Saturday, February 6, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 6

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. The Location
3. The size (population)
4. The scale
5. Creativity and the arts

6. The buildings

A lot of the time, I just like walking around and looking at buildings. We have the some of the best building stock around.

Incredibly historic buildings. Some pre-Confederation. (this heritage list is 184 pages!)
Victorian houses (this is just my neighbourhood. there's many more.)
1930s-ish 2 1/2 stories
(again, just one 'hood. these are EVERYWHERE).
The first indoor mall in Canada
The last metal-facade building in Canada
Our first skyscraper
Fantastic density
Even Modernist buildings
(this history is not without several mistakes thus far and demolition by neglect).

And so much of our housing is in truly fantastic neighbourhoods. Strathcona and Stinson are two that have a combination of high, middle and low-end housing. There's several decent neighbourhoods with good starter homes. There's several higher-end neighbourhoods that cater to more of the yuppie and yuppie family markets like Locke. There's gorgeous mansions in Durand and swaths of bungalows in the East end. There's stone townhomes and brick cottages and glass-fronted condominiums.

Even the bad - truly run-down- neighbourhoods are generally not that way because of the housing stock. Gibson, which is a ruin (at least parts of it) has a stock of those double brick 2 1/2 stories that makes me weep to look at it being squandered. Just large enough for a family of 4, still able to fit a family of 6, and a truly palatial space for 2. With a vertical, efficient use of land, this type of building is a favorite of mine among Hamilton's incredibly diverse building stock.

I love those buildings. The history. The density. The character. The potential.

I rent one. It's a Victorian house from around 1910. Jarod and I just have the top floor - which is a 2-bedroom at around 900 square feet. We've got floor-to-ceiling windows that open, hardwood floors, beautiful wood trim and the biggest kitchen we've ever had. (For dirt cheap).

I plan on owning one. Victorian possibly... but there's a ton of 2.5 story places from the 1930s or so with less period detail, but great double-brick bones, that I would LOVE to gut and redo.

I plan on developing some. I don't make much money right now, but one day I will. So I want to be a good landlord. I want to get a building that's been neglected - or several. And make them great again.

But I don't want to buy the worst house in the best neighbourhood and flip it. I want to lift up and make better whatever area I'm in, and invest not just to make money, but to make the city a better place. I'd also love to help people own homes who couldn't otherwise and give safe places to live for people who need it.

This building - four stories of brick, with banners covering the top three storeys, was on sale for about $250k a few months ago. $250k! That's it! If me or someone else could secure a half-million, imagine the possibilities with this one. Smack in the centre of downtown and part of a historical streetwall. Make it the best thing in the neighbourhood. Raise the bar.

People are already doing this. They own apartment buildings, homes, commercial, storefronts. I know people who are renovating all of these types of buildings, and making the city better. And I know of many more that aren't acquaintances or friends.

There's areas where this isn't happening, or is a lot slower. Sure, we face a lot of poverty, absentee slumlords, and rental issues where conditions are terrible. But how much worse could these issues be if every poor person in Hamilton was put into a decrepit tower like in other cities? Here the possibility exists of renting a house for a very good price, and even owning a house if you're making a single minimum wage income.

And most people in the city can AFFORD to buy. This is a city where a lot of people can take on the smaller projects (of the three townhouses adjoining (picture here) , two have very new renovations and the third is in great shape. Victoria from King to Barton has a couple dozen houses that were renovated in the past two years... very encouraging). Several slightly-larger projects are already underway

Right now, I just came back from the newly inaugurated monthly By-Law Crawl. Basically, if people have buildings with trash in front, broken windows, decaying exteriors or other kinds of neglect, the only way they get dealt with is by a by-law officer. Those officers only investigate if people complain. So 50+ of us walked around today, noted the worst offenders, and complained.

Even now, I take good care of the space I rent (These guys sell cork flooring coated in vinyl that can be used in washrooms - I've considered asking our landlord if we can buy and install them. It can't only be in big, expensive cities that tenants improve spaces while they live there).

I do my best to make this city better while I'm here - and it's not hard, because we have great stuff to work with.

I love the buildings. And I love this city.

1 comment:

Cory Slinger said...

Hi Meredith,

Great post today. I really relate to your vision. It surprises me that so many "slumlords" don't recognize the connection between maintaining a propery and having a more sustainable cash flow. You'll do well once you get going.