Lloyd D. Jackson Square
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|Location||2 King Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8P 1A1, Canada|
|Opening date||1970 (First Phase)|
|Developer||Yale Properties Limited|
|Management||First Real Properties Limited (Joint-venture company owned by Yale Properties Limited and The Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada)|
|Owner||First Real Properties Limited|
|No. of stores and services||Approximately 230 |
|Total retail floor area||Approximately 390,000 Square Feet|
|No. of floors||2|
Lloyd D. Jackson Square, also known as Jackson Square, is an indoor shopping mall, and commercial complex located in the downtown core of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which is named after Lloyd Douglas Jackson, who served as mayor of the city from 1950 to 1962. The civic square is located in the centre of the city, bounded by several major arterial roads: King Street (south), Bay Street (west), York Boulevard (north) and James Street (east), with the appointed address being 2 King Street West. The mall was officially opened in 1970.
Toward the end of the Second World War, a new consciousness arose amongst the public and policy makers of the Western World. After ten years of crippling economic depression and another five at war, the public demanded something new from their disintegrating urban environments. Hamilton, Ontario was no exception. After witnessing its once inferior rival Toronto grow in size and importance in the early twentieth century, the city petitioned for funds to complete a modernist makeover of its downtown core under the newly amended National Housing Act (1954).
The revised legislation provided for cost sharing amongst the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the federal and municipal government, in preparation for urban renewal studies. It also included provisions for implementing the results of these studies, including clearing property and upgrading public services. With a majority of Hamilton's employment based in the industrial sector, the city's modernist planners wished to divide the municipality into practical zones that would serve specific functions, and to connect the zones with efficient transportation corridors that could move goods quickly and without disruption. Local politicians and business owners favoured such plans and began to view their mostly Victorian urban landscape as disjointed, crowded, and unfit for the navigation of the vehicles that were beginning to crowd the streets. Starting in 1957, the Hamilton Downtown Association began to pressure the federal government to fund an urban renewal study. When the study was completed a year later in 1958, federal planner Mark David was unable to recommend redevelopment in the downtown core because the federal cost-sharing program that was a part of the National Housing Act only allotted funds for the improvement of housing conditions amongst Canada's urban slums. Despite this setback, funds were granted following the completion of the study for the relocation of cottages on the Lake Ontario beach and the clearance of derelict housing in the city's residential North End neighbourhood. Hamilton businessmen, still set on renewing the commercial core,continued to lobby for amendments that would allow downtown redevelopment.
Finally in 1964, the housing act was altered to include civic improvement and Hamilton was the first city to apply for funding. In April 1965, city planner Murray Jones unveiled his plans for a new downtown civic square. Under his plan, axial pools would form the centre of the complex with a planetarium in the middle. There would be a sculpture court, a large remodelled suburban-style Eaton's department store, an auditorium, a hotel with a garden courtyard, and a library adjacent to the art gallery, with King Street West running one way through the middle. Amongst parcels of open green space, new smaller streets would cut across the public vistas. Roughly 17 hectares (43 acres) of familiar downtown space would be eliminated, and many open spaces would be incorporated into the new square, under the assumption that the old slum-like core required plenty of fresh air circulation – ironically, a public health theory born during the height of the cholera epidemic in Victorian London. Although many Hamiltonians held fond memories of the buildings that were to be torn down, the garden-like Civic Square plan that was published in The Hamilton Spectator grabbed the public's attention and fuelled their enthusiasm for change. In addition, the Greater Hamilton Shopping Centre (now known as The Centre on Barton), which had opened ten years earlier east of the city on the old Jockey Club race track, and which had been successful since its opening, had made the core's downtown buildings look antiquated.
Despite the wide approval of the original garden-like scheme, by July 1968 the plan had been scrapped in favour of a scheme by Montreal developers Yale Properties that would provide more revenue. As the municipal government hashed out the overall construction cost to build the original plan, controversy stirred amongst officials of CMHC who were under pressure by the federal minister to stop providing money. By October 1968, CMHC had given out approximately $168 million to various Canadian municipalities to upgrade their built infrastructure, but after multiple complaints from watchdog groups and government officials over the casual administrative process and its inability to control the expenditure of private contractors,federal Urban Affairs Minister Robert Andres was forced to halt activities. Ultimately CMHC reverted to its pre-1964 role, which was solely to provide capital resources to create or redevelop residential addresses. Hamilton, therefore, lost its ability to apply or even negotiate for further grants and, as greater pressure was placed on the municipality to pick up the tab, city planners disregarded the gardens and pools of the original plan and looked towards a scheme that would require a minimum amount of funding and produce a maximum amount of revenue for their investment. Yale Properties quickly swooped in and consolidated the originally dispersed commercial and civic components and locked them into two large super-blocks (figures 3 and 4), connected by an indoor mall with no outdoor frontage. High barren walls of brown concrete would line most of the expanded King Street West and all civic components were pushed onto a public square located above the mall and away from the street. The city and developer faced heavy opposition from the citizens who were promised open space, gardens, and long pools of fresh water, but all complaints either went unheeded or were quickly deflected by promises of civic festivals and facilities above the mall complex on the piazza roof or enclosed indoors.
Constructing the square and manufacturing discontent
In June 1968, even before the plans from Yale Properties had been finalized, the city gave King Street business owners six months to vacate the buildings they owned. This came as a shock, since the initial construction start date had been pushed back for years. Demolition of the businesses on the eastern portion of King Street West bounded by James Street North began in late 1968 and was completed by the early summer of 1969. After a hasty ceremony on the barren site that spotlighted local politicians and reiterated the Yale Properties commitment to the modernization of the city, construction hoarding was erected and pillars of concrete quickly followed. Throughout the construction of the first phase of the civic square, renamed Lloyd D. Jackson Square a year later, unfavourable reviews frequently appeared, some labelling the square "a people's place." Representatives of local disabled organizations also criticized the developer's refusal to add in wheelchair ramps. Yet, on August 22, 1972, thousands of people climbed to the complex's plaza roof and engaged in a massive ceremony that included live music, food and a fireworks show signalling the grand opening of the mall and adjacent Bank of Montreal's commercial pavilion. Although Hamiltonians were absolutely enthralled by the wide selection of trendy new stores and restaurants, and by the sheer size of the space, the optimism was swiftly dampened by operational mismanagement. The treatment of the mall's patrons only worsened when on March 1, 1973, the washrooms were discovered to be a hangout for drug dealers and users. The operations manager Charlie Friedman declared, "There's no law that washrooms must be provided…If the situation doesn't improve we may lock them up." He proceeded to do just that, four days later until, after a week, public outcry forced them open again. Then on October 17, 1973, a woman was jailed for several days after walking her dog inside the mall and becoming belligerent after being forced out. Capitalizing on the growing public disdain towards the rigid management of the plaza, The Hamilton Spectator, which had always favoured the original plan for the city's redevelopment, opened fire on the square's construction with columnist Jim Campbell labelling it a "pigeon place" crowded with too many buildings and bounded by a useless rooftop plaza. The verbal assault continued in the spring of 1974 with opinion columnist Tami Paikin criticizing the lack of grass and open green space, and an unknown writer calling the already rusting buildings "complete eyesores." Soon the complex's high walls of barren concrete and its bland stone rooftop plaza began to generate a feeling of disconnection between the citizens and the square. The initial sense of pride in the project soon withered and paved the way for vandalism as the square continued to expand throughout the 1970s.
Years of hope and anger
Despite the constant protests against the design of the square and treatment of the patrons, Jackson Square remained an economic success and an important centre of life in the city through the 1970s and into the mid-1980s. After years of dispute and confusion over the future of the Hamilton Farmer's Market, it was consolidated into a new indoor space in 1980, coupled with a new, larger central library. Then in 1983, the Standard Life Centre office tower opened at the west end of the complex, when promises of another department store went unfulfilled. And two years later, a 19-story Sheraton Hotel with a pool and overhead connection to the Hamilton Convention Centre opened up alongside a 19,000-seat sports arena called Copps Coliseum (now FirstOntario Centre). It appeared that optimism towards the future of the square had once again permeated the citizens of Hamilton. Yet right at the moment when Jackson Square seemed to be at the very pinnacle of success, disaster struck. On March 25, 1986 the mall management informed Alderman Shirley Collins that the underused skating rink on the second floor of the office building that had been constructed during the second phase would be shut down by May 3. The city, recognizing the need for ice rinks downtown and public facilities in the square, urged the citizens of Hamilton to use the skating rink in droves and demanded that Yale Properties not make a final decision until they had held discussions with city planners. To combat the announcement from a civilian perspective, a skating instructor started a petition to keep the rink open on March 31, 1986 that, within a day, garnered a hundred signatures. Finally, on April 9, the president of Jackson Square announced that the skating rink would turn into a seasonal facility that would open in November and run until March, a decision that still resulted in the loss of the attendants' careers. A few months later on July 18, 1986, The Spectator reported that the mall's first restaurant would close permanently by the end of August. Murray's Restaurant, which had been a local favourite for over a decade, was no longer able to sustain itself under the high rents and early closure times. "We have to do business between 9 o'clock in the morning and 4:30 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon…Rent was $6,000 a month," said Alfred Wyss, vice-president of Murray's. Soon after the announcement, Dooney's Restaurant ceased business as well. Suddenly, with an ice rink that lay dormant for most of the year and two seemingly successful and greatly admired restaurants gone, the public was once again forced to examine the super-block's promise for an improved Hamilton and its ability to remain the heart of the city's lifeblood.
By the end of the 1980s, the world of retail was in a volatile state. The entrance of fast-fashion stores into the North American market saturated smaller local and regional brands, causing most of them to close, consolidate or update their marketing profile. At the same time, department stores were losing their grasp on the market as American big-box stores entered Canada and shoppers turned to high-fashion merchants for their clothing purchases. With Limeridge Mall opening on the Hamilton escarpment in 1981, Jackson Square faced fierce competition from a wheelchair accessible, freeparking, two-storey complex that was host to three successful department stores and various high-end stores paying cheaper rents. It was not long until shoppers, seeing a clear contrast between the two commercial shopping centres, criticized Jackson Square's outdated look, expensive parking, cavernous feel, and barren rooftop plaza. A final sting came on April 27, 1989, when Yale Properties announced that it would close the skating rink and replace it with a daycare centre for the office workers, an idea that never came to full fruition. By 1994, as high-end chain clothing stores and smaller local boutiques left the mall in quick succession, Jackson Square became a haven for delinquent activity. For example, on March 18, 1994, a gang of teenagers swarmed the clerk at the Economy Drug Store in the Eaton Centre (now The City Centre) attached to the square, and stole $1,500 in cash. General rowdiness and theft were often reported in the mall. It seemed to be a reflection of the state of Hamilton's economic health, which was faltering during the recession that cost the city thousands of manufacturing jobs, a loss of a tax revenue and funds to invest in the downtown community. On June 27, 1996, Le Château and Bianca Nygård, along with two other stores, announced their departure from the mall. Although this saddened the property owners, various non-profit organizations rejoiced at the availability of new space for their operations, which had represented a thriving use of the space since 1988. Unfortunately, two months later, in October 1996, the 25 non-profit groups that came to inhabit Jackson Square faced eviction, and engaged in a battle with Yale Properties that ended abruptly on October 10, 1998 with their 30-day notice of eviction. The downsizing of many insurance firms that had once predominated the office complexes of Jackson Square saw a dramatic decrease in their use of space, with the most evident being the locally famous Stelco Tower that held a 69 per cent vacancy rate and a workforce of 303 people, down from zero per cent vacancy and a workforce of 1,697 employees in 1979. The final blow for Jackson Square came in 1997, when the Bank of Montreal announced that it would be leaving its commercial pavilion and moving to its own lot on the corner of Main and Bay Street. Then, two years later, the famous Eaton's department store collapsed and was annexed by The Bay which refused to take over space in the Eaton Centre. With no anchor tenant, few notable and attractive stores, a severely reduced workforce and the exclusion of non-profit groups from the mall, the once-mighty bastion of a revitalized and community-oriented Hamilton ground to a stand-still from which it has yet to fully recover.
A breath of fresh air for a tired square
After the release of the Hamilton Spectator's Code Red study in the Spring of 2010 revealed that the downtown core was a food desert; significantly contributing to the poverty and ill-health of the city's poorest citizens, Manager of the Economic Development Department Glen Norton, placed an offer of $650,000 in grants as an incentive for a private grocer to build in the core. On August 16, 2012 the Jackson Square management announced that it would be the home of the new Nation's Fresh Foods grocery store in the Spring of 2013, which would take over the mall's western retail portion in the lobby of the Standard Life Centre, and include over seven million dollars in renovations and upgrades without the use of city grants. Opening on July 13, 2013 after a few delays the sleek 55,000-square foot venture impressed invited guests and customers alike. With operating hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., seven days a week, the store manages to maintain a steady pedestrian flow in a previously derelict portion of mall and impress its guests with features like large windows etched with the names of various countries, splashes of colour throughout, as well as concrete and wood columns made to look like trees. Tanks in the large live seafood section are packed with lobster, crab, bass and tilapia and outside, water cascades down a glass wall. About 40 per cent of the Hamilton store is prepared food, with offerings including sushi, panini, hoagies, pasta and Chinese barbecue all displayed in a hot and cold buffet lines, that includes fresh seafood and a range of exotic fruits and vegetables. Sixteen aisles of groceries feature everything from laundry detergent to cat food, with spices taking up an entire aisle making sure that every palate and customer is equally satisfied and represented.
On March 25th, 2015 a new and much awaited LCBO was unveiled in the mall. The 5,530 square-foot store was placed beside Nations Fresh Foods in the mall's west end and contains over 4,473 square feet of display space. Almost double the retail space of the previous cramped LCBO's home since 1997 near the mall's main entrance at King and James. The store, which is the only LCBO outlet in the downtown, features 17-foot high ceilings and holds a selection of over 1,000 products, including 200 local Ontario wines thus reducing a large quantity of unused retail space in the mall and boosting customer traffic.
Inside the mall are two food courts, the Food Festival and the Market Court. The latter leads to the back-end of the Hamilton Farmer's Market. Many stores, restaurants and a movie cinema are included in the mall's inventory. The mall is also equipped with elevators, escalators, pay phones at all entrances, public washrooms, a lost & found department and an underground parking lot with two entrance/exits, one on King Street West and the other on Bay Street North.
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- Wilson, Paul, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/talk/ paul-wilson-jackson-square-turns-40-and-fights-for-afuture- 1.1159938
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- "To punish the innocent." The Hamilton Spectator, 1973.
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- "Visual pollution, everyday ugliness." The Hamilton Spectator, June 8, 1974.
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- "Jackson Square skating rink gets the axe." The Hamilton Spectator, 1989.
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- "LCBO opens new Jackson Square home" The Hamilton Spectator 25 March 2015
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