Lister Block

Mancinelli: councillors 'throw obstacles in our way'

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 25, 2008

Joe Mancinelli, Vice President of Labourers International Union of North America, was on the Bill Kelly radio program this morning on 900 CHML.

He was talking about the committee of the whole (COW) decision to accept LIUNA's offer to sell the Lister Building at the corner of James St. N. and King William St. as long as LIUNA also posts a $1 million condition bond to guarantee that they will follow through with a promised condo/seniors centre development on the same block.

Mancinelli accused Council of "throwing obstacles at LIUNA for the last several years" and added, "it seems that we can never satisfy them." He said this is "making it impossible for us to go forward."

He objected to the condition bond, saying that the city is penalizing LIUNA for "creating development" since LIUNA is not sure how big the second phase is going to end up and is afraid that they will lose the million dollars if phase 2 is not big enough for the city.

Basically, we're restoring an entire block, and now they want an extra million dollars guarantee that we're going to go ahead with Phase 2. This is becoming ridiculous.

Mancinelli went on, saying that many Councillors "quite frankly don't understand business. They don't understand real estate. They don't understand business models."

The interview closed with Kelly asking Mancinelli whether LIUNA has a Plan B if council refuses to back down on the condition bond. Mancinelli said LIUNA would "have to move forward and partner up with someone and try to do something on that site."

The end of Mancinelli's response is worth quoting extensively:

But, you know, maybe in retrospect, we should have done that [redeveloped the Lister without the city's help] in the first place because, you know, we've developed and built over $160 million dollars worth of construction in this community.

Nursing homes on the mountain, one downtown, LIUNA station, our offices, out headquarters and hundreds and hundreds of residential units that LIUNA Hamilton Association, our pension plan is invested in strip malls and a number of others in the city and we've done all of that without the City's help.

Maybe we should have stayed away from the City because it seems like every time we do business, or try to do business with them, they throw obstacles in our way.

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 adrian (registered) | Posted June 25, 2008 at 09:10:41

As much as LIUNA has frustrated me in the past I can see where Mancinelli is coming from. This deal is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned, even if there were no guarantee of further development at all. It's time for council to take a risk and invest some money in downtown.

We're on the verge of making history here. I understand that some councilors are concerned about spending taxpayer's dollars. I'm here to say that no one is going to penalize them at the ballot box for investing some money into the Lister, but we will remember if they decide to walk away from this deal.

Putting the Lister issue to rest is not just about downtown revitalization. It also means we can start talking about something else for a change. That, to me, is worth a few hundred thousand at least!!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 25, 2008 at 09:36:33

How can I get in on this action? I'd like to buy a building for $1.6 million, be an absentee landlord for a decade driving down surrounding business, hurting the city's image and driving away investment and then have the city reward me with $25 million. Brutal.

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By kanyewest (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2008 at 09:49:17


Joe Mancinelli hates downtown people.

Joe Mancinelli hates heritage people.

Joe Mancinelli hates Hamilton, people.

Get it?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2008 at 12:32:35

The main obstacle is McHattie and the Heritage designation. Without that this project would have been redeveloped.

TEAR THE DUMP DOWN NOW!!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 25, 2008 at 12:51:34

For a Capitalist, you seem to have a selective blind spot about the functioning of the market. You complain about the city demanding that LIUNA honour the building's heritage status but turn a blind eye to the fact that LIUNA had no intentions of redeveloping the Lister - through restoration OR reconstruction - without public funding.

If the city is going to subsidize LIUNA's investment, we have the right to insist that they at least obey the law in how they do it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 25, 2008 at 13:59:29

yea, that's a strange breed of capitalism. The public pays all the money to a private firm, but gets no say in how the money is used??? I'd like to see the textbook on that one. Mind you, who needs a textbook when I can get in my car and drive into suburbia and see that very brand of economics alive and well.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2008 at 15:13:33

For the record,

I do not support any taxpayer subsidies for any business or private enterprise.

LIUNA should not be using taxpayer dollars to redevelop the Lister. The problem is that some in this city is so desperate to redevelop this eyesore that LIUNA knows they can extract concessions from the taxpayers of Hamilton. People are trying to tell LIUNA what to do with a property that they do not own, so LIUNA responds by saying "okay, if you want us to do things your way - fund it"

This Lister is causing more trouble than it is worth.

TEAR THE DUMP DOWN!!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 25, 2008 at 15:45:49

At least you're consistent about public involvement - I'll give you that. :)

My point is that you act as though the city is hindering the redevelopment of the Lister, when LIUNA has repeatedly stated that they will do nothing with the Lister unless the city pays them; yet they refuse to sell it.

In fact, this interview is the first time LIUNA has suggested it might be willing to invest their own money to redevelop the building.

LIUNA only bought the Lister because they thought it would be the site for the new federal building, with all the public financing that such a deal entails. When that fell through, LIUNA neglected the building for years until working out a new deal with former Mayor Larry Di Ianni to demolish and rebuild it and then lease it to the city at a stiff premium.

After Councillor McHattie insisted that the city needs to enforce its existing heritage designation (which precedes LIUNA's purchase, i.e. LIUNA knew it was a heritage building when they bought it) - and asked the province to intervene when that failed - the deal evolved gradually into the current plan, which would have the city buy a restored property outright at a big markup.

LIUNA does not need the city's help to stall the redevelopment of the building. As far as I see it, the best case would be for the province to designate the building under the Heritage Act. At a stroke, that eliminates LIUNA's threat to demolish the building if it doesn't get its way.

They would no longer have anything to gain by sitting on a derelict property, so they might be more inclined to redevelop it themselves or else sell it to someone who will.

By the way, you keep writing "TEAR THE DUMP DOWN", but all the architects and engineers who have looked at the building agree that it is structurally sound and a good candidate for restoration and adaptive reuse. It's not a dump, but a solid, neglected building that can definitely be restored to its former beauty and functionality.

In fact, the studies have determined that a restored building would last longer than a reconstructed building.

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By Another Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 10:57:08

This saga has gone on more than long enough!

There has to be a better way. The costs of restoring a property are always much higher than starting anew.

No developer should be expected to carry this cost because they will always be looking for assistance and then NOTHING gets done.

If any level of government slaps any designation on any property then it should be responsible for the increase in cost, especially if the designation comes after the owner bought it.

There has to be a better way in deciding what is "Heritage". I get Lister, but PLEASE there is no way someone is going to convince me that horrid structure at 71 Main St. West is worth saving. It's less than 50 years old and was falling apart before it opened.

As for Lister, I suspect it's days are numbered! You can blame everyone for that because it's been a problem for 3 decades.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 11:26:19

The Lister already had municipal heritage designation before LIUNA bought it. I'm all for LIUNA redeveloping the building on their own money - I'm a capitalist, after all - but they knew the rules when they bought it. Capitalism works best when there are clear rules that are enforced consistently. What I object to is the favoritism that LIUNA seems to get despite all their whining. They feel entitled to public subsidies because they're doing us some big favour by renovating their own bloody building. Things happen, it's a part of doing business, they've been getting a free ride for far too long. Lets not forget other Businesses are getting mad that LIUNA gets special privaleges when they have to go by the rules.

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By Yet another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 11:26:22

The Lister already had municipal heritage designation before LIUNA bought it. I'm all for LIUNA redeveloping the building on their own money - I'm a capitalist, after all - but they knew the rules when they bought it. Capitalism works best when there are clear rules that are enforced consistently. What I object to is the favoritism that LIUNA seems to get despite all their whining. They feel entitled to public subsidies because they're doing us some big favour by renovating their own bloody building. Things happen, it's a part of doing business, they've been getting a free ride for far too long. Lets not forget other Businesses are getting mad that LIUNA gets special privaleges when they have to go by the rules.

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By Another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 14:46:14

I don't believe it did because LIUNA was granted a demolishine permit until McHattie went to the province

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 14:56:55

YAC is correct. The Lister had municipal heritage designation prior to LIUNA purchasing it. That's why council had to issue a special heritage demolition permit, which unfortunately is still valid. Provincial designation would supercede council's permit.

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 15:00:04

Then someone explain to me what the heck the rules are. It is designated but you still can issue a demolition permit?

I'm sorry I don't understand these rules.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 17:55:54

"It is designated but you still can issue a demolition permit?"

Pretty much. But it requires a vote by council, which in this case they won.

"I'm sorry I don't understand these rules."

Rules, like facts, are stupid things.

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