Special Report: Education

Put HWDSB Offices in City Hall Tower 2: Farr

Councillor Jason Farr plans to introduce a motion for Council to call on the Board of Education to locate their offices in a proposed second tower built on the south side of City Hall.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 27, 2012

At the January 25, 2012 Council meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr introduced a notice of motion that would call on the city to propose accommodating the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in a second tower built on the City Hall property.

A notice of motion means the Councillor who issued it plans to introduce the motion itself at a subsequent meeting. According to Councillor Farr in an email to RTH, "The intention would be to have it come to the floor as a motion at a near-future meeting".

Under Farr's motion, Council would direct staff "to formally propose the City Hall second tower site for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board for a nominal long-term land lease fee".

Farr notes that City staff have "made efforts in appealing to the Board of Education in the past year to contemplate staying in the downtown." He hopes that the School Board will be more interested in an offer to remain downtown if it comes directly from Council.

Farr does not yet have any cost estimates for the proposal. "When and if approved," he writes, "staff will then address" the matter of cost.

Footings for a Second Tower

The feasibility of this proposal hinges to a large extent on whether footings were poured for a second tower when City Hall was built in 1960. Farr is currently investigating the status of the footings.

Architect Stanley Roscoe designed City Hall so that a second tower could be built to the south of the current tower to accommodate future growth in the size of the City payroll.

It is generally assumed that the footings for that tower are in place, but RTH has not yet obtained confirmation on this.

According to Graham Crawford of History+Heritage, who interviewed Roscoe before the architect died in August 2010:

I did interview Stan a few years back at City Hall. I asked him about his expansion plans for City Hall and he assured me that the foundations had been poured for a tower at the south end of the building.

Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the original plans for the building or can otherwise verify whether the footings were poured is invited to let us know, either in the comments or via email.

Notice of Motion

Following is the full text of the notice of motion:

CITY OF HAMILTON
NOTICE OF MOTION

Council Date: January 25, 2012

MOVED BY COUNCILLOR J FARR....

Use of City Hall Tower 2 as Downtown Site for HWDSB Offices

Whereas, McMaster University's Family Medicine Department is poised to construct an exciting multi-level facility on the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board site at the corner of Main and Bay Streets, and;

Whereas, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board has stated an interest in moving their downtown offices to their Mountain location, and;

Whereas, when designated and constructed in 1960, Stanley Roscoe's vision for City Hall included a second tower, situated immediately south of the current bulding, and;

Whereas, retaining the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board as a keynote employer in downtown Hamilton is of paramount importance to Hamilton, and;

Therefore be it resolved:

That City staff be directed to formally propose the City Hall second tower site for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board for a nominal long-term land lease fee, and undertake discussions with the Board on their requirements.

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.

32 Comments

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 27, 2012 at 17:02:26

Nice.

Love to see people using their powers of re-imagination in the city.

Well done.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 17:44:40

Well played, Mr. Farr. Keep up the inspired thinking.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 20:17:54

Interesting. Looking forward to see how this turns out. Hope that the footings are in good and usable condition. Finally something I agree with from my councillor.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 20:28:46

I could care less if no foundation was poured. A foundation will need to be poured at the Crestwood site. Do it here instead.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 21:01:04

Councillor Farr has been a pleasant surprise since the beginning of his term.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 21:50:50 in reply to Comment 73432

agreed.

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By Bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 07:37:07

Good progressive thinking Jason! Like one other poster said,if no foundations,pour them!

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By TnT (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:15:07

Someone posted somewhere that footings are poured under the parkinglot a BoE. Anyone know if this is true?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 13:01:33 in reply to Comment 73443

I think that was me. I remember it being part of the discussions when the board was initially debating whether to leave downtown back in 2007. It is likely buried in board meeting minutes somewhere. The only reference to it I could find was this.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted January 28, 2012 at 15:40:49 in reply to Comment 73448

"The baby boom was moving through the ranks and education was exploding. There were predictions the new building would soon be too small.

No worries, the architect said. He had built in foundations to support an addition to the north, where there was lots of room for a full six-storey wing."

http://www.thespec.com/whatson/article/2...

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By thinking critically (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:47:17

Councillor Farr's suggestion has merit because it would be making use of (at this time purported) previous infrastructure investments, which all should agree is better sprawl. However, the question should also be asked why City staff would not populate the 2nd tower, instead of being scattered across the city in no less than 4 different buildings.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 14:39:40 in reply to Comment 73444

It's a helluva lot cheaper to pay rent than to build an equivalent tower in 2012 dollars, especially in our current financial state.

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By thinking critically (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2012 at 09:54:58 in reply to Comment 73453

It might be less expensive - let's not forget that someone is still making profit on the rent.

But there is a more important issue at hand, and that is about civic pride and City-building. By this I am trying to illustrate that a City that is content to rent it's future rather than "build-it" does nothing to inspire citizens and businesses to do the same. I see far too many examples of this (what I would call the lazy) approach. After time, it becomes much harder, and expensive, to maintain or improve buildings or infrastructure after years of neglect or minimal maintenance that comes with rental properties.

I agree that taking the high-road is harder and can be more expensive (initially), but it is the high-road after all. I for one would prefer if our Civic leaders chose to invest our tax money, rather than just spending it.

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By thinking critically (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:49:01

edit:
...should read "better than sprawl"...

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 13:40:50

There is also this photo tour I did a few years ago in which I reference various points made by Stanley Roscoe during his guided tour of the hall. He told us about the footings and foundation being laid behind city hall for the future expansion into a Y-shaped building.

http://raisethehammer.org/article/800/

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 13:47:54

One thing that would be a shame to lose with a new tower behind city hall is the beautiful landscaped area and mature trees.

Based on this satellite view, I'm guessing the new tower would be built in the exact spot of the landscaped area. I would love to see an architect devise a 2nd tower plan that involves maintaining the greenspace, and cool space-age looking elevated walkways by building the 2nd tower further south, perhaps where the maintenance/carwash building is.

http://g.co/maps/v9v4g

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 14:37:05 in reply to Comment 73450

If memory serves, the second tower was intended to go directly behind the first and form a mirror image. If we're going to be consistent in our approach to preserving our architectural heritage, then it doesn't make alot of sense to waste the pre-existing foundations, and ignore Roscoe's original vision, to spare some trees and landscaping that are easily and inexpensively replaced.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2012 at 22:06:44 in reply to Comment 73452

The foundation was laid for the third wing of the building to complete the "Y" (and not a mirror image of the front two wings) - That put it in the location where the two walkways are presently. The third wing was also a rectangle block the same depth as the front two wings - running south, (which was planned to connect to the existing lobby and elevator bank).

The foundation was not laid to hold a "tower" as stated, but a mid-rise building as tall as the current front two wings. If a tower is planned there, the existing foundations would have to be removed and recast to handle the additional load of a "tower".

Besides, there is no way to ascertain the current state/condition of what was cast 40+ years ago. So, it would be futile speculating on the ease of constructing upon these footings today, (even if the old drawings are found), unless there is a comprehensive excavation and structural testing done to uncover these footings and ascertain its current state and the potential capacity to bear new load.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:03:57 in reply to Comment 73477

The foundation was laid for the third wing of the building to complete the "Y" (and not a mirror image of the front two wings)

I stand corrected.

The foundation was not laid to hold a "tower" as stated, but a mid-rise building as tall as the current front two wings.

Semantics. No one is proposing anything taller than the current wings.

...unless there is a comprehensive excavation and structural testing done to uncover these footings and ascertain its current state and the potential capacity to bear new load.

This goes without saying, but since the alternative is new construction which will require the construction of entirely new foundations, it's disingenuous to suggest that the testing of existing foundations is so onerous as to be a deal-breaker.

(even if the old drawings are found)

They are in the City's Heritage Planning Dept.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 29, 2012 at 14:42:58 in reply to Comment 73452

Yes, you're right. I know we can replace landscaping, but obviously we'll all be dead and gone before it looks any good. His original vision, according to the guided tour I was on, was to build a tower out the back side of the building that would turn it into a Y-shape. I don't think the plan was for a mirror image, but that would look really cool.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2012 at 10:07:58 in reply to Comment 73452

Trees schmees. They are organic, you can plant new ones. You and I won't live to see them mature but maybe our kids or grandkids will. You don't hold up progressive thought or development because of landscaping.

If its feasible, and you can convince or compel or coerce the BOE to stay downtown..... do it.

My two cents.

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By Nice (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 18:14:55

This is a great idea. The school board could also share the council chambers at City Hall for their board meetings, saving money and space.

Does anyone have a list of trustees emails?

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By George (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 18:26:17 in reply to Comment 73458

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By ccr (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 20:58:43

except for the chicen thing, i have to say Farr has been suprisingly pragmatic. good work, jason. keep it up.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 22:35:45

Jason Farr, I'm pretty sure you have won my vote for the next election. He is a hard working, inspired voice on council that comes up with great ideas. He is proof positive of the benefits of electing new blood into council.

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By Too Late (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2012 at 23:15:38

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 DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 29, 2012 at 05:56:43 in reply to Comment 73462

100 Main is a ghetto property? Since when? There's plenty better locations for that if that's the angle you fear they're gunning for. Since the Continuing Ed building is in the old courthouse a couple of blocks down, I don't think that's the intent.

I think that Mac is trying hard to work with the city to help with invigorating the core and the city. I just wish they'd have a dedicated downtown campus, including at least one residence, to get students and employees downtown more than just 9-5 Monday-Friday.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-01-29 05:59:14

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2012 at 10:42:50

I think Jason's idea could make sense- but the proposed second tower ought to house public health rather than the Schoolboard. The Minister of Education Laurel Broten (email: lbroten.mpp@liberal.ola.org) should approve a partnership between the School Board and McMaster so they can work together to redevelop 100 Main Street West, ideally incorporating the current building into the new development. Please write your trustee, your councillor and the Minister in support of this concept.

http://mattjelly.wordpress.com/2012/01/2...

Comment edited by MattJelly on 2012-01-29 10:43:55

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2012 at 22:03:23

First of all, meter-thick oak trees go a little beyond "landscaping" - if you doubt this, head out to a lumber yard and buy a few truckloads. Putting aside the fact that they're some of the city's most iconic and beautiful trees, the lumber's value alone is colossal. Should they be cut down to build another office tower, I'd hope they at least save the wood and put it to good use.

As far as the need for another tower goes, we've already established that there's absolutely no shortage of office space downtown. I'd like to see the school board remain downtown as much as anyone else here, but spending tens of millions of dollars building another tower while existing buildings are left to rot isn't going to help our problems.

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By simple (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2012 at 22:53:15

Solution. Turn the sad City Centre (formally the Barton Centre) into the new public health centre. DONE.

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By simple (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2012 at 22:54:23 in reply to Comment 73481

I meant Eaton Centre... darn autocorrect.

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By A (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2012 at 15:20:29

I seem to recall reading once that Mac was offered a very sweetheart deal by the City Centre's owners to use the facility and turned it down (the owners wanted to increase the value of their surrounding properties by having Mac there). That would've been nice.

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