Last week I got a phone call asking if I would able to tour upwards of 40 Hamiltonians around town for a few hours. Apparently there are a lot of folks in Hamilton, Ontario who are interested in exploring Rust Belt cities in the US, including Buffalo.
Earlier today, I met up with the urbanism enthusiasts at the Five Points intersection, which is a great example of a neighborhood on the rise. I was fortunate that we ran into Frits Abell (lead image), who is an activist that owns a number of properties in the immediate vicinity. I asked Frits to take the helm, and he gladly did so. Listening to Frits talk about all of the advancements in the neighborhood was pretty exciting, even for me. It’s interesting to note that after touching upon numerous developments, the one that was most exciting (for the group) was the story of Urban Roots Garden Cooperative. They were fascinated about the co-op, which is, of course, member-owner driven. It’s funny. Urban Roots has been around for so long now, that I tend to take it for granted. It was great to hear members of the group talk among themselves, saying, “This would be great to have in Hamilton… this is something that we need to start.”
Hearing these people talk about Urban Roots got me to thinking about my recent trip to Hamilton, when I discovered that the city had beat Buffalo to the punch on curbside cafés (the On-Street Patio Program). I began to think how cool it was that these 40 people had expressed an interest in Buffalo, and hopped on a bus to learn firsthand about the developments that were underway. At the same time I wondered if anyone in Buffalo was actually shuffling off to other cities en masse, to learn about urbanist initiatives that are foreign to Buffalo. Everyone appeared to be having such a wonderful time as we toured around the city, with stopping points at The Martin House, The Tri-Main, The Martin House, The Central Terminal, RiverWorks, and The Barrel Factory, with lots of sightseeing along the way. Yesterday, the same group toured the city’s East Side, which they found full of potential. The two-day experience meant that they got a good chance to take in a number of aspects of the city – they also stayed the night at a hotel, and got a chance to eat along the way (including the West Side Bazaaar, which they all loved). These types of tours are real eye openers, where people discover all sorts of things about their neighboring cities. Also, the tours help to give a perspective that people wouldn’t get by just showing up on a city’s doorstep, even though that is a great way to do it as well.
Maybe someday Buffalo Rising can orchestrate a similar tour to Hamilton. Who knows. I made a good connection today with some folks the could help to make it happen. It’s so important to step back and do some city soul searching. And Hamilton is a fantastic city that is also on the rise. These types of tours help to make strong connections between cities that are so close in proximity to one another. I know for a fact that the members of the group are more apt to come back on their own, now that they have been given some navigational pointers. There’s no reason that Hamilton and Buffalo should not have a stronger relationship. As it stands now, there’s not much of a connection, which is unfortunate, because we could learn a lot from one another. And lest we forget that the economic mega-region (Torbuffchesterton Falls) could majorly benefit from an increase in day-tripping dollars. Something to think about.