Canadian Destination No. 8: Hamilton Builds on Brawny Reputation

Hamilton is getting serious about living up to its “Hammertown” moniker.

There are currently more than 2,000 condos in development, and a $1.2 billion B-Line light rail transit (LRT) system is planned to take shape over the next 10 years.

A reemerging downtown, affordable housing and an urban development plan are just a few of the things bringing new residents to Hamilton. And many of them are arriving in U-Haul trucks.

Hamilton secured the No. 8 spot on the U-Haul Top 10 Canadian Destination Cities for 2014, jumping an impressive five spots from 2013. These rankings reflect the top destinations of one-way U-Haul truck rentals for the past calendar year.

“The fact that Hamilton has climbed in the rankings speaks directly to an ongoing influx of new residents to a city that is making its mark,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said. “Hosting major events such as The JUNOS and The Pan Am Games is raising our profile, while at the same time a surging arts, entertainment and culinary scene is making Hamilton an attractive place to grow business and raise families.”

While migration trends don’t correlate directly to a city’s population or economic growth, they are a strong gauge as to how well cities are attracting new residents.

West Harbour Marina_
West Harbour Marina (Credit: City of Hamilton, Andy Zimmerman)

“This news reflects the fact that Hamilton is benefiting from perfect timing: a lot of hard work that’s been accomplished in renewing a city that was built on industry at the same time that a lot of people, young and old, are rediscovering the benefits of living in urban centres,” added Keanin Loomis, president and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

“The quality of life in this historic and green mid-scale city is, in my opinion, second to none and it’s clear that Canada’s best kept secret has gotten out.”

Now that the secret is out, moving to Hamilton has become an attractive alternative for people seeking the big-city feel without the expenses that accompany owning a home in highly desired neighborhoods.

Plus, Ontario’s capital city of Toronto is linked to Hamilton by regional transit, making it easy for people to commute.

“We can see Toronto looming on the horizon,” Loomis said. “It’s very easy to work there and live here.”

With the Toronto skyline in the distance, the friendly competition between the two cities is enough motivation to help Hamilton thrive.

“Housing is more affordable here than in Toronto and some of the other nearby cities,” said John Fisher, marketing company president for U-Haul Company of Hamilton. “I lived in Hamilton for 15 years and I can say the neighborhoods are great. It’s a good place to bring up your kids.”

“With so much going on economically and culturally, Hamilton offers a stable real estate market, and home ownership itself has proved to be a wise investment,” said Donna Bacher, President of the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington. “The area has communities of all sizes and which offer all kinds of housing types with prices that range from affordable to luxury.”

The sheer amount of growth, especially when it comes to housing, is most apparent outside the downtown core. All it takes is a quick glance at the once-vacant mountain to see the rows of homes, some still being built.

“When we first bought the U-Haul Moving & Storage of Stoney Creek in 1996, we were surrounded by bush,” Fisher explained. “Now we have houses everywhere. We were told last week there will be even more townhomes right behind us on the mountain. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton ends up in the top five (U-Haul destination cities) soon.”

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Click here for more #Uhaulfamous photos from Hamilton

“Hamilton also enjoys a vibrant arts community and active cultural life,” Bacher said. “Historic areas such as Ottawa Street, Concession Street and James Street North have seen a resurgence in recent years.”

One of the many factors contributing to the resurgence of James Street North has been the partnership between Collective Arts Brewing and Nickel Brook Brewing who are working to open a brewery in the historic Lakeport building.

The brewery will also include a gallery and live music space, creating the ultimate destination for craft beer lovers, artists and musicians.

“We are proud that we will not only give great beer back to the city, but also offer a new artistic hub,” says Matt Johnston, co-founder of Collective Arts Brewing. “We recognize the current cultural renaissance happening in the city – much of it concentrated in the James Street North area – and we are confident Hamiltonians will embrace our commitment to excellence and creativity in our beer making and in our support of the arts.”

The downtown revitalization comes at a perfect time for Hamilton. The XVII Pan American Games are coming to the Golden Horseshoe. Hamilton, along with several other Ontario cities, will play host to the international, multi-sport event.

In 2014, Tim Hortons Field was finished in preparation for the Pan Am Games, but the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats get to call the stadium their permanent home.

As people gather in Hamilton to watch the soccer tournaments this summer, the city will put its best foot forward. Who knows? Maybe some of those sports fans will what Hamilton has to offer and make it their home, using U-Haul trucks, trailers, towing equipment and U-Box containers to get there.

“The property-by-property, block-by-block revival is led by creative professionals fleeing high real estate prices in Toronto and discovering the charms of a historic, mid-size city,” Loomis explained. “We are now focusing on intensifying areas that had been neglected. We anticipate being able to accommodate many tens of thousands of new residents and that growing market will only benefit our businesses and hasten the momentum.”

Hamilton is the second of five Ontario cities in the U-Haul Top 10 Canadian Destinations. Continue to visit myuhaulstory.com as U-Haul counts down to the No. 1 destination for 2014.

Hamilton residents are invited to become U-Haul Famous. Take your picture in front of a U-Haul product, send it in and your face could land on the side of a U-Haul truck. Upload your photo through Instagram using #uhaulfamous, or go to www.uhaulfamous.com to submit photos and learn more.

Additional photo credits: Hamilton skyline (featured image) and Whitehern Historic House & Garden (thumbnail) by City of Hamilton, Andy Zimmerman.

Canadian Destination Cities

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9. Victoria

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