Residents want to keep patch of green
Moving Sunset Cultural Garden to make way for housing doesn’t sit well with neighbours
A plan to swap a community garden for new housing near Bayfront Park is not going over well with neighbours.
The patch of green space at the corner of Bay and Strachan streets, right across the road from Hamilton’s biggest harbourfront park, was purchased by the city decades ago for a lower city “Perimeter Road” that was never built.
The land was designated for low-density housing under the west harbour secondary plan in 2012, but local residents banded together with a 1,100-name petition and eventually secured city permission — and funding — to create the Sunset Cultural Garden on the site in 2015.
That garden was always meant to be to be “temporary,” said ward Coun. Jason Farr, who is revisiting those delayed housing plans with an eye to providing 12 to14 units of affordable-housing flexibility in the fast-developing North End.
“This is not a park; it is a garden,” he said at Tuesday’s planning meeting, where members voted to declare the land surplus. “And a garden can be transplanted.”
But garden supporters and nearby residents argued Tuesday the city should focus on redeveloping brownfields, not existing green space that has been transformed into a garden by residents’ hard work and taxpayer dollars.
“A tremendous amount of volunteer labour went into creating this garden,” said Candy Venning, a landscape designer who volunteered her expertise for the project, which includes native plantings, a gravel walkway and stone plaques inscribed with original poetry about sunsets in 12 languages.
About 30 residents helped build the garden, and periodically get together to care for the native and pollinator plants, said gardener Nancy Hindmarsh.
“We’ve put in thousands of hours.”
Venning acknowledged she feels “personally invested” in the property, but also questioned why the city offered $10,000 in arearating cash to build the garden if development of the property was expected so quickly.
Farr is also exploring the possibility of selling a slice of Eastwood Park to help pay for the rebuilding of its failing arena, although that idea is slated for public consultation.
“The North End needs more green space, not less,” argued Hindmarsh. “There must be other options that aren’t already used as park space.”
Farr said the $10,000 was initially approved for a Chinese cultural group’s planned garden in Bayfront Park and later transferred to what is now the Sunset Cultural Garden “on the understanding” the installation would be temporary.
Farr pointed out the North End has far more parkland — about 86 acres — than any other neighbourhood in Ward 2, with most others making due with less than five acres. Regardless, he noted ongoing plans for new housing on Pier 8 will add five extra acres of green space to the west harbour.
He said the city is willing to “relocate and replicate exactly” the Sunset Cultural Garden to a nearby municipally owned grassy boulevard if the volunteer caretakers are on board.
The motion was supported by Coun. Chad Collins, who argued a low-density housing development could provide a mix of market and affordable housing units at a “critical time” for the neighbourhood.
Collins, who chairs the CityHousing Hamilton board, said the agency is forging ahead with an ambitious redevelopment of the aging Jamesville social housing complex on James Street North that will inevitably displace some low-income residents temporarily.
New family units at Bay and Strachan could provide either temporary or even permanent affordable housing for those displaced residents, he said.
“We’ve promised to do everything within our power to let those residents stay within the neighbourhood during that transition,” he said. “The city is land-rich but resource-poor … we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have available.”
Council still has to ratify the decision to declare the land surplus at next week’s council meeting.
Meredith Evans, Nancy Hindmarsh, Sheri Solway, Sandra Hudson and Candi Venning don’t want to lose Sunset Cultural Garden to North End development.