Downtown brick buildings housing families and businesses for decades to be demolished

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After years of debate to make way for a light-rail train, the provincial transit agency Metrolinx expects to begin knocking down 21 brick buildings along Hamilton's King Street East and Main Street East this month.

The buildings are the two and three-storey brick homes and storefronts that typify downtown Hamilton, contributing to the character of one of the oldest local thoroughfares. Most of the buildings being demolished are between Wentworth and Gage in the central city.

For the last century, these buildings have housed families and businesses, fallen into disrepair, been fixed up, formed the spine of a neighbourhood. As Nrinder Nann, councillor for the ward where the demolition is happening, put it: They are the sites of "first dates and first homes." King Street as a thoroughfare predates the settlement of Hamilton, and was where the city's first general store opened more than 200 years ago in 1814.

Metrolinx spokesperson Matt Llewellyn said the agency's discussions with the city, and with community groups, about these properties did not result in any buildings or features that would "require" preservation. 

"No cultural heritage value or interest was identified for the properties slated for demolition," he said. 

It's easy to glaze over looking at a list of nearly two dozen addresses, but each structure bears a story. They've been vacant for more than a year, the windows boarded up with bright painted boards. The future of any transit project along the route is still unknown. Metrolinx had announced demolition of these 21 properties would start Thursday, which did not happen, but the agency could not provide a new start date for the demolition.