Hamilton's downtown in transition

By George Bailey, Special to Postmedia Network

The exterior of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ont. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)

The exterior of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ont. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)

HAMILTON, Ont. -- Like many North American cities today, there are plans in Hamilton (pop. 505,000) to re-vitalize its once glorious downtown. The first start is being made by the Hamilton Business Improvement Association (BIA) and the City of Hamilton. The Gore Park Promenade, (not to be confused with Gage Park on Main Street E.) smack-dab in the middle of downtown is taking on new life. This is a downtown in transition.

When I visited on a sunny Friday afternoon it was alive with activity. An eclectic group of artists, artisans and entrepreneurs, had set up tents under lovely mature trees. They were selling every thing from jewelry to cupcakes. There was even live music.

The first thing you'll notice in the park is the magnificent Gore Park Fountain. It was built in the late 19th century and refurbished about a dozen years ago. Mike Andrushko, a veteran tarot card reader, and one of the vendors, had set up near the fountain.

"It's an attempt to bring more people to the downtown area of the city because for many years the park has been used by transients," he said.

It seemed at least on a Friday afternoon to be working. There were lots of office workers and visitors enjoying the green space of the park. However, on the nearby sidewalks there was the usual crowd hanging out. Some were waiting to go into Tim Hortons (it's the only Tim Hortons that I've seen with a security guard outside), others were trying to sell you something and some were trying to save your soul.

Now, let's get back to the Gore Park Promenade. One of the summer students working on the re-vitalization of the park explained, "The city has recently taken the buses out of this area and we simply wanted to take advantage of space that is available to us and bring more business to downtown."

This is the first year of the program which runs from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday until Sept. 2. live performances take place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each of these days. The popular Steve Burnside and the Marquis from Niagara perform on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

A word of caution: parking is very limited. If you intend to park in one nearby private lot, bring lots of toonies. The charge to feed the meters is $3 per half hour and if you come back late expect a $75 ticket on the windshield. On the other hand, if you park at the nearby City of Hamilton indoor parking garage (look for the circle with the green P in the middle) at the corner of McNab St. N and York Blvd. parking is reasonable -- $6 all day. GPS users can punch in 55 York Blvd.

Hamilton Farmers' market

Be sure to visit the newly renovated indoor Hamilton Farmers' Market. It's a real gem. It has rows of fruit and vegetable stands. You'll be bombarded with smells. Everything from fresh flowers, cheeses, and fish and bakery items will give your nose a workout. Try the $2 butter tarts at De la Terre Artisan Bakery made with fresh Niagara honey.

One interesting find inside the market is the newly restored historic Birks Clock that now hangs from the ceiling of the market. It was built in 1930 and originally commissioned by Birks Jewelers. It one time stood at the corner of King and James Street. The bronze clock weights 907 kilograms and is almost 5.2 metres tall.

If you fancy some more indoor shopping, Jackson Square is within walking distance.

For more information

Visit or 1-800-263-8590. For Downtown Hamilton information: or 905-523-1646.

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