Breaking ground

A beautiful mural fills the wall of the EduDeo building on Barton Street East. When it was painted in 2016, its vivid blue sky, orange monarch butterfly and green cityscape overlooked a sad patch of black asphalt. People would stop, but there was no reason to linger.

That all changed last fall, when a Green Venture Depave Paradise project transformed the small former parking lot into an Instagram-worthy greenspace with native plantings, educational signage and a permeable surface seating area.

A total of 89 m2 of asphalt was removed, allowing 364,000 litres of stormwater to be absorbed annually — an important benefit in Hamilton’s lower city, where stormwater and sewage share the same pipes and sometimes overflow.

But the location was chosen for more than its positive impact on water quality.

 “When we transformed this derelict block of cement with no soul, suddenly people said ‘wow, someone cares about this neighbourhood. Someone cares about me,’” says Barton Village BIA executive director, Rachel Braithwaite. “People start to think ‘maybe I could make a difference.’”

Over three days, community volunteers wearing masks and practising physical distancing filled a 20-yard dumpster with pre-cut asphalt and planted more than 130 plants.

“Depave Paradise is about community members freeing the soil with their own hands and observing the transformation,” says Helena Cousins of Green Venture. “It’s about people stopping, learning, thinking and getting involved.”

A local landscape architect with expertise in stormwater management was an important champion, and local businesses chipped in with in-kind donations. The project, which was two years in the making, gained momentum with a grant from HCF.

“HCF was the first one in the door,” says Ryan Geleynse of EduDeo. “They laid the foundation so we could build from there. It’s invaluable.”

The EduDeo site is only the beginning. “The community envisions a chain of greenspaces along Barton,” Helena says. “It’s a jam-packed street. People need a pause in the pavement.”

“Part of believing in yourself is believing in your community and what it could be, not just what it is or what people tell you it is.” – Rachel Braithwaite, Barton Village BIA

Excerpt from 2021 Annual Report