We had a great seminar today on Neighbourhood Building (if I do say so myself).
Getting home, I immediately self-administered a stiff double-something for medicinal purposes, then Chris and I took our desperate house-bound DogBeast for a long walk. (I tried to lay in a hammock and ignore the DogBeast, but she was pushing at the hammock so hard that the rocking was spilling my whiskey and making me seasick. A tired DogBeast is a good DogBeast.)
As Chris and I walked, we talked about the seminar: the discussions, the ideas, the potentials, the visions. We also talked about the ditches of Lower Hammond (so cool! We’re going to do a photo essay), the old houses and the new houses and the neato crazy houses (Chris has lived here over 20 years, so he has seen lots of evolution), and the things that make Hammond special. For example…
We have commercial areas
Integrated commercial activity is a tremendously valuable asset that many neighbourhoods lack, but Hammond has it in spades. In fact, it’s a pillar of our neighbourhood.
Before the seminar started this morning, I had the pleasure of escorting Paul Sparks, one of our guest speakers, around the displays in the foyer and told him about our community. The last display had a bunch of neat historical photos of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. I told Paul that many neighbourhoods in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have deep historical roots, and that those roots are defining characteristics of those neighbourhoods.
Paul asked me: “What is your favourite historical icon in your neighbourhood?”
I thought for a moment and then answered: “The Hammond Mill”. It’s not scenic, it’s not pretty, it doesn’t have any quaint visual qualities, but it is the reason that Hammond exists. It’s employed generations of Hammond folks and has been an integral part of the Hammond community for over 100 years. It may have no visual aspects that are reminiscent of the past, but the fact that it is there and still running and still employing people is a tremendous achievement and an asset to Hammond.
Later, as Chris and I were dragged around Hammond by the DogBeast, we talked of the great potential of “downtown” Hammond, the stretch of Maple Meadows across from the mill. We (Hammond folks) have the potential to have a small local commercial enclave that is within walking distance for most people in Hammond. In most neighbourhoods this is impossible to surmount. In Hammond the infrastructure is already in place.
We have intuitive boundaries
During one of the excercises at the seminar today, I talked to a person who was frustrated because she couldn’t identify the boundaries or the centre of her neighbourhood. There were few obvious landmarks or “shared spaces”.
I understand why she feels that way. I’ve lived in places like that. We’re lucky in Hammond because we have very obvious geographical and historical boundaries. Hammond starts at the Fraser River. Go south, get wet. We have big arterial roads to the north, smaller ones to the east and west.
My answer is always “Sure”. If you want to be a part of Hammond, you’re in. But nevertheless we have a sense of a geographical boundary, an area that comprises “Hammond”. We know where Hammond is. It defines us.
We are a mix of people
Hammond has nutty demographics. There are young families, and there’s the elderly lady up the street who has the beautiful beds of marigolds and wax begonias every year. (She planted purple petunias this year instead of red begonias. It is bothering me. It is supposed to be red begonias.)
Hammond is historically a working-class neighbourhood. Even now the mix doesn’t include fancy-schmancy rich-people houses, although there are many beautiful heritage houses that the owners have lovingly fixed up. Interspersed with those jewels there are (relatively) inexpensive townhouse and apartment complexes. Hammond Park is a perfect example of Hammond’s diversity. Some of the nicest heritage houses in Hammond face onto the park, as does a townhouse complex, the neighbourhood convenience store and some rental houses.
There are many empty lots in Hammond. Development is inevitably coming. I feel, though, that Hammond is very well positioned to integrate a diversity of development styles, and is particularly able to welcome density that fits with and enhances the character of the area.
We have character
Yeah, that character thing… As Chris and I were walking (being dragged by DogBeast) around today, we noted many fun weird things that we see all the time but that are unique to Hammond. There’s the folks in Lower Hammond who have done up their mobile home with cedar siding (and it looks great!); the odd extensions and build-outs to the mill-worker houses (mostly done before the era of building permits); the church converted into a house; the old store-front in “downtown” where the resident has built a beautiful sidewalk garden.
Hammond has a “feel”. Working-class, practical, unpretentious, quirky. An enclave. A community.