Downtown Bureau

Cannon Knitting Mills to be Redeveloped

Forum Equity Partners has commissioned David Premi Architects Inc to redevelop the Cannon Knitting Mills building in Beasley Neighbourhood as a mixed-use facility.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 28, 2011

this article has been updated

Rendering of redeveloped Cannon Knitting Mills (Image Credit: Forum Equity Partners)
Image Credit: Forum Equity Partners

Property developer Forum Equity Partners has commissioned David Premi Architects Inc. (DPAI) to redevelop the Cannon Knitting Mills at 134 Mary Street, just south of Cannon Street East in Beasley neighbourhood.

Forum Equity, a Toronto-based, privately-held real estate development corporation, bought the property in February 2011 and plans to redevelop it as an 110,000 sq. ft. mixed-use facility including condos.

Forum Equity has also partnered with the City of Hamilton to establish the Hamilton Realty Capital Corporation, which plans to invest $40 million in downtown redevelopment and act as a catalyst for further private reinvestment.

The three-storey, red-brick Cannon Knitting Mills building, constructed in 1854, is currently vacant but a good candidate for adaptive reuse. The main entrance is away from the pedestrian-unfriendly Cannon Street, and the building backs onto Beasley Park.

DPAI made a name for itself in Hamilton for completing the $14 million redevelopment of the Central Library and Farmers Market on York Boulevard in partnership with RDH Architects.


Anthony Ferrari from Forum Equity has provided a bit more information on this development. He confirmed that the Cannon Knitting Mills is "a Hamilton Realty Capital Corp initiative" and noted that the firm's "experience with City and staff has been excellent."

Forum selected DPAI because the firm "put together what my colleagues and I believe was a very exciting and creative proposal re: the Cannon Knitting Mills redevelopment, and was selected following a competitive evaluation process that involved multiple Hamilton-based architectural design firms."

Forum is still working out the specifics of how much money is coming from where, whether the building will be eligible for an ERASE brownfield remediation grant, and what zoning issues, if any, must be addressed to complete the development.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 12:40:33

What is Hamilton Realty Capital?

• A Co-Investment partnership initiative between Forum Equity Partners and the City of Hamilton created to stimulate real estate development within the “Downtown Community Improvement Project Area”. The parties are committed to jointly invest capital for restoration, renovation and development within the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area

• Hamilton Realty Capital Inc. is the company created to implement the program

• Forum will contribute capital to Hamilton Realty Capital as well as extensive experience in development of social infrastructure and mixed-use real estate projects.

• City of Hamilton will co-invest with Forum. As well, the City’s Senior Business Development Consultant, Glen Norton, will integrate the efforts of Hamilton Realty and the City, acting as Hamilton Realty's local contact in the pursuit of development opportunities.

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:33:18 in reply to Comment 65252

*"The Redevelopment Zone is bounded by properties that abut Queen Street, Cannon Street, Victoria Avenue and
Hunter Street (adjacent to the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area portions of the street
only) and also includes properties fronting on James Street (including abutting lands provided they are part of the comprehensive redevelopment of an eligible James Street North property) north to the CN Railway and south to Charlton Avenue."

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By TroisWarder (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 13:02:43

How many of these developments keep falling down due to 12th century zoning bylaws? On my very street the city has limited and shut down a micro hostel. I read it on this site. I walked past the house with my kids to school every day and had no idea it was a hostel. Isn't that the point? Now letting this oportunity crumble is criminal. I don't see hope if they can't do anything about the Connaught, what hope does this place have? Sahme, shame, double shame.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 13:51:05

Thank goodness the developers aren't from Hamilton #Cocov #Vranich #Battaglia #Kichi

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By Mark-Alan Whittle (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 14:46:37

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 15:33:31

Since the developer is not from Hamlton and is not named Stinson this project has some hope of coming to fruition.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:57:58 in reply to Comment 65268

Hahaha... I could not agree more!

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By MattM (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 15:41:36

Normally I would take this with a grain of salt but lets look at the two major positives that give this project a lot of credibility:

  • Private realty company investing $40 Mill of capital in the project
  • A reputable, local architect (dpAI) is involved. They would not sign on if there were holes in the plan.

This one is definitely gonna get off the ground and it's gonna be huge. Obviously they see some big potential to be investing such a large amount of private held money.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:59:30 in reply to Comment 65269

Big thing to note here is PRIVATE company. So nice to see non taxpayer-funded projects getting some steam.

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 17:04:59 in reply to Comment 65282

It's half taxpayer-funded, but I take your point.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 13:40:12 in reply to Comment 65284

And I believe 100% taxpayer funded for loses and a set ROI for the private partner...

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 15:59:08

"Private realty company investing $40 Mill of capital in the project"

I read that as being the HRCC – a PPP between Forum Equity and the City – investing the $40m, and my takeaway was that the $40m was being distributed in "downtown redevelopment", not just this site.

Still, three blocks from the General and the $100 million David Braley Cardiac Vascular and Stroke Research Institute, so the location makes sense beyond the bonny bones of the place. Have to be some well-heeled specialists looking for a convenient crash pad, no?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:05:22

That is great news, but I will believe it when I see it. The nearby Good Sheppard center might dissuade people on the property. That also being said, this is exactly the kind of building I want to see get a facelift and turned into Filmwork Loft style condos.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2011 at 12:01:27 in reply to Comment 65272

The nearby Good Sheperd center could be the next domino to fall if the right proposal were made to GS and they were able to obtain funding for a better facility somewhere else. IMHO.

In which case that could help transform that entire neighbourhood. Combined with two way of Cannon from say Wentworth to Bay.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:07:48

I wonder how much less money the city would have needed to invest in this project were Cannon Street not a ... you know the rest.

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:17:59

If the HRCC's investing $40m, the City's apparently in for half of that.


Report to: Chair and Members Economic Development and Planning Committee

Date: August 17, 2009

Subject: Hamilton Realty Capital Corporation (H.R.C.C.) – Appointment of Designated Manager and Expansion of Boundaries (PED09249) (Ward 2)


City Council at its meeting held July 12, 2006 approved the Unanimous Shareholders’ Agreement (U.S.A.) that addresses corporate governance of the Hamilton Realty Capital Corporation (H.R.C.C.) including day-to-day management, accountability, financial strategy, monitoring, winding up and liquidation of the Corporation. Council also approved releasing $2 million to the H.R.C.C. in the form of a loan in accordance with the terms of the U.S.A. as well as releasing approximately $180,000.00 remaining in a Hamilton Future Fund account to fund operating costs of the Corporation. To date no monies have flowed to the H.R.C.C. and will not flow until the Corporation has an offer of purchase or entered into a lease agreement. At that time, the Corporation would have met the requirements of the Planning Act and monies can flow. As recently as August 13, 2009, City Council approved the sale of City lands municipally known as 140 King William Street to the H.R.C.C. The H.R.C.C. proposes to redevelop the site with a retail/commercial/institutional development together with a multi-level parking structure.

The H.R.C.C. is a for-profit development corporation operating within the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area. The City of Hamilton and Forum Leasehold Partners Inc., the private sector investor, will both contribute $2 million to the H.R.C.C. in accordance with the U.S.A. The investor’s contribution shall at all times be at least equal to the amount of the City’s contribution to each project.

The U.S.A. allows the H.R.C.C. to pursue the following capital expenditures: to buy and sell property; to redevelop property; to propose and make applications under the Municipal Act or the Planning Act to seek approval of plans to redevelop property; and to advance loans to any other person for the purpose of any of the foregoing.

The termination date of the U.S.A. will be the earlier of five (5) years from the date of the U.S.A. or the date when the Capital Expenditures Satisfaction Date is achieved. The Capital Expenditures Satisfaction Date is the date on which the Corporation has made aggregate Capital Expenditures of not less than $8 million. Basically, the City’s $2 million and the private investor’s $2 million initial investment have circulated two times. The City will receive the $2 million initial investment back if funds are available in accordance with the U.S.A. The private investor will receive a 15% per year return on its investment.

The money from the City and the private investor will flow on a project-by-project basis. Once the terms of the U.S.A. are met to the satisfaction of the City Solicitor, monies will flow from the City and the private investor to the H.R.C.C. accordingly to fund the project(s).

To ensure potential proposals being considered by the Board of Directors of the H.R.C.C. meet all requirements of the Downtown Secondary Plan, the Downtown Zoning By-law and other policies of the City of Hamilton, a multi-disciplinary review team of staff has been established with expertise in law and planning. The team meets on an as required basis.

Staffing for the H.R.C.C. is to be provided in accordance with the Management Services Agreement which was executed concurrently with the execution of the U.S.A. Under the terms and conditions of the Management Services Agreement, it is within the purview of the City to designate a Manager from time to time. Gord Moodie, the former Senior Business Consultant for the Downtown and Community Renewal Division, was appointed to the Manager’s position in 2006. Gord left the employment of the City of Hamilton in March 2009 and the newly hired Senior Business Consultant, Glen Norton, is being recommended for appointment to the Manager’s position.
Projects of the H.R.C.C. must fall within the boundaries of the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area (D.H.C.I.P.A.). The boundaries of the D.H.C.I.P.A. were expanded in June 2008. Therefore the existing map delineating the former boundaries of the D.H.C.I.P.A. forming part of the U.S.A. must be replaced with the map of the expanded D.H.C.I.P.A.


The appointment of Glen Norton to the position of Manager to the H.R.C.C. will allow continued staff support to the H.R.C.C., particularly in light of the recent approval by City Council to declare surplus the land municipally known as 140 King William Street and sell the property to the H.R.C.C. The management services are provided in accordance with the Management Services Agreement approved by City Council at its meeting held July 12, 2006.

The document in full:

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2011 at 16:27:22 in reply to Comment 65275

"the land municipally known as 140 King William Street"

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2011 at 21:41:26

Good news - and I'm optimistic. Good to see some reputable names involved.

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By CapitalIdea (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2011 at 09:13:42

It must be some nice to let rich yuppies get tax bucks to move into my hood. How about turning the thing into something that makes work for odiranry people.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted June 29, 2011 at 11:09:14

Are those people in the Equity image (rendering) wondering casually out on Cannon? Not likely to happen.

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By Jon (registered) - website | Posted June 29, 2011 at 11:19:23 in reply to Comment 65324

The streets shown are Mary street and the entrance to Beasley park. Cannon street isn't visible in the Equity image (for good reason). So I'd say it's very likely we could see this much pedestrian activity, especially if the building is truly mixed use.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted June 29, 2011 at 22:53:32

This is an amazing development. Kudos to Glen Norton. @WRCU2 as to above post I am as confused as you. I am TnT registered, maybe by some fluke typo I am also Tnt, it can get very schizophrenic online sometimes.

Comment edited by TnT on 2011-06-29 22:54:38

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By Buster (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2011 at 23:13:19

A vacant former knitting mill in Hamilton’s poorest neighbourhood is the first purchase of a unique partnership between the city and a private equity company.

Hamilton Realty Capital Corporation bought the Cannon Knitting Mills at Mary and Cannon streets in the Beasley neighbourhood for an undisclosed price in January. Environmental assessments and rezoning applications are under way as the developer and a team led by local architect David Premi determine the best and most feasible uses for the property.

Those possibilities include residential, retail, office space, artists’ studios, museum space, a post-secondary campus or maybe a mix of all of that.

The 110,000-square-foot building is a complex of about five structures built between 1854 and 1950. It had been up for sale for $800,000 for a number of years, and while several investors from Toronto came to take a look, for various reasons — the scale and condition of the building, potential environmental problems, the nearby Good Shepherd building, the traffic hurtling by on Cannon — they all shied away.

The owners of the mill, L & S Realty, started to hint that taxes, insurance and utilities might leave them no choice but to tear the building down, says Glen Norton, acting manager of the city’s downtown renewal division and manager of HRCC.

“We urged them not to do that and quite rightly they said, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’”

HRCC, which is backed by Forum Equity Partners, a Toronto-based private real estate developer, wanted to keep the purchase quiet until they had a plan worked out for the building’s future, but the deal hit Hamilton news blog Raise the Hammer this week.

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 08:02:54 in reply to Comment 65364

The Spec article also clarifies the funding pipeline and expertise of project partners:

"The city lent HRCC $2 million from the Future Fund to get started and Forum is not in the game to lose money.

HRCC, which aims to leverage $40 million of investment downtown, is entirely owned by Forum president Richard Abboud. Yet while the city has no stake in the company, it gets 50 per cent of the vote on projects to tackle. The group has tried to land other deals, including failed development proposals for the public school board property downtown and for a surplus city parking lot on King William to be used for housing, office, cultural space and a grocery store.

The corporation also holds the option for the former Sandbar tavern building on King Street East that was seized from its owner.

Abboud is reluctant to offer timelines or the level of investment the Cannon Knitting project will entail. He’s never ventured into a restoration before, usually partnering with municipalities and governments to build court houses, detention centres, arts venues, mixed use housing, schools and public administration buildings.

Forum’s most recent project is a $225 million town centre in Orleans, Ont., featuring an arts and cultural centre, a hotel, office buildings, retail and commercial space, a seniors’ home, housing and green space."

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted June 30, 2011 at 12:44:17

Great news! Beautiful set of historic buildings, nice park, accomplished architect. Keeping our fingers crossed.

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By Downtown Downer (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 17:39:10

Just wait until they are required to buldoze Beasley Park for 1000 parking spaces.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 19:51:49 in reply to Comment 65445

well your correct in that parking spots will be a problem for any kind of development .. but this is a lot more positive than turning it into a parking lot in totality ... this could be hamilton distillery district ...

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By curious (anonymous) | Posted July 10, 2011 at 06:00:56

who owns or will own the property or development?
Who is at risk?
What if this becomes another city hall boondoggle?
Who is on the line here?
The economics dont seem to work here unless there is massive city subsidy.

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