Downtown Bureau

First Look at Restored Royal Connaught

The developers behind the new Residences of Royal Connaught held an official launch to showcase the Royal Connaught's beautifully restored main lobby and a showcase model suite.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 05, 2014

Yesterday evening, after years of false starts, followed by several months of secretive renovations behind papered windows, the developers behind the new Residences of Royal Connaught condo development held an official launch to showcase the Connaught's beautifully restored main lobby and a showcase model suite.

Royal Connaught front entrance
Royal Connaught front entrance

The lobby was impressive, with ornamented columns rising from a beautifully restored marble floor to intricate ceiling work and spectacular glass chandeliers.

Coffee bar
Coffee bar

Chandelier
Chandelier

Restored marble floor
Restored marble floor

In the centre of the lobby was a large model of the full five-phase project, which is planned to include two towers and two new buildings on the south side of the property facing onto Main Street.

Project model
Project model

Overlooking the lobby is a restored balcony that offers a great view and leads to the model suite.

Staircase to second floor
Staircase to second floor

Second floor balcony
Second floor balcony

Ceiling corner detail
Ceiling corner detail

Overlooking the lobby from second floor balcony
Overlooking the lobby from second floor balcony

Developers Rudy Spallacci and Ted Valeri
Developers Rudy Spallacci and Ted Valeri

The model suite was a nicely-appointed two-bedroom condo with two full bathrooms, a large storage closet, in-home washer and dryer room and a beautiful view overlooking Gore Park.

Living Room
Living Room

Kitchen
Kitchen

Main bedroom
Main bedroom

Second bedroom
Second bedroom

Bathroom
Bathroom

View out the window
View out the window

There will be 122 units in the first phase of development, and they will go on sale on June 7 in a public grand opening.

The 13-storey Royal Connaught Grand Hotel was named after Governor General Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who laid the cornerstone in 1914. It was built by the Pigott Construction Company and opened in 1916.

After decades representing Hamilton high society, it closed in 2004 following years of changing hands and persistent financial troubles.

Redevelopment attempts since then include a 2008 bid by Harry Stinson that would have included an 80-storey glass pyramid tower and a 2009 proposal to convert the building to affordable housing.

Rendering of Harry Stinson's 2008 development proposal
Rendering of Harry Stinson's 2008 development proposal

In 2011, Mayor Bob Bratina leaked an early rendering of a proposed redevelopment that would include a new tower with a glass facade. The owners quickly distanced themselves from the rendering, saying it was too preliminary for public consumption.

2011 Rendering
2011 Rendering

This time, it looks very much like the project is really going to go ahead. The market for urban living has changed, the demographics of downtown Hamilton have changed, and the expense and detail the developers have dedicated to the restoration indicates that they are in this to see it through to completion.

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 HamiltonResident (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 11:12:47

Do Hamilton tradespeople benefit from the Connaught? Apparently, Valery Homes and the Spallaci Group hired non-unionized, non-local building contractors to construct the lobby and model suite.

It's hard to feel good about developers who allow millions of dollars to drain unnecessarily from the local economy. Hamilton city councilors should be asking questions about these developers' business practices. So should our news organizations.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2014 at 13:14:48 in reply to Comment 102079

Get lost.Don't non-union workers also spend money in the local economy?

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By Unification (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 12:06:56

It's about time that workers who wish NOT to be part of a union finally get a chance to make a decent wage doing a good thing using their trade skills. Unions were important in 1920, not in 2014. I'd like a refund for all the union dues I have paid over the years -- unions that hardly had the best interest of the worker in mind. Unions that did not protect the worker from layoffs and firings when company's decide to move their jobs overseas.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 20:46:44 in reply to Comment 102080

I disagree with this post. Workers have the choice now. They can seek a job in a non-union shop. Non-union shops can bid against union outfits, and the best company usually wins the bid. Unions are more important now than ever. The US has the same unionization rate in 2014 as it did in 1914, and about 50% of the population now lives in near poverty or full poverty. If unionization isn't the answer to restoring the middle class, I've yet to see an alternative. Repealing the Rand formula is definitely not the answer.

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By HamiltonResident (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 12:52:23 in reply to Comment 102080

Agreed, non-unionized hiring isn't the problem. I'd like to see this project benefit local workers and contractors, though.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 12:07:05

How does it follow that the people hired to do the work were not from Hamilton?

BTW, Good Story.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2014-06-05 12:07:53

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 12:11:24

Hopefully local workers are used as much as possible, but why does it matter if they are unionized or not?? I know plenty of excellent tradespeople with successful businesses and great employee ethics with no union.

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By AtTheEventLastNight (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 12:11:28

Representatives of the trade unions were all in attendance last night. Both Valery and Spallaci hired local where possible but some of the restoration work is very, very specialized.

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By HamiltonResident (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 13:05:05

Good question. My understanding is that some of the on-site labor was hired locally, but not all of the sub-trades were Hamilton-owned companies.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 13:07:59

That might be a nice place to live. I wonder what the bicycle parking is like.

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By AtTheEventLastNight (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 13:08:37

You're right. Some of the sub-trades weren't hired locally. (There are huge benefits to hiring local - even beyond political and cultural - so they did hire local whereever they could).

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By Stop the Hijack (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2014 at 20:57:49

I'm really energized by this development. The fact that the developers are moving ahead with a market-value development can only be a benefit to downtown and greater Hamilton.

In the past I've had my complaints about how Spallacci seemingly "worked the system" to get local government largesse (i.e. money) to develop properties, but if this project works, I'll take it all back.

Great project!!! Now let's see it sellout and become reality as quickly as possible.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted June 06, 2014 at 07:46:22

I got a chance in the late-80s to have an extensive walk-through of the Connaught, as well as having a few meals in the diner. The hotel was always a foundation of the downtown core for me. So when it crumbled into the state it's been in, I felt enormous sadness. That it's being resurrected is fantastic. Fingers crossed.

I'm curious as to what will happen to the vicinity, specifically from James to Wellington, King (not Main) to at least Wilson. How will King Street from John to James change? How will International village change? Residents in this building, as well as others that will undoubtedly be built nearby, will need appropriate-to-their-incomes amenities. Ones that currently are not there. This is the bookend to the inevitable change that will unfold from Queen to Bay, Main to King. (Where there are quite visibly not that many opportunities for development...without demolition, of course.)

I am all for a sea change downtown. Absolutely. I'm merely curious about the knock-on effects ('gentrification', anyone?), how people will react to these changes in forums such as this, when, for example, the block at the north-east corner of King and James is torn down.

Looking forward to ambling around the Connaught tomorrow.

Comment edited by ItJustIs on 2014-06-06 07:47:30

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 07, 2014 at 08:03:42

Looks fantastic. Planning on taking a look at the lobby on Sunday. I really hope this project is a success and don't see too many reasons why it wouldn't - hopefully this will help to gentrify the stretch of King from Wellington to James, and Main from Hughson to Catharine.

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By allen (registered) | Posted June 07, 2014 at 17:12:58

At least we have one major project that isn't a Vranich development. 275 King W is a disaster and soon there probably won't be anyone living there

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 07, 2014 at 21:57:54 in reply to Comment 102157

Explain why it's a disaster, please.

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By allen (registered) | Posted June 08, 2014 at 16:45:21 in reply to Comment 102164

Construction is terrible. The windows are not insulated and there is no proper source of heat. Tenants pay ~$250 in hydro per month.

Our stoves have broken, heat has broken hot water on demand hardly works, locks have broken and people have been locked out with no superintendent (keys have broken inside the locks as well) First floor has ant infestations. Tenants have taken sick days due to the extreme cold in the winter. Tenants were promised a number of amenities to be completed by October and they are still not done. Some of the advertised attractions have been scrapped.

One couple on the loft floor couldn't use their upper level because the heat from the sun shining through the windows was unbearable even in winter. There have been injuries due to lack of upkeep and improper installations.

Not to mention we have a sex offender working in our building who we pay rent to, who still owes $300 000 to his victim from several years ago.

Half the building are in the process of taking Denis to the tribunal over these issues

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 08, 2014 at 21:17:12 in reply to Comment 102183

Sounds like a case of buyer beware. Did you have a home inspection prior to moving in? There's no way I'd move in without one, regardless of whether you're the first people to live in the unit or not. That building sat vacant for too long and seemed to take forever to get put up, which would lead to issues like the ones you're experiencing.

I live in a Vranich apartment to condo conversion (done in the late 1990s). There were plenty of corners cut, but that's reflected in the price of the units and the amount of turnover.

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By allen (registered) | Posted June 08, 2014 at 22:46:36 in reply to Comment 102192

I didn't get a home inspection, no. But that should never be needed when moving into an apartment. The products they installed and appliances brought in are all cheap crap imported from China with DIV Construction logos on them. It is really the cost of hydro that turns me off the most, as this is supposed to be an energy efficient building.

I guess when you decide not to install water boilers or HVAC it can be considered energy efficient, for the landlord.

And the units are not cheap here either. Pricing is sporadic. I got my bachelor for $650 but they typically start at $800 now and the lofts are way over priced at $1700

Comment edited by allen on 2014-06-08 22:51:56

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 09, 2014 at 16:17:35 in reply to Comment 102194

My mistake, I thought it was condo units in there. Well, I'd be moving out as soon as I could then - but I am sure you're locked into a 1 year lease since that seems to be the norm these days. Thanks for bringing this to light.

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By allen (registered) | Posted June 09, 2014 at 16:31:56 in reply to Comment 102225

My pleasure. Actually that's what our goal is, we're hoping the public is soon aware of this. 2 have ended their leases already, myself and another have stopped paying rent, and another moved but is still paying.

We currently have a group of 10 of the ~ 20-25 total tenants in the building who are seeking compensation and ending leases.

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By Vera (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2014 at 09:42:07

The problem is no units of any decent size being built anywhere in the downtown core. In NYC you can find a variety of styles and sizes, these are the size of retirement home rooms and Hamilton certainly isn't Manhattan, Paris or Toronto where you can find a lot to do outside of your home. I gave up looking for anything, they are like finding the needle in the haystack. Canada needs to look to countries with mature condo lifestyles and copy that.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 08, 2014 at 09:59:24 in reply to Comment 102170

I think you're wrong about that. There's lots of multi-bedroom units in or near the core that are available.

However, I think that most new condo undertakings are built smaller because larger sized ones will cost a lot more than people are willing to pay, at least at this time. Developers don't want to risk building 1,000 square foot units that cost $250,000 or more because there is no guaranteed return on investment. Smaller places (500 to 750 square feet) are a lot easier to sell and, also, the market is dictating it. If larger places with their inflated price tags were what the public wanted, they'd be there, right?

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By Chronamut (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2014 at 10:33:06

I always find it amazing that hamiltonians will find the first thing to complain about something, instead of immediately focusing on the good that is coming out of this, or all the money that is now being invested into the downtown. Hamilton has to literally transform itself before any major regional changes can be made and cemented. This is going to take time. You cannot revitalize the downtown core overnight. Having smaller condos priced lower will get people willing to live downtown in a place where the amenities that used to be there are not there anymore.

For example - there used to be zarkies and woolworths downtown now, as well as the juggernaut Eatons, where now there is an employment office and newly closed bingo hall. There used to be a zellers where now there is nothing. There used to be fur shops and china shops and jewellery shops - there used to actually be places to go - now there are stores that reflect the historical poverty of the region, dollar stores, liquidation places, thrift shops, ghetto stores, and the people that mill about that reflect it - not forgetting the jackson square and derelict Eatons center.

Almost every classy establishment has been replaced with something that caters to the poor - B and C class stores. In the 40s and 50s one actually DRESSED UP to go downtown - now you see people in buggies and beggars in doorwells and boarded up places wherever you go.

I am one of the artists in the Lister Arts gallery in the newly restored lister block - when that building was restored it triggered a chain reaction of restoration all along king william street, and partially on james st too. I am seeing buildings being worked on that had been crumbling for years, and even a giant NEW building being built beside Leon furs! A city is nothing without the support of its people, regardless of how much of how it is being done you don't like, the point stands that something is still being DONE. Be grateful - unless you wish to shell out the money to do it yourself!

Hamilton has historically suffered from incompetent city planners as well as incompetent builders - look at the chophouse grill in the lister block - a year later and the man hasn't paid any of his workers and the restaurant still hasn't opened, and the city granted it to him out of 5 other prospective restaurants, when he had a history of corruption - did they not do a background check, and now there is a struggle going on that will only hurt that buildings success as the man will declare bankruptcy and move his assets, as he has historically done over and over, all to evade having to pay.

That being said, 275 king st w is regrettable, but as the user said, buyer beware.

you can view my work in the gallery here:

http://listerarts.ca/artists/shawn-dall/

in addition I also made a new artwork to commemorate the royal connaught opening :)

http://pixels.com/featured/the-royal-con...

-shawn-

Comment edited by Chronamut on 2014-06-09 10:42:04

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By Jim Street (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2014 at 19:05:43

The Lister reno has spurred nothing. It is beautiful and I'm happy we as taxpayers saved it from the wrecking ball. The revival on King William is all about proximity to what is happening on James North. The buiding at Vine and James is being developed because of the energy that small business and building owners have poured into the downtown area north of King St. Please don't give credit to LiUNA! for the amazing progress happening in the core.

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