Lister Block

McGuinty: $7 Million for Lister

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 22, 2007

In a press conference this morning at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced $7 million in provincial funding to restore the Lister Block.

After a campaign-style warmup that sketched out the government's commitment to revitalizing Hamilton, Premier McGuinty concluded with the announcement of provincial money to support the beleaguered building.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announces funding to restore the Lister Block
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announces funding to restore the Lister Block

The money will go towards financing the deal an ad hoc working group struck last year in an attempt to bridge the gap between heritage advocates who wanted to preserve the Lister and developers who wanted to demolish and reconstruct it.

The province got involved after Councillor Brian McHattie asked Caroline Di Cocco, the Minister of Culture, to declare the Lister a provincially significant heritage building when it looked like City Council would grant a demolition permit to LIUNA, the owner.

A provincial heritage report supported restoring the building, and city council gave the building a last-minute stay of execution to explore alternatives to demolition.

The working group that grew out of that process ended up recommending a hybrid approach that would preserve the building's architecturally significant features but reconstruct the inside for modern use.

"Heritage buildings ... should be part of our future," said the premier, in a speech that stressed the importance of a healthy downtown to a city's overal well-being.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger echoed this when he said, "Transformation issues are going to be our future."

The plan calls for Hamilton's public health department to move into the restored building, but the Mohawk College Music Department has also expressed interest.

Mayor Eisenberger suggested that funding to move the Music Department could be part of a "phase two".

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 hannibal lister (anonymous) | Posted June 22, 2007 at 12:21:19

Great news! I'm going to go and celebrate with some fava beans and a bottle of dry chianti.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 22, 2007 at 12:27:25

@hannibal: WTF?

@RTH: This is awesome news! You guys need to take some credit for all your reporting and pressure on this when the mainstream media could hardly be bothered to cover it except to have Andrew Dreadful pop off snide columns about how the people who wanted to save the building were malcontents and hopeless idealists.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 22, 2007 at 15:45:08

The premier specifically mentioned Brian McHattie today and thanked him for his hard work. Time to toss some salmon on the barbie!

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2007 at 00:16:53

Once again, more tax dollars given away to private development. Whether local, provincial or federal, we the taxpayers keep paying and paying. Real great news would have been the private sector stepping to the plate to redevelop the property without provincial funding and a well above average lease rate the City will pay for office space. Another sad state of affairs. I don't mind contributing to help restore a heritage building but $7 million from the province and a $20 million lease from the City seems a little high. Council should have gone along with the mayor and torn down City hall and redeveloped a truly multiuse facility (school board, City etc.) This City is bleeding money downtown out of every orfice. We need to build a complete community here not focus in one area. We need to change our image not appear like we're broke all the time with our hand out for provincial and federal assistance.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 23, 2007 at 09:23:55

go talk to LIUNA and HI-RISE about that. Hamilton wasn't the one with their hand out. It was the developers. You're dreaming (or from a different city) if you think private developers in Hamilton will do anything BUT come with their hands out looking for freebies. The days of "building community" and being concerned with the city's image and rep are long gone in the private world.
Compare that to prior days when folks built the Pigott building and old Birks building. They were building structures that would enhance the city, improve it's image AND make them money in the process. These days nothing else matters except a quick buck. I'm glad they decided to keep city hall. A new building would have been some piece of crap like our new federal building.

Anyone know if Lister will have street-facing retail in the old arcade? Please don't tell me they are going to turn that arcade into little office cubicles with covered up windows (like the old Eaton's store by the market).

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 25, 2007 at 09:15:21

The city is bleeding money out of its suburbs too. Any money begged or borrowed for downtown instead of for building perimeter highways and cloverleaf accesses makes much more sense. We need to breathe life into the parts of downtown that need it before we worry about getting people AROUND the city as fast as possible... Lister revitalization can only help. Let's just hope they do it right...

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 25, 2007 at 13:25:52

I echo seancb on this one...

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 25, 2007 at 18:31:20

just heard from McHattie that there will be street facing retail along King William/James as well as along the interior arcade.

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By Jon Dalton (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2007 at 14:17:58

I think perimeter highways are a good idea. It does less harm to the city to have a highway around it than it does to have a highway through it. We should develop Burlington St. as a throughfare to help end the madness on Main and King.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2007 at 13:50:48

LRT through the core is an even better idea than perimeter highways though ;-)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2007 at 14:07:37

We already have perimeter highways: QEW / 403 / Linc / Red Hill (due for completion this fall).

Anything designed to move people very large distances quickly in cars is going to encourage sprawl, because it becomes possible to live farther from destinations (chiefly, jobs) than would otherwise be the case.

The 'supply' of highway capacity does this by opening up rural lands for development and hence generating 'new demand' in the form of additional traffic that ends up consuming all the available supply.

This, in turn, creates demand for yet more highway capacity, which opens up more rural land for development and generates even more demand.

Eventually you need yet another perimeter highway - e.g. the 407 around Toronto and the proposed mid-peninsula highway around Niagara/Hamilton - far outside what used to be the perimeter of the city.

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