Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gobsmacked = Me.

And I may as well throw in 'disheartened' and 'underwhelmed' and 'dismayed'...

I 'listened' to the GIC meeting from yesterday. (Unlike in the city where I currently am...Norfolk, VA...the visual presentation is pointless taking in.) I'd forgotten it had taken place, and I was prompted by the Spec article ''Council goes slow on downtown grocery store grant'.

Here's a comment left there: 

"If one was needed downtown it would already exist."

Unfortunately, this was the tenor of what I heard coming from councillors.

Earlier this year, I'd promoted some discussion about a downtown grocery store. It began on Facebook, then was a circulated email amongst respected Hamiltonians, then got space in The Spec, courtesy of Ryan McGreal. 

As someone who has spent a good deal of his adult life living and working downtown, and beyond this, very much attached to the place regardless of where I've lived, I don't have the same problems that some of our councillors have with the idea of there being a supermarket downtown. Or, specific to this situation, the promotion of one being there. 

In fact, I remember when there were two downtown. A Loblaws in the basement of Terminal Towers (now the Effort building) and a Barn at York and Hess. Neither are with us anymore, with the stories behind each one's leaving a little different. 

So why isn't there a grocery store downtown? 

And why is it such a big deal to consider having one?

Further, why do so many councillors come off as...well, as  such meh-lcontents when it comes to 'revitalizing the downtown'? 

-There isn't a downtown grocery store because- Well, there used to be stores servicing those who lived there. Plural.  Such as Corsini's. Just not 'supermarkets'. (Other than the ones I've mentioned.) The downtown  had local stores that sufficed. Outside the downtown...whether it be around the old Centre Mall, or on 'The Mountain' or all the way out to Stoney Creek at Gray and Queenston...we had supermarkets. 

The problem is that once your core population reaches a certain point, people expect to be able to shop conveniently. At least in the cities I've lived in. From Collingwood to London to Toronto to New York City and points in-between. They don't want to have to get in a car and drive to get what they need. 

Yes, there's a Food Basics at Mary and Barton. No offense, but that's not going to cut it as a purveyor of goods to new, not-languishing Hamiltonians. 

And yes, there's a Fortino's at Dundurn between Main and King. But that's not what I'd consider 'downtown'. 

And while I'm wheeling out the whinge, I'll say this: downtown has suffered for the longest time, while witnessing many other parts of The Greater Amalgamated City of Hamilton 'not-suffer'. We're a good twenty-five years behind in terms of where we should be development-wise...and here's this initiative to get us back on track...and it's flogged by Council's collective wet noodle. 


-It's such a big deal for some to consider a downtown grocery store/supermarket...grant or no-grant...because ...because... Because the people who shrug or pull a face at the prospect drive. They're disinterested. If you listen to the 'outsiders' commenting, or in the way they ask the questions they did, it's quite clear that there's disinterest going on. Never mind the complete and utter disconnect. 

I'm sounding cynical here, but I guess I'm a little fed up with  the shitty stewardship that's been provided the downtown core for more than two decades now. And this council...even the outlying members...seem quite prepared to add to this legacy. '

I'm not saying that Council should make it their business to make this happen in the form of a grant, and there are other ways to make things happen if you really, truly believe in the merits of things happening, period. But I guess I've reached the point where I'm tired of the tenor of Council. 


What a wishy-washy mishmash most of the proceedings at 71 Main Street West consistently seem. 

For the record, there is a location that is a no-brainer when it comes to where a 'chain downtown grocery store/supermarket' should go. In fact, several. They're all within the Jackson Square/City Centre facility. 

But I don't believe that major chains should be courted by way of 'prize money'...even though it would be my preferred type of business to open in the core. Yet I am in favour of a homegrown start-up co-op type being supported financially, especially if there is a 'local' emphasis. 

A final note: Can we please get away from the simpering formality of 'Through you, Mr. Chairman' and all the waffling grandstanding, all of the iterations-upon-iterations of the same friggin' point, over and over and over again?

If only because, in relative terms –my own complaint notwithstanding– nobody's actually listening. 

M Adrian Brassington

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I'm always interested in feedback, differing opinions, even contrarian long as they're delivered with decorum...with panache and flair always helping.