If the dereliction of the Connaught continues unabated, council should consider expropriation and resale to a developer who fully appreciates the building and has the wherewithal to redevelop.
By Matt Jelly
Published March 22, 2010
Mayor Eisenberger and Hamilton City Council,
I'm writing today to urge your immediate action on downtown Hamilton's historic Royal Connaught Hotel.
Royal Connaught Hotel (RTH file photo)
As some of you know, I've recently started a citizens group called By-Law Crawl. We focus on vacant and derelict properties, primarily in the downtown core, documenting serious infractions on these properties and forwarding those infractions to appropriate By-Law Enforcement.
We meet on the first Saturday of every month, and our third By-Law Crawl event takes place on April 3rd, and I'll be forwarding more specific information on this event to all members of council later this week.
We have already forwarded a number of infractions we've found at the Royal Connaught. On the first Crawl event, we found a ground-floor entrance open to trespass, as well as a number of broken windows, and the rather large pile of debris in the back lot.
Since then, we've continued to monitor the condition of the property, and forwarded subsequent complaints to staff. I'm glad to say By-Law staff (particularly Glyn Wide) have been responsive to our concerns, and are following up these complaints, working with the owners to mitigate some of the problems we've identified.
But this is a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution. The damage continues daily - and our group only reports what we see from the outside.
To me, it indicates that there are also serious problems inside the building. The public needs some assurance that the City is doing everything in its power to prevent any further damage from occurring.
The Royal Connaught is currently not designated as a heritage building. I want to urge council to fast-track the heritage designation currently being considered by staff.
This building is a crucial part of our community, and the owners need to understand their responsibilities. It needs to be made clear that their eventual plans for the property must include a restoration of the building.
If this dereliction continues unabated, I believe council should consider expropriation and resale to a developer who fully appreciates the building and has the wherewithal to redevelop.
I know this approach can't be taken with every building; but in this case, if the owners continue to ignore their responsibilities, it's the only option we have left.
We can't allow these owners to make their private holding a public problem - we shouldn't have to intervene the same way we did with the Lister: too late. We should be clear with the owners that they can't let the Connaught decay to the point that only public funds can save it.
I urge you to do the right thing. The citizens of Hamilton are not prepared to sit and watch as another amazing heritage building sits degraded by a group of speculators who don't have any interest in redevelopment unless it includes public funds.
Council has a responsibility to act now before it's too late.
Thanks for your time,
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