Special Report: Pearl Company

Pearl Company Owners Giving Up

Any 'process' that effectively prevents property owners from investing in improving their property and using it for purposes that actually improve their neighbourhood is a failure that needs to be discarded.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 21, 2010

By now you've probably heard that Barbara Milne and Gary Santucci are giving up on their struggle to build a thriving theatre and arts centre in an economically depressed part of town.

Just to clarify: their struggle wasn't with a lacklustre market for their diverse, creative output; it was with a city bureaucracy that continues to harrass, threaten and charge them with bylaw violations for operating the Pearl Company on a former industrial property now zoned for residential use.

Milne and Santucci knew the building on 16 Steven St., at King St. just a couple of blocks east of Victoria Ave., wasn't zoned for public shows, but they believed that the theatre would qualify as an allowable non-conforming use when they bought it.

The City charged them in 2009 with "permit[ting] an unlawful use of the premises; namely, live performance theatre and art gallery offering works for sale to the public, which uses contravene Section 10(1) of City of Hamilton By-Law 6593".

Ghastly, I know.

The cost to jump through all the permitting and rezoning hoops could run well into the tens of thousands of dollars, including zoning application fees, change of use/zoning fees, development charges, site plan applications, cash-in-lieu-of-parklands fees, and parking requirements.

While that charge still moves through the courts, the City has issued a new charge in response to a more recent theatre performance. One must wonder whether the City will be as intrepid about leveling charges against the crack dealers who will likely re-occupy the building once the Pearl Company closes shop.

Urban Revitalization FAIL

Last year, the Pearl's fate hung in the balance while the City's Official Plan moved slowly toward final approval. Council didn't accept Santucci's proposed amendment that would allow artists to undertake adaptive reuse of old buildings.

While more progressive cities recognize the value of the arts in revitalizing older urban neighbourhoods, and while Hamilton pays lip service to this recognition, the reality is that we continue to throw roadblocks in the path of intrepid arts entrepreneurs who are willing to take the plunge into areas the city itself has abandoned.

Ward Councillor Bernie Morelli can hide behind "process" all he wants; but any "process" that effectively prevents property owners from investing in improving their property and using it for purposes that actually improve their neighbourhood is a failure that needs to be discarded.

It's long past time for Hamilton to abandon the strictures of 20th century single-use zoning and move to a form-based and performances-based code that allows any use that does not produce negative side effects (e.g. excessive noise, foul odours, pollution).

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 10:53:44

This is so sad. I refuse to believe this is the end. Morelli's head should roll for this.

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By MarieA (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:08:32

Morelli; "Like anything else of this kind, there is a process that you have to go through. Sure it can be frustrating, but you must work through it, follow it."

What a callous statement! That statement in itself shows he's done nothing to help The Pearl Company. His fallback when he hasn't done his job is to refer to process. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic. Morelli is an embarrassment to the hard working people in Hamilton.

@highwater, hopefully October 25th is the day it rolls away.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:11:27

so, we can make exceptions for stuff like this: http://www.sachem.ca/news/article/209427

but not for community facilities that exist for more than just making money?

I realize that some people will say "Pearl doesn't pay taxes as an arts organization". Ok, fair enough. How much tax money will be spent over the next decade sending police, ambulance, fire and bylaw to this building if it reverts back to it's former use as a squatter building with fires, crack, prostitutes, crime, fights etc...... Furthermore, the surrounding neighbourhood has benefited positively from this facility. Homes are cleaning up, crime is down, drugs are down, people from Ancaster, Burlington and Toronto have come to this area of the city for arts events and the Art Bus and had a great time.

One could argue that taxes are all that matters. I disagree. No Tim Hortons anywhere in the city can do for Lansdale what the Pearl Company has been doing. We talk about James North and our creative class and becoming a hub for creative jobs but do we really mean it or understand it?

I could digress into a whole rant leading from this topic from the negative effects of amalgamation where a majority of the city and it's administrators are suburban to the social aspects of revitalizing a city that are far more intangible, yet more real than the effects of a drive thru fast food chain.

I'm not meaning to demonize Hortons. We need those jobs and that service industry in our city.
I'm merely pointing out the complete lack of understanding and of priorities when we can bend the rules for one, but not the other.

King West in Toronto would still be a post industrial ghetto had zoning officials and city officials not thrown out the rule book and allowed the street to be reborn in an organic manner.

News Flash! Boardroom zoning bylaws with their designations all neatly separated from each other, connected by nice big roads and highways doesn't work in OLD, URBAN, POST-INDUSTRIAL neighbourhoods looking to revitalize.

When will we learn??

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:18:33

@jason, I would argue they don't work in suburbia either. Does anybody like having to get into a car to buy bread and get a cup of coffee?

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By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:19:30

I think we can argue a large chunk of the city and our council (and some staff - but not all of them) don't see or understand what is happening in the arts and cultural communities here.

Remember these are the folks chasing false hockey dreams, approving bad coffee drive thrus and proclaiming 'The Centre on Barton' as a success. I'm not at all impressed or under any impression that our city gets it...

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By Stupid-fied (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:22:14

How come a facility in only a proposal phase can get an exemption, but a facility that is already in existance, and has proven its value to the community gets kicked to the curb?

City gives Studebaker project a pass - April 28, 2010
http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/18178--city-gives-studebaker-project-a-pass

No more talk, lets change this council.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:30:27

What a shame. Just one more reason for change in Ward 3. Businees owners shouldn't have to fight politics and process this hard. They should be able to focus on business and let their elected representivives fight for them.

There has been no engagement with us on issues like this, or even the fate of Ivor Wynne or the future of those lands if it's fate is seeled. Even Gage Park and the Festival of Friends.

He has not fought for us. Talked to us. I don't think he represents what we want at all. He's been 'serving' this community for a long time, but I truly think his time has come.

Losing Pearl, Ivor Wynne, the Festival of Friends and the switch to big box, could all be very damaging for this cities east end.

I hope Milne & Santucci can find a way to make this work. I hope the 'new' Hamilton can find a way to make it work for small business in general.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:45:22

@Lawrence - you mean you don't like the latest fashion of box-stores that are built right to the sidewalk.... but the storefront is facing inwards?

The ones on Upper James are the funniest - they actually have awnings and fake windows on their street-facing backs. It's the construction equivelent of this guy:

image

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:49:52

I think we can argue a large chunk of the city and our council (and some staff - but not all of them) don't see or understand what is happening in the arts and cultural communities here.

Remember these are the folks chasing false hockey dreams, approving bad coffee drive thrus and proclaiming 'The Centre on Barton' as a success. I'm not at all impressed or under any impression that our city gets it...

Well said H Mag. We certainly could have done better with the new Centre.

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By Hypocrites! (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:54:09

I bet if the Pearl was owned by somebody named Vranich the City would find a way to make it work.

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By rush (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:57:15

PLease please please lets all vote and get rid of our current city council.We should all take a good look at how damaging our elected officials are for the city of Hamilton.I am a musician and have played at The Pearl,Rebels and have some friends who have fixed up old houses in the area, and HAVE done it ALONE and with no help from the morons at city hall.

FROM RANDALL REEF TO TI CAT FEVER
HAMILTON HAS BEEN SLICED WITH A POLITICAL CLEAVER
CITY COUNCIL CAN'T EVEN AGREE
TO TURN ON A LIGHT SWITCH SO THEY CAN SEE
HOW THEY TURNED THIS TOWN INTO A PIPE DREAM FROM HELL
AND FLUSHED US ALL DOWN THE TOILET AS WELL
NOW ITS MY TURN TO DO MY PART
AND STAND OUTSIDE THE OLD PEARL COMPANY AFTER DARK
WIPING MY TEARS AND SHAKING MY HEAD
THEN PAYING THE CRACKHEADS WHO WILL BEG THEIR INSTEAD. by tntbluesmen@gmail.com

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:58:35

Funny Pxtl. Great image reference. I call Centre the Red Hill excuse. So many brushed aside Red Hill as a place used as a garbage dump anyway. Residents throwing their garbage off the side of a cliff. 'It'll clean up the valley'. ????

Ivor Wynne for me is a bit of the same. Centre Mall of course is right up there with Red Hill. It was a dump anyway. Ya, because nobody cared about it. The city is quick to jump all over resdients if the paint is peeling on our windows, but if the city would have jumped over the Centre Mall owners many years ago, perhaps they would have been forced to clean it up at that time and it wouldn't have gotten to a state where it was better to demolish it and start over, rather than continue to rebuild.

It's a shame we don't have more say as a city, as to what goes where. Especially on a large chunk of land like the one that exists off of Barton between Ottawa and Kenilworth.

The commentors on TheSpec.com, talk about how the mall was just a place for seniors to hang out. 'It's not a community centre.' Perhaps, but they certainly missed a big something with this new design. The food pavillion sorry to say, doesn't cut it. It's no different than a combined Tim's/Wendy's building. Just one or two more fast food choices to select from.

It's so nice to see Barton lined with Banks. Not.

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By Rednic (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:04:14

I may be next , I own a former garage just down the street from the pearl company. The property has NO street frontage, and zoned half residential half 'commercial'. I've had a visit from the zoning inspector as well ... looking to see if i had my garage license in place .. I received the lecture about the property not being residential , even though the tax roll says half the property is. I was told i should apply for a zoning change. Something that will cost over 10 000 in fees to the city alone, this is more than 10% of the assessed value of the property. I currently pay over 3000 a year for property tax yet I have NO garbage pickup.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:17:49

My understanding...having sat in on some conversations amongst those-who-know...is that this is not a Council malaise per se.

This has to do with the people at City Hall running departments.

It has to do with the establishment of fiefdoms, of little kingdoms, and the entrenchment of empires and a middle-management, civil-service mentality that does not in fact support the notion of 'Hamilton's Open For Business'.

The tales I've heard regarding situations such as the Pearl Company, Festival of Friends...even the general topic of getting a business off the ground in Hamilton...is enough to send me to www.Ineedprozac.com

The sad thing is that the idea of changing departmental cultures is not a 'sexy' platform to run on...even though I believe all the frontrunners agree there is in fact a problem. My belief is that nothing will change until the people's awareness has been increased, and they feel it's time to do something about it. Until then? They're more concerned with a) the stadium issue...and b) venting their unfocused frustrations.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2010-09-21 11:18:26

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:19:34

Does anybody like having to get into a car to buy bread and get a cup of coffee?

A recent study suggests that people over-estimate the benefits of suburban living and under-estimate the misery of commuting.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:34:41

I realize that some people will say "Pearl doesn't pay taxes as an arts organization"

I just got an email from Gary Santucci clarifying the Pearl Company's tax situation:

One post refers to as as not paying taxes as an arts group. Just to clarify, we receive no public money of any kind and pay commercial taxes for our property that are up-to-date and have increased 20% over the last four years.

At this point, their best bet for survival may be to try and convert the Pearl Company into a Tim Horton's.

While I write this in a kind of gallows humour, I will point out the following from the article jason linked:

Over 200 people spilled out of Binbrook Memorial Hall during a question and answer session with representatives from Tim Hortons, and city planners concerning a planned development at the corner of Highway 56 and Binbrook Road.

As a concerned community, we need to be a lot more engaged with the city about doing the right thing in these kinds of situations. If there's one thing I've learned in several years of following these kinds of issues, it's that Council and Staff need help from an engaged public to understand how best to serve the public interest.

We need to get a lot better at organizing and advocating around these kinds of issues.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:51:19

From Ryans Post.....

One post refers to as as not paying taxes as an arts group. Just to clarify, we receive no public money of any kind and pay commercial taxes for our property that are up-to-date and have increased 20% over the last four years.

So the city insists the property is zoned residential but continues to charge Commercial taxes ? And want a 10 000 doller fee to rezone the property .. so that they can get the 300 % tax increase they are already getting ?

I am missing something here ? please help me out!

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 13:03:29

Don't get me started on Binbrook. Urban sprawl at it's worst. It even seems development is encroaching on the conservation area. At least thte Tyneside trail side. I hope I am wrong, but big mounds of dirt and posts sticking out of the ground, didn't leave a good feeling in my heart.

It's time our city set some sprawl guildines/boundaries, and especially set a km radius around conservation areas and trails such as these, where development is not aloud to encroach upon.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 13:32:06

Ryan, I find myself agreeing with you.


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By f hayek (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 14:44:24

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 14:53:05

There's a difference between enforcing bylaws in situations that are bad for the community, and using bylaws to clamp down on something that is good for the community. It's the small-minded, bureaucratic, black and white "all bylaws are created equal" mentality that has lead to this absurd situation. Staff and the councillors they take their direction from need to give their heads a shake. Clamp down on uses and violations that have negative effects, and facilitate the uses that are having positive effects, even if they're non-conforming. Good God. It's not that hard to see the difference.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 15:21:32

I'm going to get skewered for this but I have to...

The Pearl Company did this to themselves.... OUCH! Look, it's true. My wife and I tried to buy the building on King near Sherman where the old internet cafe was. We were going to run a coffee house for acoustic music as a hobby in the storefront and live in one of the units. I did my homework and found that it was unworkable for many reasons, most of them city by-laws. Once again, I DID MY DUE DILIGENCE. If I bought that property and just decided that I was going to launch a public relations campaign to get want I wanted while I was operating outside the law I would have no reason to be surprised I was getting fines. No matter how good for the neighborhood or a city a business is you can't expect everyone to bow to your will because you are awesome.

There are many parking issues there, I lived around King William and Emerald in an old house for two years so I know what I'm talking about. Most of the people in the area are NOT crack addicts but are young families or older folks. Street parking is a war there, the roads are really narrow. No matter how vital an entity The Pearl Company was/is it is not fair to discount the noise and parking concerns of the people who live in the neighborhood, their neighborhood. They were there long before the Pearl Company came along.

Yes, their are by-laws and regulations that stifle growth in this and all cities that need to be reviewed, just please don't play shocked when the #@%$ hits the fan if you knowingly decide to operate in violation of them.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2010-09-21 14:28:58

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 15:45:11

There are many parking issues there, I lived around King William and Emerald in an old house for two years so I know what I'm talking about. Most of the people in the area are NOT crack addicts but are young families or older folks. Street parking is a war there, the roads are really narrow. No matter how vital an entity The Pearl Company was/is it is not fair to discount the noise and parking concerns of the people who live in the neighborhood, their neighborhood. They were there long before the Pearl Company came along.

Bullshit. I lived across the street from The Pearl Company for a year and had a car. Parking was fine. Yeah, sometimes you have to walk a block to your car, this is downtown. There were no noise issues either, least of all from the Pearl.

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By Ward3culture (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 15:49:36

Firstly, lets not blame the bureaucrats, as they take their direction from the elected leadership. It's clearly evident from Councillor Morelli's quote about "there is a process", that he has done nothing to aid The Pearl Company.

Secondly, lets not say The Pearl Company has violated any bylaw. They have only been charged, but not convicted. To say anything different is erroneous.

In fact, the judge directing the City to work out a solution, tells me the city's case is not all that strong. But, the city has lawyers and lots of OUR money to continue to pursue and add on additional charges without even determining if the first one can stick.

Seems to me like Councillor Morelli has a cultural witch hunt on the go; Jeremy Freiburger regarding Morelli - from The Hamiltonian "didn’t think our activity was right for “his” ward", the Festival of Friends talking of leaving Ward 3, The Pearl Company out of Ward 3.

Who else sees a definitive pattern?

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 15:59:02

@Mr Janitor,

I respectfully disagree. I am sure that the coffin and costume jewellery manufacturing took place there long before many of the current residents moved into this area. I understand the need to take residents concerns for noise as a high priority, but I don't think that is the issue here. I can't speak for the residents, but it seems like this is a great re-use for a building that would otherwise be empty. I know that the owners operate as a theatre with shows starting at 8 or 9, and ending before 11 pm. Is there not a variance that would allow for such a use, but at the same time prevent something more obtrusive taking its place? (ie, nightclub).

Speaking of King and Sherman, what is the deal with King-Sherman "Sauna"?. I know if I lived in the area, that type of business would be more troubling for my sensibilities. There are legal uses of property that are deterrants to economic growth such as "saunas". If we are going to use the letter of the law on bylaw enforcement, it should be for massage parlours that operate as legal forms of prostitution. Although they pay taxes and supposedly operate within the law, they are an economic black hole that prevent anything desirable from opening up.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 16:00:28

As annoyed as I've been by the poor-bashing antics of Milne and Santucci, I have to say this is pretty sad. It seems that while getting millions of dollars from City Hall to let buildings sit idle is easy, getting permission to continue using one isn't.

The point here is to make owning a business, venue or establishment nearly impossible for "ordinary people". I can fix a building up - re-do floors, walls, rooftops etc, and I know a lot of cheap tricks to make an old room look really cool.

What I couldn't do is any of the standard developer "tricks of the trade" in town; gutting a building down to the support beams, like the Howard Johnson, knocking down neighbouring buildings for parking lots or navigating the complex maze of city hall bureaucracies which prevent people like us from doing interesting things with buildings.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 16:03:51

I did my homework and found that it was unworkable for many reasons, most of them city by-laws.

Listen to yourself. Your business was as much a victim of our city's BS bylaws as the Pearl looks to be - but yours never even made it off the ground. We'll never have major reinvestment downtown as long as our bylaws keep forcing people to either give up their ideas or risk breaking the law just to start a business.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 16:45:50

In defense:

Jonathan Dalton- I stand by my statement that parking was horrible. Emerald between King William and Wilson was a war zone, especially in winter. Is the 'Bullshit' comment really warranted just because you have a different experience or view point?

Henry and Joe- Thank you for comments. This is what makes RTH so wonderful.It IS a great use for a building, we agree. Yes, it was a factory but it was not an entertainment facility. I am not in any way challenging the need that is filled by The Pearl Company. What I am saying is that the owners have no right to be shocked or disappointed at the issues that have come up. They knew the rules but ran a business anyway. I do not support or endorse all of the rules or the procedures to rectify them, but for others in the neighborhood they may be important. Does the noble mission of The Pearl Company trump rules and process? If it does where does that stop, just at The Pearl Company?

And Yes, there are many 'businesses' operating that I just do not know HOW they got their approvals (rubntugs, Show-world downtown) and it disturbs me that they did. You are right, what I am trying to do is stay focused on The Pearl Company, this discussion could easily drift in too many different tangents. It may be a good idea to start a new thread on other businesses. I thank you for your respect and I hope we can be friends even if we differ on things.

z jones- I thank you for your comments and yes, I know exactly what I was saying. Trust me, you cannot hear the heartbreak I was reliving while typing my original post. How many other people have had beautiful dreams crushed by city hall? So many I am sure. You are right about development, and I am not a fan of the process. However, sometimes it is in place for a reason and we have to hold our nose and get on with it even if we don't see the need for it from our perspective. I wasn't brave or naive enough just to go ahead anyway like The Pearl Company did, bravo for them. I also wish them success. Just please don't cry when the opposing forces hit back, when you've challenged the machine expect some body parts to get mangled. Be ready for it and have plans to minimize the damage. At my age I've lived through too much to expect anything else.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 17:30:50

Mr Janitor, your story frustrates me just as much as the Pearl story. This is simply wrong and is exposing the flaws in our system. How many other folks are out there like you with great ideas, willing to invest your hard earned money to bring some life, culture and new investment to the inner city who end up just walking away in frustration unable to get projects off the ground.

And let's keep everything in perspective here. You were talking about a small coffee house with a residential unit upstairs. Ummm, that's what the buildings in that area were built for! You weren't proposing an open air concert hall that would specialize in heavy metal. A coffee house downstairs - residents above. That formula right there is how we built this city, and now it's illegal.

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are amazing projects happening on James North right now that have told the city's building department to get lost. Over-regulation and ridiculous new building code standards threatened much of the heritage integrity of some of the beautiful renovations you see happening on the street. I don't want to get anyone in trouble so I won't mention names, but there have been many attempts by the city to turn these beautiful heritage buildings into drywall boxes with no character and no history left.
Talk to small business owners on James or Locke who have to pay the city a fee because they can't provide the minimum number of parking spaces required for their business. What? Are they supposed to demolish the building next store and turn it into a parking lot? We should be trying to densify our urban core with less parking and more people/activity/uses/rehabbed buildings/businesses, not more parking lots and red tape leading to less investment and more crack, more plywood storefronts and less residents.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 17:34:53

Upvoted because thanks for your thoughtful, polite disagreement. I agree that you can't just ignore the rules willy nilly, but like highwater says, there are good laws and stupid laws. Sometimes the only way to fight a stupid law is to break it. We should be supporting Barbara and Gary as pioneers fighting to make things better for the rest of us.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 17:56:20

We will all have to work for change through the upcoming election. The silos and by-law czars mention earlier are very real. I am hoping the Our City Our Future initiative will be the catalyst for change this year. It certainly exposed the elite of this city for what they are and showed what lengths they will go to retain their grasp on power.

BTW the parking fees for not having our own spots were probably the final nail in the coffin of our little project.

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By Ward3culture (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 18:26:37

If some aren't brave enough to challenge the "stupid laws" they will remain and we all suffer. I have no doubt that others would have caved, packed their bags and left town defeated and downtrodden. Many others already have, but not Gary and Barbara. Kudos to both of you.

I will state again Gary and Barbara have not broken any laws. They are innocent until proven guilty, and the city has been unable to gain a conviction, even as they line up more charges. That smacks of a war of attrition by the city. The ones at city hall, Morelli I'm talking to you, who are hell bent on destroying what is not under their thumb are on a losing side. They know it, but the city has lawyers and seemingly all the money in the world to pay them (Redhill lawsuit anyone), to run people to financial or mental ruin, or both.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 20:19:15

It's time to ask the city to bear the burden of proof here. We know that "fighting City Hall" didn't work for them, but a greater question remains: is this typical of the effect these laws are having on neighbourhoods like this one? What good are these laws doing that couldn't be achieved with less restrictive legislation?

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By Sky (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 21:54:24

Unless I am mistaken, City Staff can recommend to Council to 'ammend' any by-law or zoning issue they see worthy...I am failing to see why this could not be done for the Pearl...What is crystal clear in my eyes is the fact that Mr.Santucci and Ms.Milne had faith that once they rejuvinated a warehouse and brought new life into the area by offering amazing Art, all would go their way...Thank you for your amazing efforts!
I shudder to think how many other companies, small enterprises are out there that will die because of the City's new official plan and the new zoning that goes with it!

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 22:37:43

I've met too many small business owners downtown in the past 5+ years who all face these same hurdles. If I had a nickel for every time I heard one of them say "sometimes I wish I was just opening a Hortons or a chain restaurant in the suburbs somewhere...." I'd be rich.

Not because they want to own those businesses, but because they see firsthand how our antiquated bylaws and building codes make it illegal to open coffee shops and apartments in older downtown buildings that were built to house coffee shops and apartments 100 years ago, or to turn empty old crime-ridden factory buildings into functioning mixed-use buildings instead of just leaving them to collapse and make the front page of the Spec someday.

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By TheUndercurrent (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 22:39:13

@Sky, Well stated. Though, staff can recommend to Council as much as they want, but if the Councillor is running interference (or has another angle) status quo continues. Unfortunate, but seemingly true.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 23:05:10

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By zippo (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 23:08:57

Santucci was out to clean up the hookers and dealers in his neighborhood. That's cutting into the profit line of the hoodlums that really run this town

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 00:10:36

Jonathan Dalton- I stand by my statement that parking was horrible. Emerald between King William and Wilson was a war zone, especially in winter. Is the 'Bullshit' comment really warranted just because you have a different experience or view point?

Yes. If you have to use that kind of metaphor to describe parallel parking on a side street, downtown is not for you. There is demand for parking in these areas because of the density and lack of private parking, both of which also make neighbourhoods desireable. Try to find a parking spot on the residential side streets off Queen West in Toronto, where houses fetch over a million. Those people deal with it. Here, we have beautiful neighbourhoods in the heart of the city, mere minutes from downtown, where one can own a nice house for under $1000 a month, and we complain about parking.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 00:18:09

I dare not argue the need to revitalization and investment in all neighbourhoods of town. But Barbara and Gary went about it wrong and I cannot let them represent me personally. They tried to stretch the law and instead of working with the city when they acted first in bad faith. Countless other groups in town have made the costly accessible bathroom renovations, had liquor licenses and regular inspections, parking at least considered for their intended use (reasonable law or not) and so on. These are services the city must provide. I don't think this anarchistic approach is at all democratic. What if hospitals could act in the same way? Their needs are dire. Oh they're making a point. I see.

An additional bone to pick is that this was gentrification right proper. Gary has been cruel and invasive with his photography of sex workers. If this were a casino would we all be thinking the same way?

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 00:25:08

Johnathan, I grew up in Toronto, learned to drive there and have been parallel for 29 of my 45 years as up until a year ago I have always lived in city cores. There is an issue with amount of street space available in the area for the amount of vehicles. I personally think many of the residents around The Pearl Company may have been in touch with Bernie M. to complain about parking and zoning issues. That may be the reason why Bernie is not siding with the business owners, they don't vote in his ward.

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By It's O.K. We Got Waterfalls (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 02:47:43

Looks like Hamilton is closed for Business.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 03:09:03

I find the lack of objectivity by people who are biased in favour of artists a bit unsettling. The comparisons to neighbourhoods in Toronto are willfully ignorant as the North End had it's residents first and they are nowhere near as serviced by transit or any particular commercial corridor with mixed use like you'd find along Queen St. There is no University of Toronto in proximity to The Pearl Factory. It's a different culture of residents and they are to be respected. These are their homes. I like bikes and art and music shows as much as the next guy. But if some people plunked down in my neighbourhood without my input and had the Budos Band playing when I had to work in the morning... I'd be unhappy. To want to dictate the rules of how my community is built after the fact... that's pretty jerky. This really does smack of elitism and it turns my stomach.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 06:29:55

I'm sympathetic to big dreams and believe that Landsdale should be treated as more than just a dumping ground for social services (or, conversely, fertile ground for free range gentrification), but as soon you introduce magical thinking as a pillar of your business plan, you're at a disadvantage. Due diligence would have exposed the zoning/licensing fustercluck and perhaps salted the appeal of the property.

I'm not saying that the city is blameless in this, but I do think that the "nobody gets the curative powers of the creative class – so hands off, you ignorant bastards" line is a gross over-simplification on the level of the justifications invoked by teenage pot smokers.

As has been pointed out previously, this is not just Morelli. This is departmental culture, this is city staffers, this is the legal constraints of by-laws. That's a complicated problem to fix. Even if Morelli was making the case for change as vehemently as he could without undergoing hug therapy as a result of some rage volcano episode. Especially when your ward electorate is as economically marginalized and politically apathetic as Ward 3. Bring up Binbrook as a sardonic counterpoint if you will, but those Hamiltonians probably turn out to the polls twice as much.

An uncomfortable truth, 32 days from the swearing-in of the Xerox Administration? The fundamental problems with downtown won't get fixed until downtown business owners and residents become politically invested in the battle. Any guesses as to how much voter turnout will increase for this election – and in what wards?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 07:39:44

PS: Checking the 2006 turnouts, I see that Ward 11 polling numbers are only about a third higher than those of Ward 3. Since there are three times as many Ward 3 candidates in this election, I'm sure turnout will jump. The question is, by how much? (Will Paul Tetley match Sean Gibson's 27% showing in the last go-round? Will Sean Gibson?)

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By Shocked and Awed (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 09:06:40

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 09:12:45

No need for sarcasm, Shocked.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 09:39:37

To whoever brought 'gentrification' into the discussion, I'm sorry but I just don't see it. I don't think we need to worry about gentrification hitting the Hammer anytime in our lifetime. Let's just work on creating a few healthy communities before we worry about gentrification.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:14:03

Great article and really good comments. The city should be bending over backwards and forwards to ensure places like the Pearl can survive and thrive. This is where decisions need to be reflected against the mission statement (of city building) held by this administration.

Unless there is massive public upheaval, let them do what they have to do. Meanwhile, the city trust can work behind the scenes to accommodate the zoning change.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:14:54

I just don't see parking as a fundamental human right and don't believe either home or business owners should be entitled to the free street parking that the city provides. I understand if the residents of the neighbourhood object to the loss of some of their parking spaces because of a business, their councillor should get involved. However it shouldn't be what makes or breaks that business. Perhaps a good solution, and certainly within the councillor's influence, would be to implement permit parking in the vicinity for homeowners only. It wouldn't be free, but it would be very cheap (something like $60 / year) and would guarantee availability for permit holders.

Maybe I've missed part of the discussion but I don't see this as an issue of the people versus the Pearl Company. There are solutions to issues of parking and noise that can satisfy both parties. The problem is a prohibitively expensive and time consuming process to arrive at those relatively simple solutions, and a councillor who refuses to acknowledge it.

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By Background (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:47:06

Just to provide some context and background here, can anyone comment on what other venues like the Pearl Company had to go through to start up and how they were able to manage (if they did)? The Staircase is one example that comes to mind and the old CHCH studios another.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2010 at 15:33:39

The photo exhibit Santucci did featuring pictures of sex workers in the area was pretty tasteless. If you don't want to live around hookers, don't move into a building near King & Steven. That area is rough even by my tastes (had a house-full of friends move to Barton and Sanford because it was "nicer").

I welcome the Pearl Company as an addition to the area, but buying into neighbourhoods and then trying to "clean them up" to suit your taste just stinks of privilege, snobbery and entitlement.

Hamilton is a working-class town and isn't going to thrive by enforcing Oakville-style standards. I'm not saying we should embrace crack and hookers (though there is something lovable about the term "Hamsterdamilton"), but it can't all be art galleries and $2/cup coffee shops.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 16:47:50

^That is a gross misrepresentation of what the Pearl company is all about, and incidentally completely irrelevant to the zoning issue, so if you're suggesting that the city is right to be strictly enforcing zoning in the case of the Pearl when they've been flexible in other cases because Gary and Barb are privileged, entitled snobs, then you are way off the mark.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2010 at 17:03:29

I think I have to respectfully disagree, Undustrial.

The questionable taste of the photo exhibit aside, one of the most frustrating things about being a "working class" family is that people assume your family is OK with all the illicit stuff that happens in the neighbourhood, and that if you live in a poor neighbourhood, you're automatically someone who needs help, should be watched closely, and doesn't care one bit about what goes down on their street or what they're raising their kids around. A lot of families (and single people) would prefer not to have a neighbourhood like that, but it's impossible for them.

How about asking some of my former coworkers who live on Oak and Barton (working parents at low-paying jobs, with kids) how much they want their kids growing up around that stuff?

Ask my neighbours across the alley, or those who live below me how much they like it when they're watching their kids play in the back yard and a drug deal goes down in the alley right behind them, or the hooker who frequents our corner walks by? Whaddaya think they'll say?

I'm very, very lucky to live in a neighbourhood as nice as I do with the budget I have. There's great seniors who see everything and are good to have around. My immediate neighbours are all fantastic - and by and large hardworking. Some are even gasp high-paid professionals in specialized fields! But, of course... we should be OK with the crack and the hookers, right? After all, we simply shouldn't have moved here if those things aren't to our taste?

How about asking my parents what it was like two decades ago when they were trying to find a place to rent and raise the family on a single income, and then what it was like after that income was gone after a job loss?

It's not about "suiting one's taste" or snobbery and entitlement... it's that no one - not even people at King and Steven - should have to live with illegal, harmful activity in their backyards, their streets, their alleys, their homes, or their buildings, and if it takes people moving in with a modicum of power and ability to bring some change, that's no problem for me.

I'm all for the Pearl Company. Have I been there yet? No. Might I go sometime? Perhaps. But even if it's not something I'm interested in, adding diversity, eyes on the street, different demographics in a neighbourhood - these are all good things.

Simply stating that Hamilton is "working class" and thus we should leave neighbourhoods full of drug addicts and sex workers alone to continue their self-destructive cycles of abuse and addiction isn't helpful - and it's not acceptable, even in Hamilton.

Comment edited by Meredith on 2010-09-22 16:08:59

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By Workerbee (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 17:06:34

@Undustrial. That are has improved in the last 3 years, and one of the reasons is The Pearl Company. Not the only reason but one of the reasons.

Please show me where its written that working class neighbourhoods don't deserve arts, culture and safe neighbourhoods.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 17:50:45

Workerbee,

Yes, the area around King has been better, but only at the cost of Barton from James to Gage getting much, much worse in those 3 years. I just moved from Barton and Gibson (between Birch and Sherman) after 10 years. The problem has only moved to an area that the police is willing to be a toilet. They would rather contain in a geographical area then eradicate. When Barton people have had their limit and get vocal with the police it will move back to King. It`s been back and forth like that since I moved here in 1993.

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By Workerbee (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 22:11:35

@mrjanitor. What you've said is an echo of Morelli's mantra. You move the prostitution off King it appears on Barton, you move it off Barton it moves to King. And hmmm, Morelli was first elected in 1991, two years before you moved to the area. Coincidence?? I think not.

I refuse to believe that one area gets better at the expense of another.

If what you are saying is true my solution would be to establish a Pearl Company clone in each of the neighbourhoods. Problem solved. Lets start the re-zoning!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 22:42:34

I'm not saying we should embrace crack and hookers (though there is something lovable about the term "Hamsterdamilton"), but it can't all be art galleries and $2/cup coffee shops.

I'm sorry, but I find myself wondering if you live in a different city than I do. "all art galleries and $2/cup coffee shops"??

Look around, any overgeneralization is inaccurate, but if one must be made I think it would be more accurate to say "it's all Tim Hortons and dollar stores".

Again, gentrification is a word that simply doesn't need to be uttered in Hamilton. We are decades, or perhaps generations away from ever needing to worry about that, if ever.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2010 at 23:56:36

Well, an XL at Tim's will cost ya about $2 these days (if you're not a jerk and leave your extra few cents as a tip) so perhaps the two worlds are ever edging bizarrely closer (but not in a good way)... lol

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 23, 2010 at 07:55:56

Workerbee,

Read my posts please. I have lived off of both major streets since I moved here and have seen the prostitutes move from King to Barton to King to Barton to King to Barton etc. It only shifts, never ends. This has nothing to do with me echoing Morelli, it has to do with me living in the core and seeing things with my own eyes. I can only speak of what I've lived with, if you have other information please share. What parts of the city have you lived in since 1993?

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By GO GO (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2010 at 09:25:01

Workerbee,

Sorry, but I have to agree with with mrjanitor... I have lived in the area of Barton/Wentworth for 4.5 years and have seen the same thing happen.

Attention by police goes downtown the Prostitutes come up to Barton, They do some "sweeping" on Barton they go somewhere else and return when the heat is off. I have seen them walk all the way from King to "go to work' on Barton.

The Chief of Police got a not so happy email about the prostitutes on Barton and about them "doing" their customers in my neighbours driveways! The result was that they did a sweep of the area and arrested some "johns" and some prostitutes. That didn't last long.

So yes, some areas do get better at the expense of others! Where do you think the druggies and prostitutes go? Just disappear into thin air!

Do I think Morelli has done anything in the time he has been councilor... NO WAY!. In the just the last 4.5 years I have lived hear Barton has gotten more derelict and has more prostitutes. That is why ward 3 needs a new man/women on the block and more people like Barbara Milne and Gary Santucci! I would rather put up with a bit of a parking issue then seeing some prostitute doing the nasty in some ones driveway or Cathy Weaver schools parking lot... which has also happened!!!

Cheers,

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By Workerbee (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2010 at 09:43:40

Perhaps, I mis-understood, or am being mis-understood myself. I agree with both mrjanitor (btw, I do live in Ward 3 and understand the situation first hand), and GO GO, on many points.

My point is that all Morelli says is; The police sweep on King, the problem moves to Barton, the police sweep on Barton and it moves to King. It's a circle and I've heard it from his own mouth. He usually follows up that comment by saying prostitution is not illegal, so you need to lobby your MP...

My point is if the problem just keeps getting moved around, then lets do something differently. Ask other candidates if they'd address the problem any differently. The one candidate I listened to talked a different game, with different ideas that made sense to me.

Will his ideas work? I can't be sure, but I am sick (and sickened) by the defeatist attitude of Morelli, who is seemingly content to just move the problem around the ward. After all what does he care, he has never even lived in the ward...

I do know that past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance, so Morelli has got to GO GO. ;)

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 23, 2010 at 10:10:38

Bernie Morelli is the new Ron "Fuggedaboutit" Corsini. His defeatism is holding Ward 3 back and needs to go.

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By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2010 at 11:25:44

Question is - will Bernie actually show up at the debates (other than Cable 14) this time around - or will be truly "Fuggedaboutit"...

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2010 at 17:20:29

Didn't the same kind of thing happen with the retro theatre that opened on Concession St. last year? (harrassment, zoning bi-law charges,& everything to shut the place down.)

WHO??! in their right mind would Ever invest in Hamilton with these kind of stories popping up with the frequency that they do?

It's also (nearly?) official. Nobody shall have any Fun in Hamilton. Play a team sport, join a gym, but don't even think of having a nice evening out within the realm of the Arts. That's for City Slickers!

What about the man who bought a church near Westdale, asked City Hall about any taxes owing on the place, was told there were none & got dinged for All the back taxes (cuz it used to be church & didn't pay any.)He wanted to build a student residence. I guess he didn't, cuz the church is still there..He claimed at the time that he lost everything on that deal.

I think we should be more worried about the sharks we pay salaries to, than a bunch of stinky cormorants.

Hamilton is 'open for business'? I DON'T THINK SO!!

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By Anony (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 13:49:19

Amen Jason, I remember when King Street West in Toronto was a place you "skipped" while getting from High Park to the downtown core. King Street East in Hamilton reminds me of what Bloor West Village looked like way back too - between Jane and Parkside. And if Hamilton city hall does not change by the time my mortgage term is up, I am going back to Toronto where I'm from and will let it be known that the blight on Hamilton is not the brownfields and lower income areas with high crime, it's the city's bureaucrats! I am so disappointed in the way Hamilton is being mismanaged!

I see the potential. I am sick and tired of mediocre beaurocrats feeling safe with the current status quo. We need an overhaul to this city that will take guts, mavericks, brains, and perhaps some tyranical rule to SHOVE the old guard OUT of Hamilton and get it to become what it ought to have been already. We need a 21st century Henry VIII willing to piss off the elite to the point of back room foiled conspiracies!

I am so upset to learn about the Pearl Company's troubles. This message is to Bernie: I'm in Ward 3, and I WILL vote! Untie your hands, screw the red tape and "processes", and quit being afraid to exploit the relationships you've made (other than those of us in your riding, of course, we're tired of the lip service) to leave a legacy of a revitalized Ward 3!!! If you don't, then you will be lumped into the preamble discussing the councillors and beaurocrats who did nothing but fail Hamilton, while the body of history will discuss those to come who DID make Hamilton come back to life!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2010 at 14:21:01

@Cityjoe

I went to see A Scanner Darkly at the Movie Palace. They'd built a beautiful facility there...

But the doors were closed and abandoned when I arrived (the previews had barely started) - I had to knock get in... and the projection failed no less than 4 times when I was there.

We didn't go back. So I wouldn't assume that the theatre's failures can be entirely blamed on municipal obstruction.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-01 13:22:21

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 15:16:30

Perhaps I cannot 100% blame the city, but I can't help to have all that disruptive crap dumped on you after you have put a ton of money & effort into a dream.

So the locals vandalized the place?

It looked pretty good when it first opened.

The public transit esp. weekends/nights leaves a Lot to be desired, & it's pretty much off the beaten path for anybody not driving there, if you don't live close by.

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