Hamilton Arts Council

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Home-ilton
Petra  Matar

Downtown Hamilton, what a great place to be right now. I am ecstatic I found a home here. The heavily creative un-pompous burgeoning art scene, the amazing music, the good theatre, and this strong sense of connection and community you experience downtown are absolute gold. I didn’t come from Hamilton, I didn’t grow up here, but this is what I call home. Being a “third culture kid," I never considered a place “home," but Hamilton I definitely would. Now, I don’t consider this city home because it is perfect, but because it has a potential that I would love to be a small part of realizing. I have a vested interest in this city.

I see now, non-Hamiltonians, like myself, are starting to see the potential in this city, and the city is beginning to understand that too. My only hope is that the outcome of all of this doesn’t drive Hamilton to be like this city or that city, but instead to continue to grow organically like it has been, and just realizing the potential it already has. Due to my architectural background, my stance tends to be more about the built environment in this city, and currently I am both excited and worried about the development in the city.

Downtown Hamilton doesn’t need that much work in establishing character, because it has some great bones that all the empty lots can learn from. I often look at old architecture in this city (and old pictures in the Library’s Archives), and the first thought that comes to mind is there was a time in this city when people put up structures that had character. Buildings spoke to the street a la the Lister Block, the Right House, Treble Hall, the Bank of Montreal, and all the great old storefronts in its downtown streets to name a few. Public space was understood to be important, which is why Hamilton boasts a public park in the middle of its busy core. That’s some “prime real estate” invested on some grass there. The old homes are gorgeous, and they weave so perfectly with the urban fabric, maintaining their privacy, but not existing in isolation (totally trashing the development up the hill in this statement). So it hurts when I see mundane buildings being built here, or even buildings that exist in towering isolation not even speaking to their surroundings. That isn’t the character of this city, but let enough of these get built and it soon will be. If someone from a 100 years ago in Hamilton saw some of the developments happening today, I promise you they would weep, and I have spoken to many old Hamiltonians who feel that way.

Hamilton, the ambitious city, deserves even more ambition in its built environment, and I am making this my mission in the city.