Dear Mayor Fred Eisenberger and City Councillors,
I'm writing to highlight two distinct goals related to the Lister Block vote you are considering currently: heritage protection for the Lister Block and financial accountability to Hamilton Taxpayers
As you know, the Province of Ontario has been forced to release the Ontario Heritage Trust Report in which Lincoln Alexander puts forward seven clear recommendations regarding the Lister Block. These recommendations, in my opinion, should have a significant impact on the negotiations with Labourers International Union of North America, the property owner.
Using the Trust Report's recommendations, the Minister of Culture can immediately designate the building as a provincially significant heritage structure, thereby providing full heritage protection for the Lister Block. I recommend that Council vote to request such designation immediately.
This permits two obvious scenarios.
With the building protected through provincial designation, the threat of demolition would be removed from the negotiating table.
Council would then be in a position to negotiate a deal based on the true market value of a designated Lister Block, which I suggest would be considerably less than the numbers on the table currently, thereby saving the taxpayers of Hamilton millions of dollars that can be allocated to other important projects (or not spent at all, given that the funds do not actually exist).
The so-called peer review, which in my opinion was cursory at best, needs to be investigated. The process, the numbers, the conclusions and the recommendations were based on constructing a new, glass-box building from the ground up, and seemingly based on a couple of phone calls.
The heritage consultant provided absolutely no additional information or assessment, other than to say that he felt the numbers for new construction seemed to be in order. For me, this is hardly a confidence-building conclusion.
Conclusion: This scenario achieves the two goals of heritage protection and financial accountability.
If you decide to walk away from the deal, the owner will be left with a provincially designated building which, according to law, must be maintained such that the designated elements are not threatened or deteriorate. These elements include effectively all of the exterior elements of the building, as well as a number of key interior elements.
The City could then lease space from other tax-paying landlords who have considerable good quality office space available for lease. Further, the City could focus resources on bylaw enforcement regarding maintenance of the Lister Block, along with support from the Province.
The owner would then have to make a decision whether to develop the Lister Block building (versus just the land on which it sits), or to sell it to the highest bidder, which could include the City of Hamilton.
If the City was to purchase the designated but non-renovated building, it could convert it into residential and retail space, or simply encourage another developer to do the same on its behalf.
Conclusion: This Scenario achieves the two goals of heritage protection and financial accountability.
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