On Tuesday, October 29th, ULI Toronto brought over 100 land-use professionals from the Greater Toronto Area to Hamilton for an opportunity to tour a number of exciting development projects happening in the city.
The first stop was the Hamilton City Centre for a tour with its new owner titled “Stranger Things Have Happened at the Hamilton City Centre.” The site sits in a prominent location in downtown Hamilton at the intersection of James Street North and York Boulevard and boasts excellent transit connectivity and walkability.
The existing mall is connected to Jackson Square and located within the same block as a number of community amenities, such as the Hamilton Public Library (Central), the Hamilton Farmers’ Market, and FirstOntario Centre. Judy Lam, Manager of Urban Renewal at the City of Hamilton, gave a brief overview of the site’s history, including a discussion on its long history, with the original City Hall being built in 1890.
Following the relocation of City Hall to its current location at Main Street West and Bay Street South in 1958, the site was sold to Eaton’s and remained a department store until 1991. The site is currently home to retail and commercial tenants along with a number of office tenants, including some City of Hamilton staff. In 2014, IN8 Developments out of the Kitchener-Waterloo Region began the process of purchasing the property, which is approximately 1.4 ha in area. Darryl Firsten, President of IN8 Developments, spoke to the group saying that their company focuses on “high density urban intensification” and has a “desire for people to come back to downtown [Hamilton].” Firsten said that IN8 “looks for cities [to invest in] that want to bring residents back downtown, and Hamilton wants it.”
Next on the tour was Urban Strategies’ new Collaboration Studio on James Street North in Downtown Hamilton. In PechaKucha style (presenter shows 20 slides with 20 seconds of commentary per slide), Glen Norton, the City of Hamilton’s Director of Economic Development, gave an informative and concise presentation exploring why Hamilton is a great place to live, work, and play.
During his presentation, Norton highlighted Hamilton’s locational attributes, educated workforce, highly diversified economy, and development potential in the Downtown and along the waterfront. He also noted the city’s architectural and cultural heritage with its status as one of the oldest cities in Ontario. Norton mentioned that some of the fastest growing industries driving economic growth in the city include advanced manufacturing which has grown 11% in 6 years whereas the provincial average is actually shrank by 1%. He also flagged life sciences, agriculture and food processing, seed crop processing, and creative industries as major economic drivers for Hamilton.
Another top sector of growth in the city is the film industry. Meeting at the West Harbour GO Station, the group heard from a panel that discussed Hamilton’s Film District and the vision behind its future. The panel was made up of Debbie Spence (Business Development Consultant, Creative Industries with the City of Hamilton), Nathan Fleet (Director of the Hamilton Film Festival), Jeff Landers (Founder of Aeon Studio Group), and Brock Boehler (Founding Partner at Momentum Developments).
Spence began by noting how important the film industry is to Hamilton, with its 901 film-related business and 9,000 people currently employed in the industry. Spence used the example of how travelling production crews, — often from Toronto, the US, or other global cities — are similar to tourists as they stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants and visit local businesses.
It was this growth that motivated Landers and Boehler to seek opportunity in Hamilton through the future development of the Film District on the Barton-Tiffany lands. The lands are intended to be developed as a mixed-use development anchored by a media production campus, post-production offices, a back lot, office spaces for digital animation and digital media, as well as residential units. “A lot of studio space [in Toronto] is operating at 0% vacancy and a lot of jobs have been lost because of the lack of specialized space,” Landers noted.
The group ended the tour at the newly revitalized Westinghouse HQ, the former Westinghouse Company headquarters originally constructed in 1917. The building was recently re-imagined as a 7-storey, modern office environment, led by McCallum Sather. The group was led on tours of McCallum Sather’s open-concept, second floor office and ended with a networking reception on the top floor of the building, which boasted breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s east end.