A new three-storey retail/commercial building at 123 James Street North will have an urban built form that complements the James North streetwall.
By Ryan McGreal
Published July 23, 2013
Construction of a new commercial building has begun on the lot at the northwest corner of James Street North and Vine Street. Developer Jack Beume confirmed in an email, "We are proceeding with this building" on the lot at 123 James North.
The building is due to be completed in June 2014.
Construction equipment on site
According to Rick Lintack of Lintack Architects Inc, the architecture firm that designed the building, it will be three-storeys with 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail/restaurant space and two upper floors of offices totalling 21,600 square feet. The work will be done by Tambro Construction.
Better yet, the building has an urban design that fits into the existing streetwall on James. Rather than a suburban plaza set behind an off-street parking lot like the strip mall on the northeast corner of James and York, this building will be built to the sidewalk and flush with the Leon Furs building next door. It also includes 74 underground parking spaces, with an access on Vine Street.
Rendering of new building at 123 James North (Image Credit: Lintack Architects Inc)
Rendering detail: flush with building next door (Image Credit: Lintack Architects Inc)
As Lintack explained in an email, "The design is intended to be complementary to the James Street north context and is the first new-build on James North that is being constructed in accordance with the requirements of the 'Downtown Heritage Character Zone Guidelines'."
Those guidelines were established in 2006 to protect the existing character of the built form and to ensure that new infill development complements what is already in place.
The guidelines define how a building sits with respect to the street line, what materials are used, the heights of floors and proportions of windows, and so on.
Map: Downtown Heritage Character Zone (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)
Lintack pointed out one challenge during the approvals process: the city insisted on a 9 metre by 9 metre "daylight triangle" at the corner of James and Vine. As Lintack put it, that "basically takes a 30' by 30' triangular bite out of the corner of the building."
Suggesting that this was "policy driven" rather than a design best practice that actually went against the design goals in the Character Zone Guidelines, the developer persuaded the city to reduce the daylight triangle to 10' x 10' and to allow the round glass tower above the main floor to encroach past the triangle.
As I wrote last year when Beume put the new commercial and office space for lease, this is an important milestone in the revitalization of James North.
One of the main benefits of an existing streetwall of old buildings is that enterprising developers can buy the properties, restore them and put them to productive use without the large capital investment that a new build requires.
That building-by-building redevelopment helps to bootstrap a more robust economic growth that raises property values and attracts more residents and businesses in a virtuous cycle. The fact that Beume generated enough lease agreements from his offer to go ahead with the construction of a new building is a very good sign for the economic vitality of James North and the downtown core.
Likewise, the urban form of the building is encouraging: a sign that the City is finally starting to "get it" when it comes to urban revitalization.
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