The DNA is the oldest neighbourhood association in Canada, dating back to 1972. The organization was first established by residents of Durand to help protect the neighbourhood from demolition of heritage properties and uncontrolled development of high rises.

Please review Durand Through the Decades poster which chronicles DNA activities and initiatives from 1970 through to 2010.

The Formation of the DNA

The 1970s saw massive development across the entire City of Hamilton. However, much of it was focused in the Durand neighbourhood, with large high-rise buildings going up along Bay Street, Hunter Street, Duke Street and Bold Street. With no end to the further development of the neighbourhood in sight, residents formally organized the DNA as a provincially authorized not-for-profit association with a constitution and bylaws in 1973.

Shortly after forming, the DNA produced a 2000-signature petition to City Council that called for a halt to demolition and construction in the neighbourhood until a formal plan for the neighbourhood could be produced that outlined how the Durand should move forward as a community. In a major victory, City Council agreed with the DNA, and a citizen’s committee was formed in order to hash out the details.

The formal Durand Neighbourhood Plan and Program was unveiled at the end of 1973 and was adopted by the City of Hamilton in 1974. The plan and program called for, among many things, the establishment of Durand Park (which would become the neighbourhood’s first and still only park) and the introduction of City Council controls to limit development in the neighbourhood (the first control was to impose a four-story height limit for new construction projects in the neighbourhood).

Sandyford Place, saved from demolition
Sandyford Place, saved from demolition (RTH file photo)

This was a huge win for the DNA that helped save hundreds of heritage properties from demolition and has ensured that the neighbourhood has retained its historic character.

The association did not stop there. The 1970s also saw the DNA help Sandyford Place, which at the time was in danger of being demolished, gain designation as a National Historic site (the first building in Hamilton to have this distinction), organized to save Central Public School from closing and have it designated as an Ontario Provincial Historic site, and began the work that still continues today to reduce traffic and increase safety in the neighbourhood.

Central School at Hunter and Bay
Central School at Hunter and Bay (RTH file photo)

Needless to say, the DNA had a very busy and successful first few years in operation.

Advocacy and Activism Throughout the Years

Activism and commitment to the neighbourhood has continued over the last 45 years that the DNA has existed. The 1980s saw the organization once again fight to save and re-purpose heritage properties like the Carnegie Library (now Family Court), Bank of Montreal building, the historic mansion at 105 Aberdeen Avenue, and the Southam Mansion, now part of the CHCH building.

Old Bank of Montreal building
Old Bank of Montreal building (RTH file photo)

The 1990s saw much of the same as the DNA fought to establish two Heritage Conservation Districts in the neighbourhood: MacNab-Charles District and Durand-Markland District. The DNA also pushed for the city to purchase and designate St. Mark’s Church, which opened the door for more much-needed green space in the neighbourhood.

In 1999, the DNA was awarded the Vision 20/20 Hamilton-Wentworth Sustainable Community Recognition Award for its contributions to achieving the principles of sustainable development in the neighbourhood.

The new millennium saw the DNA turn its attention to renewing and revising its vision for the neighbourhood. The organization worked on reducing traffic, making the neighbourhood safer and began plans for Durand Park revitalization. The DNA also worked with a developer to help bring townhouses to the site of the former Officer’s Club instead of a large high rise and continued its fight to save St. Mark’s and turn it into a community asset.

The last several years have seen a renewed interest in the Durand Neighbourhood for developers. This has meant that the DNA has once again had to take up the fight to protect heritage properties and save the historical character of the neighbourhood.

With fears of a return to block-busting and mass demolition in the neighbourhood, the DNA has once again committed to engaging in any and all new development in order to ensure responsible and sustainable projects.

Beyond these fights, the DNA has also had a number of major victories over the past few years, including City Council’s approval of St. Mark’s as a cultural and community facility following more than twenty years of advocacy by the DNA, the completion of the revitalization of Durand Park, the completion of the Durand Character Study Project, and the addition of 736 properties in the Durand neighbourhood to the City of Hamilton’s Heritage Register, including 52 candidates for heritage designation.

In short, the Durand Neighbourhood Association has been involved in countless projects that have helped to protect heritage, build a safer neighbourhood, and shape a sustainable community through engaging community members and advocating for neighbourhood priorities. Moreover, the DNA has been an integral part in helping shape how neighbourhoods city-wide develop and flourish as the city continues to change and grow.