Revitalization

Update from Harry Stinson

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 01, 2008

Harry Stinson just sent out an email to around 200 people who had expressed interest in his now-defunct Royal Connaught plan to provide an update on the deal and his desire to see it - or something similar - come to fruition.

1 King West, Toronto, seen from Front St. (RTH File Photo)
1 King West, Toronto, seen from Front St. (RTH File Photo)

He acknowledges that the vendors who own the Connaught are "concurrently considering other options" but that Stinson is still "in regular communication with them" and "working constantly on securing the funding."

Citing "an enormous pent-up market for well-designed, multi-use development in the centre core", Stinson also suggests that he may end up "creating a similar scale and flavour of project, even if on an alternate site."

Here is the letter in full:

No doubt you have seen and/or heard media reports on the status of the Connaught project. It is true that our purchase has not closed yet, and that the vendors are concurrently considering other options.

It is also true that we remain in regular communication with them and that I am working constantly on securing the funding.

During the months that we have been working on this project we have become even more convinced of the potential for not just the redevelopment of the Royal Connaught, but the potential for downtown Hamilton.

There is an enormous pent-up market for well-designed, multi-use development in the centre core. We very much hope that the Royal Connaught itself will be part of such a development, given its heritage and architecture.

However, I am committed to creating a similar scale and flavour of project, even if on an alternate site.

We appreciate your interest, and would encourage your comments and ideas.

As the saying goes, "stay tuned for further details!"

Thanks to the RTH reader who forwarded the email to us.

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 Vic (anonymous) | Posted August 01, 2008 at 15:48:41

Even a derelict and abandoned massively huge tower could potentially be a tourist attraction. "Come to Hamilton and see the unfinished hopes and dream of many, in physical form!"
I 'unno. Some say 'bad planning', but I say 'good publicity'!

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 01, 2008 at 15:58:24


Go away Mr. Stinson.

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By Vic (anonymous) | Posted August 01, 2008 at 16:05:22

It's only money, Cappy! I think it's worth the good laugh and fame to be had by Hamilton if Stinson gets his way. There's always going to be some form of currency as long as people use their imaginations, so who cares if a few billion dollars go to "waste"? Some things are more precious than monetary wealth.

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By Bondo (anonymous) | Posted August 02, 2008 at 09:26:49

This is just another failure that Harry has created. In fact all his deals were failures, I hope people get their deposits back. I know the Sapphire suckers didn't.

Bondo

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By beenthere (anonymous) | Posted August 02, 2008 at 13:31:09

Yes, been there, done that!! Look out Hamiltonians! Good luck getting your deposits back! This is another Stinson rerun, almost word for word the Sapphire deal. Talk to all those investors who lost big $$$, bigtime!! Beware, be warned!! Do not fall for this!!

beenthere......fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!

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By LawABC (anonymous) | Posted August 03, 2008 at 09:45:36

Folks, Simple advise..Due Diligence and DEMAND you deposit back immediately. This stinks of the same stall tactics as Sapphire. Investors lost millions. Good Luck.

Burned

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 09:12:16

Good Riddance!!!

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By Moneyman (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 11:10:57

I smell a rat! The problem here is that most people do not do their homework, and just blindly trust a name. If you look behind the Stinson name you will find bankruptcy's, lawsuits, and alot more. Stinson was run out of Toronto for his shady misdeeds.

Moneyman

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By Stinson fan (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 12:28:03

ouch. harsh comments. Some people may have reason to believe them.

But what I see is a great developer who fell in love with Hamilton and sees great untapped potential in this city's downtown. Not much of that enthusiasm has been seen for decades. Stinson is so committed that he moved his family here.

I'm rooting for Stinson and believe him and trust him. I seriously think he needs to do this for a 'told you so' reason to gain respect back. I even believe that he thrives on this negative, you-can't-do-it attitudes from other people, just to show them up.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:06:58

I need someone to give me a new, updated definition of the word 'capitalism'. Guys like Stinson are poster-boys for capitalists, yet people using that screen-name seem to have it in for him, while falling head over heels with public money-mongers like LIUNA. I've obviously missed the changing of definitions somewhere along the road.

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:50:55

Jason

LIUNA have done some projects in this city, the Station, with very little public money, their own office building on Hughson, etc. What has this guy done in Hamilton?

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 21:15:33

nothing yet. He just moved here. Let's please not start up the LIUNA track record debate - I'll just restate the Lister numbers.

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By Burned Investor (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 21:43:57

If you are thinking of investing with Harry Stinson, think long and hard and my suggestion would be to then walk away. Investors at One King West in Toronto are still suffering from the financial mess he left behind.

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By Bondo (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 23:00:04

Jason
Name one successful project created by Stinson. I can name every project that failed.(All Failed) Do your homework. This has nothing to do with Hamilton and everything to do with the investment. Take the time and Google Ontario Securities Commission,
Sapphire, One King, Candy Lofts, Stinson fund, Dominion Club and attach the Stinson name. Maybe then you will know the scope of Stinson Failures.

Bondo

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 07:30:57

This discussion has nothing to do with what he has already done, but rather, why 'capitalists' don't want him to attempt to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Good thing we didn't have this three strikes, you're out mindset in the past or we would have missed great inventions like air travel, the lightbulb, computers etc......

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By Bondo (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 07:57:44

Jason

Would you keep picking the same failed stocks? Would you keep voting for the same crooked politician? would you keep buying the same lemon of a car, and would you buy gold stocks from a Company that "says" they have found gold in South America Jungle. Many did. Sounds like you are a poor investor who does not do due diligence. "Give the guy a break" just does not cut in the investment world.

Bondo

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 13:11:14

I'm not talking about investments. I'm talking about people hoping that Harry does nothing but fail forever. Many developers and business folks have failed over and over before finally making it. I hope Harry makes it big in Hamilton. He'll have to work hard, but anything is possible. Leadership guru John Maxwell wrote a great book called 'Failing Forward'. Many times in life, it's the only way. Hopefully Stinson can find his way and get himself back on top while getting Hamilton back on top in the process. I don't see the problem with hoping for the best despite past failures.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 15:54:37

Jason,

I wish that all potential investors in Hamilton can be successful including Stinson. Although, he has bitten off more than he can chew and his plans are so over the top and out of step with what this city can sustain they just can not be taken seriously, especially when you consider his spotty track record. He should begin with small projects and build a positive track record.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 22:43:52

as much as I love his Connaught plans, I agree with you. Some smaller projects under his belt would be a smart move.

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By Bondo (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 09:53:15

Jason

Failing is one thing, but failing with other peoples money is another. That is called a bad investment. Stinson can fail as many times as he wants and who would care, unless he ruins peoples lives with his failed projects. Stinson always leveraged his failed projects with small investors, promising ridiculous 18% returns on worthless junk bonds. That is the point. He is a small time hustler with a big ego.

Bondo

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 10:30:09

anyone who invests always has the risk that they'll lose their shirt. I have a bud who just lost a ton in an Ancaster business deal. That's life sometimes. Find me an investor/developer anywhere who has always earned his clients money 100% of the time.
I want to sign up if that person really exists.

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By tt2 (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 11:33:22

I disagree with making the Connaught smaller. Many cities are now on the map because of a large-scale seed project building. The CN Tower stood out of scale at the time of its construction. NYC World Trade towers were built during at time when lower Manhattan was a drug invested hole.

If a small project would work, then why is the crappy little City View Terraces still trying to fill its measly 70ish units years after being completed? Because nobody knows about it, and it looks like a bunker.

Has anyone heard the expression that the safest time to fly on an airplane is soon after a plane crash? Stinson's intention is hardly to bilk investors. He needs this project as much as Hamilton.

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By Bondo (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 11:52:44

Jason

That is correct, but when you find and investment scheme that has failed 100% of the time you begin to get the picture. Unless you're a fool, which I am sure you are not. Stinson has failed 100% of the time, in every project. His only success was when he put on magic shows for children. The only difference now he makes your money magically disappear. Stinson is a small fish desperately trying to play in a big pond. Hamilton needs a real developer with real backing.

Bondo

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By Taylor (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 12:13:37

Very interesting comments. I would be cautious about this Stinson guy based on what I read. Having said that, I really do not think Hamilton can support such an extravagant project. Hamilton is not a city that attracts tourists, nor is it a cosmopolitan centre. Hamilton is basically a blue collar satellite city in the Golden Horseshoe. Hamilton is no different than Windsor, Sarnia, London etc. The steel came and thus came Hamilton. Unless you work in Hamilton, I think most people would rather live in a more cosmo city. Don't get me wrong, I am sure most Hamiltonians love their city, but outsiders really would not want to go there unless there was a need to go, surely not a vacation destination.

Taylor

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By Cindy (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 12:16:10

Stinson's a mess of contradictions. When you look at his failures -- Candy Factory, 1KW -- you realize they're better than many of Hamilton's successes. Stinson may be many things, but a crook he ain't. Bigger than his britches, maybe (and what a shame more people aren't!), egomaniacally ambitious, for sure -- but he's just as surely not in it for the money. If he was, there'd be plenty of easy money to be made sticking with 'safe' projects.

Sure, he leaves financial messes in his wake, but what aesthetic messes they are! Can anyone deny that 1KW has made Toronto more beautiful, more livable, more elegant than it was before he started pushing his vision for a slender, graceful tower anchored by a solid, neoclassical base?

Stinson has vision and ambition but lacks financial sense. Hamilton's established crop of status quo developers lack all three. So much the poorer we end up as a result.

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By abacus (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 14:36:21

Aesthetically poorer? Maybe. The wild card in all of this is who plays the part of David Mirvish, without whom One King West would probably never have happened. The temperament of that player (or those players) will have much to do with the "similar scale and flavour of project." It could be that Harry will never enjoy as much freedom or largesse as he did at 1KW. It's obviously a challenge to line up backers and investors, more so given that the history of that project never stays put: tinyurl.com/56yt4p

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By Larry (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 18:02:33

One King West almost died until David Mirvish came to the rescue. Unfortunately even Mirvish could not save Stinson from his inept management of the project, and thus 1KW is in receivership due to Stinsons bankrupt management companies. Stinsons greed overtook common sense.

Larry

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By historian (anonymous) | Posted August 09, 2008 at 05:32:40

How many remember when the Fischers Hotel on York Street was demolished? Or the King George at McNab and Market? Or the Wentworth Arms or the Triton? How many remember the Royal Connaught strike in 1980 and the management threat to turn the hotel into a Parking Lot and Harry Greenwood of the Labour Council called their bluff and won the day. Get my drift? threatening to demolish a building is todays protest, demolishing the building is soon yesterdays news.

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By Larry (anonymous) | Posted August 09, 2008 at 07:24:14

Larry

Dear Historian

You can never have enough parking lots and the upkeep I hear is next to nothing.

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By Planningbuff (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2008 at 03:54:39

Larry, parking lots should be at the city perimeter with free transportation into town and allow all streets to be for pedestrian traffic. I am too young to remember the incident that historian talks about, can anyone out-there help.

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By Randy (registered) | Posted August 15, 2008 at 23:22:43

Planningbuff, I would like to know more about that too. Maybe historian will enlightenus.

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By Dennis (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2008 at 15:39:46

When I read the comments of historian a few days ago I immediately contacted my mother who worked on the Front Desk at the Royal Connaught and was also a Union rep on the committee. This is the incident as she remembers. It started when The United Way of Hamilton had booked the Connaught to hold a meeting while the Hotel was on strike and being run with scabs. When Greenwood of the Labour Council learned of it he contacted the head of the United Way, a Bishop Brothwick or Bothwell a name like that, and asked him to find another location. When the Bishop was not showing any empathy for the workers on strike Greenwood told him that he would inform the other Unions in Hamilton to get their members to withhold their pay-roll deductions to the UW until the strike was settled. Needless to say the Bishop folded. When my mother and other Connaught union members heard this from the Spec, or CHML (she doesn't remember) they contacted Harry Greenwood to express their own concerns about how they were being represented by the Bartenders Union, he immediately contacted the Business Agent and no one knows what was said or took place in that exchange but when the bargaining resumed Harry had become the main spokesperson for the workers with the Business Agent sitting quietly by. In the first exchange the Lawyers (from Toronto)told Greenwood that he was not needed and that the union had been given a final offer and if they refused to accept it the Hotel would fall to the wrecker's ball (their words) and become a parking lot in a month. My mother thinks that all Harry said was OK (her friend recalls he said nothing) and then rose and had everyone else follow him out of the room. Outside when asked by the press how negotitiona were going he told them that the Hotel was to be demolished and he would fight for severence pay for the workers. When the Press contacted the Hotel management to confirm this they denied it and immediately asked Harry to come back to bargain. Back in the room the lawyers were very quiet and Paul Sullivan the former manager joined the Connaught management and after four hours of discussion there was a settlement. My mother still refers to Harry Greenwood as a saint and the best President the labour Council ever had. Oh and she insists that Greenwood would not cross the Union picket line and had the talks moved to the Holiday Inn. Maybe historian can recall more.

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2008 at 12:02:24

If you look at all the projects that have been happening downtown you will find that they are mostly condominium's, most of them empty, not one has sold out.

How on earth will adding more of them (condos) help the depressed market they suffer under today?

When I start to see wrecking balls downtown and cranes in the sky I will begin to see a glimmer of hope.

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By historian (anonymous) | Posted August 17, 2008 at 16:20:20

Dennis: I can't recall much more than you have learned from your mother. The Royal Connaught was, in those days, in the hub of the community and in a much more vibrant Downtown Hamilton. Demolishing the hotel would have severely ruptured Hamilton's economy as well as casting hundreds of workers, directly and indirectly on to the street. In addition to being President of the Labour Council, Greenwood was a skillful Negotiator having been elected many times by Stelco workers to get them fair and just settlements. I was a Stelco worker and can attest to that. I recall that when Harry Greenwood retired the Spectator ran a large story and picture in which he stated that he considered the Connaught settlement his greatest achievement because it gave some dignity to workers and kept the City alive. We don't have the same Downtown or the same gutsy leaders today. These are my opinions Dennis and the incidents as I recall them and as long as the Royal Connaught is standing it will cause us to pause and think things our before we start blasting and bulldozing buildings.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2008 at 22:12:16

"When I start to see wrecking balls downtown and cranes in the sky I will begin to see a glimmer of hope."

What do you mean?

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By Duck and Cover (anonymous) | Posted August 17, 2008 at 23:09:49

Don't you know? Demolishing heritage buildings and putting up prefab replacements has worked SO WELL for the downtown core, why would anyone not want to do it a bunch more?

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By Dennis (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2008 at 13:47:16

Thanks historian, I agree, leave the Royal Connaught standing to remind us that we once had a city where people cared. By the way is Mr Greenwood still around,I'd like to meet him?.

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By historian (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2008 at 14:34:24

Dennis, you could enquire at Local 1005 Steelworkers Hall on Kenilworth Ave. Best I can suggest.

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By beentheredonethat (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 10:22:19

Stinson started selling off the plan at 1 king west in the late 90's. I bought a unit in 2001 for $197,900. I was one of the few lucky ones who sold. I got $170,000 in 2008 - that was a really great price and it took us over 1 year to find a buyer. Between 2001 and 2008, downtown toronto condos had INCREASED in price on average by close to 100% and they sold in well under a month of being on the market. How does a building do so badly in such a robust market?

Here are a few reasons why, (not including the activities of Harry and his loyal board members):

Many could not sell because they were locked into the hotel pool. We got out of the hotel pool with much wrath and difficulties from Harry. He sent us some nasty emails and tried to deter us from leaving. We were afraid we would be locked in even though legally we were entitled to leave with 4 months notice. After having a big fight on our hands, we got out. Being in the hotel pool means paying commercial taxes (5x that of residential taxes) and very low unsteady rental returns each month. Once the receiver came in, owners were not allowed to leave the pool and are only allowed to leave now if someone else enters (who would do that?) This is why they couldn't sell- no one out there is crazy enough to buy a locked in loser investment like that. Due to new circumstances, too lengthy to discuss selling has become much harder regardless of being in the pool or not.

When we made the investment, the marketing materials were pretty betlievable. They projected $175/night at 70% occupancy. The hotel would take 20% and the rest would be left to the owners. Our projected profit was $2,500/month. None of this happened in practice. The hotel was taking between 65% and 80% per month and they were not meeting their occupancy rates or nightly rate projection targets. Cheques were as little as $200 and change a month while our property taxes and condo fees amounted to $1,250/month. Add to that interest on the mortgage. Losses were always in excess of $1000/month year in, year out.

Add the losses we made having to finance this unit to losses we made selling it in a hot market and we endured many tens of thousands in losses.

Anyone who thinks they should give Harry a chance, thinks he loves Hamilton or thinks he is breathing new life into Hamilton is a sucker like I was. You should just empty your pockets now; hand 50k to him, don't waste your years stressing over an "investment property". There are suckers everywhere. In a city that might feel like it has been decaying and in decline, it is especially easy to find victims who want to believe the dream.

beentheredonethat

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