Dear Mayor Bratina and Ward Councillors,
My name Kevin Makins and I live in Ward 2 with my wife. While I was raised on the Hamilton mountain, we both fell in love with downtown Hamilton and bought our first home downtown nearly five years ago.
I am currently a pastor downtown at Eucharist Church, which shares space with St Paul’s Presbyterian (70 James St S), making us neighbors to City Hall. Our congregation is made up of over a hundred people, nearly all of whom have moved to downtown Hamilton in order to be a part of it’s ongoing renewal. They are passionate about their neighborhoods and the city as a whole.
Much has been said about the ongoing urban renewal of the downtown, with new businesses, festivals, networks and opportunities.
But whenever we create a new culture, we need to do it in a way that coexists well with the existing culture of a place. There is always a danger in urban renewal that a new culture will simply devour the old culture. This is the dark shadow of gentrification, and it’s effects can be seen on numerous neighborhoods in Toronto, and in cities all over North America. The danger with this kind of renewal is it isn’t a renewal at all, it is simply a shifting of poverty that has little to no concern for the overall health of a city.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t start new businesses and create new culture, but it means that it must always been done with a deep reverence and respect to what has come before it.
On the whole, I believe what has been happening downtown is genuine urban renewal.
We are seeing downtown transplants taking time to learn the neighborhood before they try to change it, we are seeing new businesses that want to honor what has come before them as they work to create a new culture.
This is a slower renewal, because it prioritizes people and relationship over profit and power.
This renewal is less flashy, because it is more concerned with the common good than the good of only one part.
It is a renewal that isn’t desperate for big box names, because it believes that local expression will always lead to a healthier and more sustainable future.
After months of engaging with the casino conversation, and reading articles from both sides, I have become convinced that placing a casino downtown would not create genuine urban renewal.
The language being used is of a “quick fix” to a “shitty downtown,” the articles and comments are filled with derogatory comments towards the poor, the mentally ill, and others who are in difficult and challenging situations.
These comments present downtown as a problem to be fixed, instead of a place we should love and serve.
Ask those deeply involved in the downtown what they think of it. You will hear a love for this city as it is, and a desire to help it become even better.
Casinos pull money away from unique local businesses. Downtown casinos are set up to profit off of those who are vulnerable. Casinos present themselves as fast, flashy, and big, which is the opposite of what so many of us love about downtown Hamilton.
We want slow, sustainable and local renewal, the kind that will be good for all of us, and the kind that will truly last.
Jesus tells a parable where he describes the Kingdom of God like a bit of yeast that a woman mixed into about sixty pounds of flour, until it worked through all the dough.
It isn’t quick and flashy, but slowly and surely, as the yeast mixes through the dough, it begins to work. And something wonderful (and delicious) rises.
I know you all want the best for this city and it's neighborhoods. That is why you are doing what you do. Please hear from all of us who love and serve downtown Hamilton and say "no thank you" to a downtown location. We are trusting you, and our church is praying that you are given wisdom and insight to make the best decision possible.
Grace and peace,
Pastor, Eucharist Church