Lister Block

Lister Update: Vrancor Plan and Ontario Heritage Trust

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 09, 2006

The fate of the Lister Block continues to churn, as mounting challenges threaten to stall LIUNA's plan to demolish and replicate the building with $30 million in city rents to pay for it.

Bob Bratina, councillor for Ward 2, just announced a plan for Vrancor to buy the building, restore it, and rent office space to the city in a restored Federal Building - all for only $16 million.

The Vrancor plan preserves and restores two elegant buildings in the core, which makes more effecient use of existing infrastructure and sends the message that Hamilton is willing to preserve its heritage and reinvest in its core.

Politics and interests aside, this seems to make more business sense than LIUNA's plan.

Opponents claim LIUNA will not sell the Lister to Vranich for the $1.6 million they paid in 1999, but as Bratina pointed out this morning, "If LIUNA insists that the property is worth $5 million, I would suggest the City buy it [and] resell it to Vrancor for $1.6 million. The total cost to the City still comes in at over $10 million dollars cheaper than the [LIUNA] deal."

At the same time, today's column by Andrew Dreschel in the Hamilton Spectator drops a tip that the Ontario Heritage Trust might try to prevent Lister's demolition.

Lincoln Alexander, the group's chairperson, said, "[Mayor] Larry Di Ianni is going to be disapointed." Since Di Ianni negotiated the deal with LIUNA and has been a strong champion of the plan, this strongly suggests the Trust will try to scuttle the deal.

Brian McHattie, councillor for Ward 1, had asked Caroline Di Cocco, Ontario's Minister for Culture, to intercede should City Council vote to approve LIUNA's demolition permit.

The Minister punted, referring it to the Ontario Heritage Trust to make a recommendation. Di Cocco won't release the recommendation until after City Council votes in a meeting on Monday, June 12.

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 Grandma (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2006 at 11:34:57

I am delighted that a champion has arisen to point out that there are other options for preserving the Lister Block AND saving the city money. Now why couldn't the mayor come up with this? Why does he continue to shove the LIUNA deal down our throats?
Why does he have more interest in contributing to LIUNA's business than in the business of running the city well?
I look forward to the election. Hamilton's mayor and city council (save a few) have their heads stuck in the last century.

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By Steeltown (registered) | Posted June 10, 2006 at 12:38:30

Vrancor is backing out of this deal. Now he's only offering suggestions. So really no Plan B.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2006 at 19:45:59

I think Bratina's point is that nearly every developer, architect, etc. except LIUNA believes there's money to be made restoring the building. No wonder Vranich is playing cool: he's a businessman, not a politico. Mancinelli, on the other hand...

LIUNA's own perspective is distorted, in my opinion, by its very cosy relationship with the mayor, the irregular, no-bid contract drafted secretly in the mayor's office, and the sloppy oversight of its mismanagement of the Lister property.

In short, they're used to getting exactly what they want. Even Andrew Dreschel, Hamilton's Court Scribe, has felt the need to tell Mancinelli to quit acting like a crybaby.

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By king james (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2006 at 14:56:08

How can you tender the redevelopment of a property whose owner has no intention of selling?

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By MattM (registered) | Posted June 13, 2006 at 21:35:45

So now I'm wondering... was anything actually decided/accomplished by that 6+ hour meeting? I left after the 6th hour so I really don't know. Honestly I just went to see what Mancinelli and Matt Jelly had to say, and council's response to it.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 08:11:28

Two lessons in the relative effectiveness of unconventional thinking when it comes to avoiding demolition.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/670/mcguinty:_$7_million_for_lister

http://www.flamboroughreview.com/news/article/58789

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