Comment 63963

By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2011 at 10:31:18 in reply to Comment 63937

It also occurs to me that on a very basic level, consumer patterns are anchored to transportation options.

In decades past, when most Canadians did not own cars, those patterns tended to favour the efficiency of centralized shopping districts, which at that point could only be rationalized in downtowns. With increasing car ownership and the novelty that came with it – liberation from the familiar, independence from transit schedules, relative freedom of movement in space and time – consumers were for the first time able to redefine their spheres of movement. Whatever the one-way streets decision was intended to facilitate, it arrived at a time when cars were reshaping the landscape, both in terms of infrastructure and commercial variety.

Hamilton witnessed explosive population growth in the mountain area during the 1950s and 1960s – population that included downtown residents relocating to newer suburbs – and which had no small impact on where dollars were spent. (Not that this is a totally new thing. The Hamilton depicted in the Portrait of a City promo reel had more than tripled in size from the land area it occupied 60 years earlier.)

There was also the opening of QEW's Freeman Bypass (Burlington interchange) in August 1958, and the phased construction of the 403, which opened in December 1963 and gradually moved eastward from Freeman, reached Aberdeen Avenue exits as of July 1965, Ancaster in 1969. Those changes allowed Hamiltonians to travel widely with greater ease, and they were given reason to do just that, as enclosed shopping malls (1950 onward) threw down a new challenge to historic merchant cores: within an hour's drive of downtown Hamilton, you could choose from Yorkdale Shopping Centre (opened 1964), Sherway Gardens (opened 1971), Fairview Mall (opened 1972) and Square One Shopping Centre (opened 1973), which joined Jackson Square (opened 1972) in the brave new world of consumer goods.

So while Jackson Square didn't necessarily invigorate the long-term health of downtown shopping, and while one-way streets such as Main and Cannon have arguably contributed to a pedestrian-averse environment, I would contend that those two factors alone can't fully account for the downturn of Hamilton's core.

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