent nearly $30 million on that six-storey landmark. Now we need to showcase it better at night.
You get a nice image of the first two levels, but the rest falls to darkness. The Lister needs uplighting, spotlights aimed skyward to show the texture of that old brick and the shiny beauty of that terra cotta trim. I heard uplighting was in the original budget, but got cut. Put it back, make us proud.