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MY TOWN | Bill Curran
From the Hip

Kyla Kumar

Not only is Bill Curran the co-founding namesake in Thier + Curran Architects, he’s an outspoken proponent of revitalizing Hamilton’s dwindling stock of heritage buildings. Bill recently sat down with Marc Skulnick to discuss Hamilton’s ongoing resurgence, what (still) needs to be done downtown and why the same old, same old simply isn’t working.

Do you think our downtown has turned that ever-elusive corner?
“Still almost [sigh]... For arts and culture yes, but downtown needs more and a higher quality of housing development actually built, not just announced and re-announced. Retail quality is still weak. We still need better bars and restaurants in the core. Jackson Square has turned the corner but needs to seriously invest in improving its design. And we need a boutique hotel. Then we will know we’ve ‘arrived!’”

You’ve worked on more than a few high-profile design projects here in Hamilton. Which one(s) are you most proud of?
“Off the top of my head, I’d say 118 James North, where our office is, and the 95 King East lofts and Mills Hardware as modest adaptive reuses downtown...I also think Mohawk College’s McKeil School of Business and our renovations there have contributed to an overdue changing of the face of the college...Good Shepherd Square proves that infill and intensification and affordable housing, if well-designed, actually enhance neighbourhoods...The Lister Visitor Centre and city offices were modest but fun.”

Is the city doing enough to advance downtown renewal?
“Finally City Council is valuing heritage after decades of neglect and stopped the Gore demolition...Thanks Councillor Farr, but we still need a solution implemented there, and soon. The city could do more downtown by selling, ASAP, the many vacant, underutilized parcels of land and parking lots that the taxpayers own to catalyze quality development, and quickly. Increased development will spur more heritage redevelopment and more downtown renewal.”

Hamilton needs more...
“Visionary city staff and politicians helping Hamilton advance with making real, positive change and acting on new ideas. We need to fund the arts better, make some catalytic changes such as on Barton Street, reduce red tape and city costs, and we need to get Pier 8 built. No more talk; we need action! We also need to entice, lure, beg or kidnap a new breed of developer here to get higher quality buildings; the same old guys doing the same old things the same old way is clearly failing us.”

Hamilton needs less..
“People clinging to the fear of change, especially of inevitable height and density coming. We need to embrace good design and positive intensification; we do not need more parks.”

One-way streets: love ‘em or hate ‘em?
“One-way streets simply kill street life along them, end of story. Someday we will regain the street quality we had in 1956; it is so sad.”

What is Hamilton’s best-kept secret?
“The unique gumbo of water, escarpment, arts, industry, diverse people and their food. Being out on the harbour at sunset or at night is so cool, especially along the rawer, grittier marine and industrial edges. And then there is Gallery 435, the sunken garden at Hamilton Cemetery, Sam Lawrence Park at night, the Bruegel-Bosch Bus and its sweet room overlooking City Hall at the AGH...Is that enough?”