With a thwack, Joanne Greene sets down Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class on a table at Williams Coffee Pub on Discovery Drive. With an inspiring view of sailboats and freighters and the expanse of Hamilton Harbour, Greene looks back on 25 years of selling real estate in Hamilton. "I've never been bored." She's excited by the artist-led transformation of James St. N., a nod to Florida's theories on artists' effects on economic development.
And she's happy to report another positive trend – the return of young families to Westdale, the area bordering McMaster University to the west of Main and King Streets, and just a few kilometres from the centre of downtown. "That area is changing and stabilizing since Mac added the large new residence," Greene says. The just-completed student residence has reduced the demand for rental properties, so homes that were once packed with students are reverting back to single-family ownership and strengthening the village-like atmosphere of Westdale. Greene flips through a stack of MLS listings-solid houses in the downtown core, ranging in price from $140,00 to just over $200,000. "It's less of a well-kept secret that there are real deals here, but when people come here they are blown away by the quality of life."
Still Hamilton needs more condos, more lofts and a stronger push to redevelop brownfields, according to Greene. Within the next three years the city will oversee a renovation and facelift of the 170-year-old Hamilton market, McMaster University is moving forward on the off-campus Innovation Park, a research and development centre located on a brownfield site, midway between the university and downtown, and the city's long-term goal is to add more housing along the harbourfront.
It's the kind of quiet storm that happens in Hamilton. A little bit quirky, tough and tenacious, and lacking in pretension. "When I moved here, I thought I'd be going back to Toronto every week," Bowers says over a cup of latte. "But this has everything I need.''
Note to skeptics: Read the second graf on how creative economic development strategy is causing the return of young families.. I've already been learning about the remarkable transformation going on in Kitchener-Waterloo, now my eyes are peeled on Hamilton as well.