Special Report: Heritage

Demolition Permit for Mount St Joseph Issued During Council Recess

On November 12, 2014, the City of Hamilton informed the Municipal Heritage Committee that Vrancor's King West Crossings Inc. applied for a demolition permit to demolish the heritage interest building at 354 King Street West.

By Joey Coleman
Published November 12, 2014

On November 12, 2014, the City of Hamilton informed the Municipal Heritage Committee that Vrancor's King West Crossings Inc. applied for a demolition permit to demolish the heritage interest building at 354 King Street West, commonly known as the Mount St. Joseph / McMaster Children's Hospital building.

Mount St. Joseph Building, 354 King Street West
Mount St. Joseph Building, 354 King Street West

The permit application was made on October 7, 2014 by Darko Vranich's King West Crossings Inc.

The demolition permit has been issued by the Building Department and demolition may occur at any date.

The building is only listed as being of interest, and was not added to the Heritage Interest Registry as it sits on the west side of Queen Street, officially outside the Downtown Core boundary.

For some reason, as of yet unknown, this information was not provided to the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee during their October 16, 2014 meeting.

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie says he was only recently informed of the permit. Due to the election period, Councillors were not receiving routine updates from City staff.

"I only found about the demo permit recently as it was applied for during the election," wrote McHattie in reply to TPR.

"Frustrating as there were no actions that could be taken given the lack of Council meetings."

"[Councillor-elect] Aidan [Johnson] and I are meeting with Mr. Vranich next week to learn more as I am not aware of a development application yet at the City."

As of November 12, there are no development applications filed with the City of Hamilton for post-demolition development.

Letter from Anita Fabac, Manager of Development Planning, Heritage and Design to King West Crossings Inc
Letter from Anita Fabac, Manager of Development Planning, Heritage and Design to King West Crossings Inc

This article was first published on Joey Coleman's website, The Public Record. It is republished here with permission.

Joey Coleman covers Hamilton Civic Affairs.

Read more of his work at The Public Record, or follow him on Twitter @JoeyColeman.

28 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 18:59:23

Wow. Other cities would kill for buildings like this in their core. We bulldoze likely for parking. Hamilton......

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By shadow (anonymous) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 21:17:34

i know that building is haunted but city of hamilton can attempt to tear it down.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 23:23:17 in reply to Comment 106175

i know that building is haunted

0_o

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 23:27:55

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie says he was only recently informed of the permit. Due to the election period, Councillors were not receiving routine updates from City staff.

What? Was any fact checking done to confirm this? Was it sent but the councillor didn't see it due to his focus on running for mayor? I find it really hard to believe that once the election period takes off after council stops sitting, that all communication ceases or becomes infrequent.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 10:44:53 in reply to Comment 106183

the fact you didn't notice a difference in the level of work happening at city hall during the election may speak to the quality of their work the rest of the 4 years. The place was a ghost town for all of October. You think Vranich just happened to luck out and submit his application then??

I'd like to know what the mayor knew, and why the heritage committee wasn't informed.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-11-13 10:45:14

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 00:19:59 in reply to Comment 106188

What? I never said I noticed a difference in the level of work. Where'd you pull that from?

Sure, Vrancor isn't the Salvation Army, and certainly applied for the permit during the election, but that's no excuse for councillors not to be paying attention to their wards during the election.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 06:55:27 in reply to Comment 106183

Obviously the permit requestor knew that this was the fact.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 10:56:05

Perhaps Vranich should do a tour of two similar buildings in Hamilton that have been restored by Core Urban. And are fetching a pretty penny as condo units downtown.

http://www.commercialhamiltonrealestate....

http://christophbphoto.files.wordpress.c...

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By Pearl St (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:22:55

This was a proposed LRT stop. Remember the church kiddie corner will also be demolished. A huge heritage loss here. No ability to repurpose or update with extension, etc?

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By Lexeme (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 12:47:52 in reply to Comment 106192

merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kitty-corner

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By Pearl St (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:15:24 in reply to Comment 106196

Yup my point exactly.

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By Josh B. (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 16:50:20

Check out 150 Main.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 18:32:57

There are a lot of buildings in Hamilton that I would say no to being torn down. This is not one of them. As long as there is a plan for redevelopment, which Vranich has demonstrated more than once, I am all for the demolition.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 19:13:57 in reply to Comment 106203

totally disagree. This is a beautiful, intact heritage building in great condition and location for redevelopment. Imagine we were in Montreal. Would this be knocked down instead of worked with?

Any self-respecting city should preserve it's built heritage. Everything doesn't have to be a 'Pigott' to deserve preservation. There is nothing overly spectacular about the Lister Block, but it represents an era in our city's history. And now look at it. Gorgeous. Places like Mississauga would kill to have buildings like Lister, Mt St Joseph, Gore Park street wall etc.....

Hamilton might be one of the most self-depreciating cities I've ever seen. We've believed the press about us for so long that we're an armpit and dump that we turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy by removing the soul of the city for bland stucco boxes that will be demolished long before Lister or Mt St Joseph.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:57:38 in reply to Comment 106205

self-depreciating

Freudian slip?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 18:58:46 in reply to Comment 106203

That's the major problem: there is apparently no plan for redevelopment.

It is, once again, demolish now, think later about possibly re-developing. And in the meantime we will have another vacant lot or surface parking lot damaging the vitality of the city. Probably for years, possibly for decades as is the case for many of the vast surface parking lots downtown.

A feasible re-development plan (both architecturally and financially) should be a condition for granting a demolition permit. There have been many cases recently of owners who insist on demolishing with no concrete plans to actually rebuild, just as a way of reducing property taxes and reducing the carrying costs for land speculation. Demolition for the purpose of land speculation (and reducing property taxes) should not be encouraged! Remember that it is the rest of us who end up paying higher taxes to subsidize the speculation.

Maybe there is a feasible plan for quick re-development. But no one has seen any evidence of one.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-11-13 18:59:51

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 00:48:20 in reply to Comment 106204

@Kevlahan, How do you know? Is it "once again, demolish now, think later"? Are you in the know? Vranich has demonstrated time and time again that he is a good developer for our city.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:26:05 in reply to Comment 106215

I said "apparently". As far as anyone knows, there are no plans and Joey Coleman states no site plans have been received by the City.

Vranich has recently started construction on his Main/Bay properties, but that was after about nine years of leaving them vacant and being cited for fire violations for storing old mattresses and other material in the old Federal Building since purchasing the building from the Federal Government in 2004.

https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1...

According to the Spec he also operated an illegal parking lot on the site of the demolished HMP building adjacent to George street for several years until eventually stopped by the city.

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/211165...

He intended to entirely demolish the Federal building until the Federal Government stepped in an enforced the non-demolition covenant he signed when he bought the building.
His development record is mixed in this regard and I sincerely hope that he has good plans for Mount St Joseph, but no one has seen any indication. Surely, it makes sense to wait to demolish until you have actual plans!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-11-14 10:31:29

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 19:25:25

with so much available land on site, it could have a dramatic, modern addition built into it without demolishing it.

https://acdn.architizer.com/thumbnails-P...

Love this one inside and out:

http://www.decoist.com/2014-09-19/factor...

Add another layer to our history and built heritage. Don't take away.

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By alhambra (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 22:12:18

it's a small building on a big lot with no parking underneath and a great big setback. It belongs in the country behind a pond with some cedars. It's very similar to the HWDSB building. Sure it has some features but it's out of place downtown. As for the supposed lack of redevelopment plans, maybe Vrancor should be given a bit of credit for recent efforts?

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 23:14:29 in reply to Comment 106209

really? No building can be set back downtown? City Hall? Old courthouse? LIUNA Station?

With proper urban landscaping this could be a great property downtown. Plant more trees, add walkways, gardens, water features and sitting areas with a mixed-use development on site.

http://torontosavvy.me/2014/07/06/osgood...

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 00:39:45 in reply to Comment 106210

Jason, your example is Osgood Hall. The Mount St Joseph's building is certainly nothing compared to Osgood. It is an average looking building. Why must we preserve everything because it is old (sort of)?

Comment edited by NortheastWind on 2014-11-14 00:43:37

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 11:52:05 in reply to Comment 106214

Because Jason and Ryan said so. These two guys know more about urban planning and redevelopment then people who actually risk their own capital to make development projects happen. Running a blog makes you an expert in almost anything.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 17:54:30 in reply to Comment 106272

Yea because it requires an expert to figure out that this is horrible planning in a city:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/static/ima...

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 08:11:34 in reply to Comment 106214

Why must we preserve everything?? You ask that as if we have. The list of benefits is well documented and shown to add to the economy and quality of life in other cities.

We've chosen to not preserve and have developed this gorgeous downtown as a result: https://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/724/

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By please understand before you speak (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:18:41 in reply to Comment 106217

The heritage he we have lost is unbelievable. Successful affluent areas champion this. Learn what we have already lost and understand how many empty lots are still available!

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:41:25

I don't have a sufficiently informed opinion as to 're-development', but I will say this: I've been in this building on many occasions.

It's boring.

There is no element to it that even hints at a larger value than functional brick construction.

As I've said in the past, the problem in Hamilton isn't so much the buildings we knock down...it's that nothing of note is ever built in the wake of demolition. To wit: Can anyone name three buildings built over the past two decades that you smile at when passing? Or even one you'd be inclined to share with someone from outside the city? (The assumption here being a level of architectural appreciation on the friend's part.)

If wonderful buildings were being consistently build in the city, I doubt there'd be the (well-intentioned) declaiming that's so common on this site.

Comment edited by ItJustIs on 2014-11-14 11:44:25

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 12:44:48 in reply to Comment 106222

Well said. We build junk, or usually, nothing.

Some of the best recent projects involved restoring old buildings.

Herkimer at Bay Witton Lofts Empire Times

Walk past the suburban ground level parking garages and driveways of Vranichs new builds, then walk past these projects and see how they enhance the streetscape.

No surprise to see this tweet from a developer who gets it. https://twitter.com/CoreUrban/status/533...

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