If it weren’t for developers, there wouldn’t be anything to dream about would there?
With their spiffy power point presentations, they can paint a picture that transforms a rundown property into the Mona Lisa of buildings. Case in point is the recent proposal for twin towers to transform the back parking area of Hamilton city hall into a state-of-the-art technological hub.
The idea is to construct a 20 and a 24-storey tower, a three-storey podium around the buildings and a 12-storey municipal building where the two-level parking area is now. The development would lay the foundation to create a technology hub that would expand Hamilton’s growing technology hub, or so they say.
The attraction is evident. A 2018 report by CBRE found that while Toronto’s tech talent pool grew by 54 per cent between 2013 and 2018, other cities have seen impressive gains, including Hamilton. Specialized tech hubs have sprung up such as artificial intelligence in Montreal and Edmonton, ocean-focused tech in Halifax, clean tech in Calgary and automotive in Hamilton and Oshawa.
And while it is exciting to think about what such a development would do for downtown Hamilton and the entire technological sector in the city, really will it ever happen?
That is always the question, isn’t it when it comes to nailing down those elusive agreements and raising cash for such a complex proposal.
The city put out a call for expressions of interest for the municipal land dominated by the parking area in 2016. In 2017 city officials met with five proponents, but as is always the case nothing happened.
When it comes to development deals and what exactly Hamilton is looking at, the fine print and the lofty dreams don’t usually mesh. Take for example the contentious Auchmar Estate. Proponents have come and gone offering ideas on how to redevelop the so-far money-losing property with councillors still shaky on what direction to take for the building and land.
It took years before councillors finally stepped on the gas and approved a $30-million project to restore the 1923 Lister Block, that a vast majority of activists, councillors and business owners argued was the cause of the Hamilton’s downtown decay.
While the Lister Block wasn’t the reason for downtown’s sordid image, it has certainly led to a redevelopment renaissance for the James Street North area.