Heritage

Demolished Building is a Missing Tooth on the Gore

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 27, 2011

The city's still breathing but barely, it's true
Through buildings gone missing like teeth

-- The Weakerthans, "Left And Leaving"

A demolition crew recently pulled down the building at 30 King Street East on the south leg of Gore Park, after the City issued a demolition permit on March 3, 2011 to the property owner, Wilson Blanchard Management Inc.

Demolished building at 30 King Street East
Demolished building at 30 King Street East

Calling the building "totally dysfunctional", the property owner requested the demolition permit after the building sat vacant for several years.

According to Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, the City had no option to refuse the demolition permit, as the building was commercial in use rather than residential and there was no heritage designation, although the building was listed on the city's Inventory of Buildings of Architectural and/or Historical Interest.

The owner "proposes to make the space into an outdoor patio and try to get a high end coffee shop into the building beside it (former South Side men's wear)."

That means no new building will go in its place, and the streetwall along the south leg of the Gore will retain a gap tooth.

The Gore Master Plan proposes to pedestrianize the south leg of King Street next to Gore Park, which would provide ample surface area for patios. However, Council just canceled funding for a pedestrianization pilot project that was supposed to go ahead this year.

Closeup of the gap tooth on King
Closeup of the gap tooth on King

Wilson Blanchard, which owns several properties along this stretch, did not return a request for comments.

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 mrgrande (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 13:43:53

Wait, South Side is closed? When did that happen?

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 21:48:17 in reply to Comment 64089

a couple months ago. They must have been on some kind of long term lease to have stayed around as long as they did. I suspect this is tied in with that; had they demolished it while South Side was there they might have lost that income by destroying the terms of the lease. Once South Side is gone they're paying tax on two empty buildings so why not knock the less marketable one down.

This is just hypothetical, but if true it shows a couple of giant problems: one that we incentivize the creation of brownfields by giving a tax break. Two that we seem to allow people to demolish buildings at will. Property owners need to go through a process to put up buildings so I can't see why they shouldn't go through one to take one down. If there's no way to refuse a demolition permit then why have the permit at all.

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By hush (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 13:49:03

I keep hearing a rumor that they want to pull down the whole block, any truth to that??

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 03, 2011 at 12:12:02 in reply to Comment 64091

Well I'm going to make the unpopular comment on this one, but I certainly hope that they do. That is a prime location and the backside of those buildings are less then appealing. The potential to put up a large "Right House Style" building with open patios, or a greenhouse style window on the Gore Side and lofts above would be a great addition to the area. Even more so if they are able to further abolish the needless parking lot behind main and install underground parking. The narrow design of these building great reduces their functionality.

Don't get me wrong, if the building hadn't gone down, I'd be for keeping the block intact, but now that it looks like a missing tooth, I wouldn't mind seeing some demolition followed by rebuilding.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2011-06-03 12:13:08

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 03, 2011 at 12:21:03 in reply to Comment 64533

followed by rebuilding

That's the part that never seems to happen, though, isn't it?

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2011 at 14:53:14 in reply to Comment 64091

Anyone checked in with dp.ai?

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2011 at 08:49:27 in reply to Comment 64319

Another avenue to development insight might be Kitestring Creative Branding Studio, who are leasing BBS holding 65 Walnut South, one of four BBS properties that represents a "Future downtown redevelopment opportunity in this trendy office and restaurant district."

www.bbsrealty.com/images/uploads/resources/Jackson_St_E_154.pdf

www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/1372/
www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/1111/
www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/1319/


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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:11:50 in reply to Comment 64091

I asked Councillor Farr if he knows about any plans with respect to the other properties and he replied, "Not that we are aware of." Wilson Blanchard did not respond to a request for comments.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2011 at 09:36:40 in reply to Comment 64094

Wilson Blanchard Management Inc. specializes exclusively in the management of residential and commercial condominiums, office, retail and industrial buildings and apartment buildings (eg. 36 James South).

Blair Blanchard Stapleton Ltd. specializes in industrial, commercial and investment real estate (eg. 28 King East, 1 Main East, 25 Main West, 4 Hughson South, 20 Hughson South).

I'd guess that 30 King East was owned by BBS and not WBM, but all I can find are redacted permits.

I can't get a fix on ownership of:

18 King East (H&R Block)
20 King East (Town Convenience)
22 King East (Mahal)
24 King East (Al Centro)

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:08:31

How many times does this have to happen? These buildings are the key to revamping a core. How defeated does Jason Farr feel? A coffee shop? Didnt the beloved Infusions close down years ago and now the new business looks like it is dying. It looks like it is being gutted. I bet everyone on this site could come up with better ideas for that space. Inspite of some vicious trolling attacking my investment properties, I am not an absent investor. It seems the rules favor the rich to do demo by neglect.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:16:44

An indoor patio would be more profitable than an outdoor patio (think of the two-storey solarium at Hughson and King William), but both are not terribly creative ideas considering that the Gore Park piazza revamp will provide no shortage of patio space. I guess the tax bump from four storeys of commercial/retail is piddling compared to that of a high-end coffee shop.

30 King East was once home to a furrier, for what it's worth: Howell Brothers Furs. At that time, 28 King East (most recently, South Side) was also a furrier, Brodey-Draimin & Co, while 24 King East (most recently, Al Centro) was Minden's Ladies Wear.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:37:12

Another sad development.

I'm sure the property owner didn't have much choice. With so many building in the dt that have been abandoned so long it is inevitable that some will have to be torn down. The problem is that I see too many being torn down and not enough going up.

Maybe if they cleaned up the sides of the adjacent buildings it wouldn't look so bad.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:42:20

I think those owners should be placed in stalks and marched through town! They are the ultimate in absent corporate slum speculators.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:43:35

What the hell? Surely there was a better option. Near irreversible damage to the downtown.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 14:45:18

March 17 2001

“A single block and a half stretch of James Street from just south of King Street is a study in how desperate the problem has become.

Walking south from the gleaming glass of the CIBC tower, the first building you come to is the former Royal Bank Building. Its owner, also Yale Properties, caused a furor last year when it announced plans to demolish the six-storey structure due to lack of tenants. Today, the building sits empty awaiting its fate.

Thirty paces farther up the street is the Pigott Building, the city's first skyscraper. When it was converted to condominiums in the mid-90s, it was considered a triumph of urban renewal.

But the separately owned commercial space on the first and second floors hasn't been such a success.

David and Sandra Gowans of Burlington picked that up in 1997 when the previous owners couldn't pay their debts. The Gowans set up shop with a business school, hairdressing academy and a restaurant. But they, too, ran into trouble and defaulted on their mortgage payments. The Bank of Commerce put the 15,000 square feet of space back on the market for $499,000 last year and then dropped that to $399,000. (A sale will not affect the residential condominiums above.)….

All of this is no surprise to David Blanchard, a broker with Blair Blanchard Stapleton Limited. Blanchard, who has an interest in a number of downtown properties, was in the headlines in 1999 when he tore down the former Canada Permanent building across the street from the Pigott Building. That prompted city council to pass a bylaw prohibiting developers who demolish old structures from opening parking lots in their place.”

http://www.thespec.com/news/article/7105--business-running-on-empty

Since the mid-60s, the block has also lost the National Trust (11-15 Main St E) just east of the Landed, as well as the rest of the streetwall at 17 and 21 Main East (Turner Building) that connected to the Union Gas Building at Main and Hughson.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 18:01:56 in reply to Comment 64099

I forgot another missing tooth turned parking lot: Robinson's, bought up and knocked down in 1989, the year before the second CIBC Tower opened (and the same year that the Tivoli and the Century closed up and fire cleared out a pair of Regency-era buildings across from the Connaught, ca plot now occupied by the Gore Building).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2011 at 15:02:23 in reply to Comment 64099

That prompted city council to pass a bylaw prohibiting developers who demolish old structures from opening parking lots in their place.

We know how well that worked out.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2011 at 21:11:51 in reply to Comment 64100

hadn't read that.

No surprise - a law completely without teeth.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 16:13:08

I sympathize with the loss of the streetwall, and I really hope that they decide to put a building back in its place - a patio just doesn't make sense. I'm thinking the patio may have been their "cover story" to get a demolition permit since perhaps they didn't have any concerete plans for a replacement building. That still doesn't rule out a replacement building in the future if the market picks up.

That said, I agree that the setup of the building was fairly dysfunctional by modern standards and likely contributed to their difficulty finding a tenant. Maybe Blanchard wans't creative enough in coming up with uses, but I find it hard to second guess a businessman who has had actual past success with past rennovations (ex. the old Bank of Montreal on Main and James, previously several nightclubs, now a law firm), even despite his negative "claim to fame" with the Canada permanent building. I'd like to think that if something cost-effective could have been done to remediate the building, besides tearing it down, it would have been considered - but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2011 at 21:53:59 in reply to Comment 64103

Not that he hasn't done dome decent preservation-minded work, but Blanchard's involvement with the BoM ended with the nightclub era, AFAIK. He may have approached Gowlings with a proposal, but seems to have had no official role in that reno. Despite Spec reports that "In the 1990s, Blanchard headed initiatives to convert the 1928 Pigott/Sunlife complex to condos, make the 1908 Landed Banking building into office space and turn the 1929 Bank of Montreal into high-end space for the Gowlings law firm," the $3.5 million Gowlings reno took place around 2003-2005, winning the Hamilton Urban Design and Architecture Award of Excellence for 2005.

http://www.iramcdonald.com/projects/commercial/gowlings_canada/index.php

In the 1990s, the BoM was still very much in nightclub territory: Monopoli and The Syndicate closed out the decade. If he owned it then,

http://www.bulgergallery.com/dynamic/fr_artwork_display.asp?ArtworkID=2498

Blair Blanchard Stapleton seems to hold/control a good chunk of this block.

28 King St. E. (South Side)
http://www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/1482

4 Hughson St S. (HSBC)
http://www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/1364

20 Hughson St. S. (Union Gas)
http://www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/802

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2011 at 22:02:51 in reply to Comment 64270

Forgot one.

1 Main St. E. (Landed Bank)
http://www.bbsrealty.com/property-details/1476/

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 17:04:49

It's smaller-scale infill projects like these that I wish Harry Stinson would consider, rather than grandiose new-builds or large-scale renovation-rebuilds. Imagine, for instance, if he purchased an adjacent building or two to the right in that first photo, preserved the existing heritage facades, and added an additional five stories of condo residences above. His Stinson School project is certainly laudable, but it's in the core - particularly its multiple, small-scale, vacant heritage properties - that some creative and productive investment is evidently needed most.

Comment edited by geoff's two cents on 2011-05-27 17:05:33

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By fartbomb (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 18:58:58

this stinks,stinks and stinks! reminds me of the fellow that designed the bus route ,never even been on a bus!

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 19:17:59

Welcome to the Hammer - where it's always 1970.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 23:21:57

There should be a law that you can't leave a building vacant for more than "x" months before renovations, new tenant, etc. Take place. Let's face it, these developers know that if they leave it empty long enough it'll rot out and then the city has little choice but to issue the demo permit.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2011 at 09:48:33

How can the city force someone to get new tenants? If an owner cannot find a buyer or tenant what do you propose the owner do? It is easy to sit in your easy chair and bemoan the actions of others but what are alternatives. Do you really think that any owner wants to destroy an asset? Would not be in business very long if that were standard practice. Buy an asset and then destroy it. Buy another one and destroy it too. How long do you think that will work? I know the RTH faithful do not like the gap but have you considered for a minute that the owner does not like it either and just felt they had no choice? Would you buy a building with the express intention of destroying it? What makes you thing anyone else would?

Post after post of failing businesses and no wonder buildings get torn down. It is easy to say we need to preserve our heritage but it is difficult to fund it.



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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2011 at 20:54:07 in reply to Comment 64137

How can the city force someone to get new tenants?

How about:

  1. Refuse to issue a demolition permit. Make sure property owners know they can't just demolish buildings that are underperforming.

  2. Require the property owner to maintain the building's property standards so the owner cannot undertake "demolition by neglect".

  3. Eliminate property tax reductions for demolishing buildings, so that there is less monetary incentive to demolish a vacant building.

  4. Reduce the amount of red tape and arbitrary fees involved in renovating older buildings.

  5. Invest in creating public spaces that promote urban reinvestment.

Right now, the rules actually encourage property owners to neglect and demolish their properties.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 10:12:09 in reply to Comment 64137

A lot of times they don't try for new tenants and are looking to get the building down to save taxes and use it as a write off. If the city doesn't issue a demo permit because they don't want that "gap" what else is the owner going to do? I know, let it decay then the city has no choice or else they have another falling building on their hands. Seems pretty obvious to me.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2011 at 20:30:41 in reply to Comment 64137

the only reason they destroy the building is to get the tax break. Take that away and there would be no reason to. Otherwise they could just sell it to someone who is willing to do something with it.

This is not to say that it shouldn't be possible to tear down buildings, just that there should be a requirement that something else be put up quickly, and with big penalties if not. Right now the penalties for not doing so are smaller than the tax savings.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2011 at 21:07:51

From what I'd heard, any historical significance to the building had already been destroyed (bricks laid over hardwood floor, classic facade replaced with tackiness) and the structural state of the building was unworkable.

Tearing it down isn't the problem. This is exactly the kind of building that should be torn down.

The problem is what happens next. If a new building was going up in its place with new storefronts, I wouldn't bat an eye. But we all know that won't happen. It will remain an alleyway that the property owner will rent a few parking spots to the neighbors, and that's it.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 10:09:28 in reply to Comment 64158

Exactly.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2011 at 22:09:35

I'd be a lot less annoyed when this happens if we ever saw new buildings like this go up. Sure, we've got lots of big ugly glass-wall and styrofoam stucco builds - but how many new additions to the area's streetwalls have come up with street level store-fronts and walk-up apartments? The renovations that've happened may not all have been ideal , but they've got a far better track record than the "knock it down and build new" crowd, which has managed mostly only rubble and parking lots.

What's most frustrating is that so much of this is happening at a time when things are finally getting better downtown. With James North, the Lister etc, it's finally looking as if things are changing. And then all of a sudden, building start dropping. Hard to believe there isn't another motive involved.

I believe it's known as "blockbusting".

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 19:06:11 in reply to Comment 64163

It'd be nice if there was some smart mid/high-density residential added to the core. Going by the BIA's map (Queen to Wellington, Hunter to Cannon), my hunch is that there have been precious few notable residential units added to the mix in the last 15 years. I can think of...

Pigott/Sunlife Buildings (1996)
110 units

Core Lofts (2003)
103 units

Annex Lofts on Rebecca (2005)
40 units plus vacant ground floor commercial

Cityview Terrace (2007)
51 units

Terraces on King (2008)
123 units plus vacant ground floor commercial

Gore Building (2008)
123 units plus vacant ground floor commercial

Victoria Hall/Foster McKay Buildings (2008)
7 units plus vacant ground floor commercial

Filmworks Lofts (2010)
50 units

I'm hoping someone can cheer me up with news of my omissions.

Early-90s retrofits like the Stone Lofts and new builds like 175 Hunter East would add more residential density at the SE corner of the downtown. More recently, just outside of the down town core you'd also have the underwhelming Chateau Royale (2006), which buys you 198 units. And if you're looking to juke your numbers,
Linden Hall, the Columbia College girls' residence at Catharine and Jackson, houses 300.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2011 at 06:51:16 in reply to Comment 64185

Residences on Augusta (Augusta/James)- 102 units
Caroline Place (Market/Caroline) - 108 units
Queens Garden (Queen/Napier) - 128 units
+
Liuna Tower (behind Lister block) - 100 units planned

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 19:33:59 in reply to Comment 64185

Cut and paste glitch...

Gore Building (2008)
16 units plus vacant ground floor commercial

... for 500 units total.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 11:00:05

I would hazard a guess that in spite of the city not preventing a demo, I bet their building codes would prevent a rebuild in that spot. Lot frontage, parking, fire exits, et al. There is a reason you shouldn't tear down old street scapes like this because they are unique and creative. Look at the lister reno, it has obliterated everything around it. Coincidence?

Comment edited by TnT on 2011-05-29 11:00:51

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 31, 2011 at 08:13:25

A horrible thing like this happened in Brantford. Just bulldozed a whole heritage street. I haven't had the will to go back there ever since.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 03, 2011 at 11:56:57

Well, I know this is going to get downvoted fast, but look at this as an opportunity. Right now, I agree the location looks like a missing tooth and looks silly, but if you took down the buildings in this section, all the way to Scotiabank, you have a reasonably sized parcel of land in a prime location to accommodate a much larger, more functional and more attractive development.

I know, yes the buildings have history, and yes they have some nice architectural features, but the incredibly narrow design of these buildings and massive Windows in my opinion reduces the potential functionality of the floors above, either as lofts or office space. Lets also be honest, these buildings have a much smaller scope and are far less iconic then say the Pigott Building or the Lister Block. Also look at the opposite side of the building, I wouldn't say the rusted fire escapes, decaying black stained brickwork and cramped parking lot is appealing to the eye.

You have the potential here though to immediate build another similar style building and correct a lot of flaws. Another right house style building with patio bars and cafes right by Gore Park with office/lofts above the businesses. It also leaves options to further cut into and remove yet another unsightly and needless parking lot behind the building itself, and revitalize a section of Main St. It is a tragedy that the building is gone, but now that it is I wouldn't mind seeing something brand new going up there, which would work well with a restructured Gore Park.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 03, 2011 at 13:19:51 in reply to Comment 64529

Lets also be honest, these buildings have a much smaller scope and are far less iconic then say the Pigott Building or the Lister Block.

I don't think it gets much more iconic than a National Historic Site designation.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 03, 2011 at 13:54:57 in reply to Comment 64539

Well, I will agree with that for Victoria Hall with it's arched Windows and , but that building is a bit further back past Hughson St and not in the section of buildings. It is also right next to the excellent John Sopnika Courthouse somewhat concealing/lending it's wonder to it.

You also have to keep in mind how long Victoria Hall had been abandoned as well though, and was only recently redeveloped after a LOT of waiting, and mainly due to a heritage money kickstart.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2011-06-03 13:55:57

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2011 at 12:29:38 in reply to Comment 64529

"Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

-- Jane Jacobs

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2011 at 08:55:03 in reply to Comment 64536

And hopefully the important buildings have protections against the mediocre ideas.

http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/newsfeatures/article/739439--anger-as-historic-home-s-features-hacked-away

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2011 at 08:56:52 in reply to Comment 64566

http://vimeo.com/8240363

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:53:36

The root canal has been packed with sterile gauze. Beyond that, has anyone heard anything more about this in the last couple months?

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2011 at 07:05:03 in reply to Comment 67867

Now: South sidewalks are strewn with granular styrofoam and stucco is going up in the HSBC's western facade.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 23, 2011 at 07:27:37

Update on this:

The Gore Master Plan proposes to pedestrianize the south leg of King Street next to Gore Park, which would provide ample surface area for patios. However, Council just canceled funding for a pedestrianization pilot project that was supposed to go ahead this year.

The latest word is that the pedestrianization has now been postponed until after the 2015 Pan Am Games:

However, [City Urban Renewal Manager Glen] Norton said plans to turn the south leg of Gore Park, between James and Catharine streets and adjacent to the hotel, into a pedestrian walkway won’t happen before the Games.

“I don’t see it starting before Pan Am because you don’t want your downtown street torn up during the largest visitor event in our history,” said Norton.

Because there's no possible way we could pedestrianize those two blocks in the four years between now and 2015. :P

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 23, 2011 at 08:44:06 in reply to Comment 68356

I'm currently procrastinating from reading Buy In, but I've absorbed enough by osmosis to know that 'death by delay' is one of the more popular methods employed by obstructionists to kill a good idea.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2011 at 13:27:32 in reply to Comment 68360

Wondering as well if the Downtown BIA is having to rent Gore Park off the City for its summer Promenade initiative. (That would explain why they haven't had enough spare coin to stage strategic cleanups of the trash-strewn CBD and pop-mottled sidewalks that might, um, encourage new visitors to look past their preconceptions.)

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