Community Regeneration and Built Heritage Resources in Hamilton's Business Improvement Areas
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This study investigates the relationship between built heritage resources in community improvement projects and social, cultural and economic integrity within their geographical boundaries. These projects are concerned specifically with initiatives that strive to boost the local economy by improving aspects the built environment. These renewal projects often focus on street beautification, individual community-based culture and visually pleasing architecture which draw pedestrians, customers, tourists and businesses. More importantly, these projects are meant to give the community the opportunity to improve their properties and as a result, improve the quality of life. This study focuses on three Business Improvement Areas in the City of Hamilton, Ontario as a case study. Hamilton’s long-standing dependence on the steel industry has created its widely-recognised identity as a blue-collar town. Hamilton’s built landscape reflects this identity with numerous industrial buildings and workers housing which dominates large sections of the inner-city and shoreline. However, the end of the 20th century marked a change from an industrial-based economy, to a knowledge and technology-based economy. This translated into a built landscape in need of renewal and improvement in order to accommodate new use. Some parts of Hamilton are currently feeling the effects of urban decline, where vacancy and poorly maintained urban areas are forming a cyclical relationship between social problems, such as crime and poverty (Milgrim, 2010). Fortunately, Hamilton’s previous success in the steel industry resulted in an urban landscape full of unique old historic buildings. These buildings can be used in creating a renewed urban landscape with an authentic identity that is true to Hamilton’s history and cultural identity. Recognising this, the City of Hamilton initiated several financial incentives and grant programs in order to help the community break the cycle of community degeneration and improve the built landscape. While Hamilton has issued reports outlining its economic contributions, no studies have been conducted in order to understand how these financial incentive programs are affecting communities economically, socially and culturally in relation to the historic built landscape. Therefore, this study investigates the relationship between Hamilton’s Business Improvement Areas and the state of economic, social and cultural integrity, paying special attention to its built heritage resources. This study includes both primary and secondary data. Primary data includes a building condition and use survey, business-mail in surveys, key stakeholder interviews, and observational research. Secondary includes (but is not limited to) market evaluations from the City of Hamilton that specifically relate to the three selected Business Improvement Areas. This study ultimately concluded that the International Village Business Improvement Area compared to the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area and the Barton Village Business Improvement Area had the highest scores for economic, social, and cultural integrity. It also concluded that the Barton Village Business Improvement area had the lowest scores for economic, social, and cultural integrity.