SOUTH TOWN: JAMES-JOHN SOUTH DISTRICT IMPROVEMENT STUDY

SouthTown is a unique district nestled below the Niagara Escarpment near downtown Hamilton. It encompasses the prominent streets of James and John South and includes major attractions such as St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Hunter Street GO Station, the Augusta entertainment area, and the historic James South Terraces. With the current growth and resurgence occurring in Hamilton, there is a tremendous opportunity for the SouthTown district to flourish as a destination for living, working, shopping, and entertainment.

In order to seize this potential, SouthTown needs a coherent vision built on the area’s strengths while guiding investment to realize the district’s opportunities. In the immediate surrounding neighbourhoods of Durand and Corktown, there is a cluster of well-educated young professionals who are drawn to the style of urban living the area affords. The presence of the hospital and adjacent medical district along with the GO terminal bring thousands into the district every day. This influx, along with current residents, supports the existing retail and restaurant clusters. However, these clusters have limited ability to grow due to a combination of the condition of the streets and sidewalks as well as the prevalence of parking lots that do not allow for a critical mass of continuous store fronts that is common in other successful commercial districts in Hamilton.

The vision for SouthTown presented in this report recommends several actions to guide improvement in the district. The City of Hamilton can help improve the physical condition of streets and sidewalks by investing in urban design that maximizes the use of the more popular corridors. This includes a redesign of the sidewalk in front of the historic James South Terraces, the introduction of public art at key gateways, and the transformation of Augusta Street into Hamilton’s first Woonerf, or pedestrian prominent street, that would become the social centre point for the district. Transit stops can be consolidated away from prime pedestrian social destinations, and pedestrian connections between James, Augusta, and John Streets can be enhanced.

Development of mixed use office, residential and street-front commercial/retail should be encouraged in the prime building sites. Current planning policy can be altered to allow greater height in certain areas, while ensuring building impacts at street level are minimized. Innovative on-street parking strategies can be introduced in the district to make it easier for people to travel to and from the area by car. The inter-regional connections provided by the Hunter GO Transit station can be leveraged as gateway for new office development that can attract employers and employees from the Greater Toronto Area. The unique amenities and location offered by the district could be promoted to attract a post-secondary campus that would inject additional vibrancy to the district and have further spin-off benefits in attracting associated businesses that see advantage locating near a high calibre talent pool.

Overall, the SouthTown concept builds on the inherent strengths of the district, including historical character, central location, and existing major nodes, while carving out a distinct identity separate from, but complementary to, the adjacent central business district. In doing so, SouthTown will become an even greater destination for living, working, shopping, and entertainment at the centre of a resurgent Hamilton. The study was undertaken with partner CIVICPLAN.