Special Report: Heritage

Surprise Demolition Permit for Gore Park Buildings

There is no way to stop the demolition permit for 18-28 King Street East unless Council convenes an emergency meeting before January 9 to designate the buildings.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 20, 2012

In a surprise move, Wilson-Blanchard has filed for demolition permits for the remaining Victorian buildings lining the south leg of Gore Park between James Street South and Hughson Street South.

King Streetwall on the south side of Gore Park (RTH file photo)
King Streetwall on the south side of Gore Park (RTH file photo)

This emerged at today's meeting of the Municipal Heritage Committee, which debated what, if anything, can be done to save them.

Joey Coleman livestreamed the meeting.

No Barrier to Demolition

The buildings at 18-28 King Street East, some of which predate Confederation, are not designated heritage buildings but have been identified as properties of interest.

Because they are not already designated and do not contain residential uses, the City has no recourse but to issue the demolition permits for January 9, 2013.

The only way to stop it would be for Council to convene an emergency meeting to designate the buildings under the Municipal Heritage Act.

The Committee moved to designate the buildings, but Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, who sits on the Heritage Committee, noted that Council would have to ratify the designation before January 9.

That would require interrupting Councillors' Christmas vacations and that it would be difficult to achieve quorum.

Councillor Brian McHattie, also on the Heritage Committee, expressed extreme frustration with the news. "This is a perfect example of how screwed we are" on protecting municipal heritage, McHattie said.

Later in the meeting, McHattie suggested that the non-Council members of the Heritage Committee should resign to protest Council's failure to take heritage seriously and protect buildings from demolition.

McHattie also proposed designating properties owned by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) to prevent more buildings like Sanford School from being demolished.

Missing Tooth

The building at 30 King Street East was already demolished in May 2011 and the site has sat vacant ever since.

Missing tooth in Gore Park streetwall (RTH file photo)
Missing tooth in Gore Park streetwall (RTH file photo)

This past October, Wilson-Blanchard floated a proposal to build a new condo development in the block bounded by James, King, Hughson and Main that would include a grocery store and multi-level parking garage fronting on to King Street.

No more details have emerged from this proposal, but Wilson-Blanchard has clearly decided to proceed with the demolition of the rest of the King Street buildings anyway.

The Gore Park Master Plan envisions a pedestrian plaza on the south leg of King Street, which would provide ample surface area for patios. A pilot project this past summer was a great success at drawing people to enjoy their lunches in the park.

A grocery store and multi-level parking lot would destroy the pedestrian character of Gore Park, the centre of the downtown core, and effectively render the master plan moot.

with files from Joey Coleman

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 JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 13:55:58

I'm glad I've made the committment to be at every City Hall meeting. No other media showed up for this meeting. (But I'm confident they will have stories up shortly from watching my livestreaming. I wonder if they'll give credit for my work?)

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:02:55 in reply to Comment 84231

Do you really wonder about the credit? I'm guessing not, you were only being polite.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:01:00

What an unsurprising surprise.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:04:26

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By jorvay (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 16:53:12 in reply to Comment 84234

It's not just about heritage. My greater concerns in this case are when the new development will be built to replace these buildings and if that development will be the right fit for the location. There are far too many empty lots in this city as it is.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 17:27:22 in reply to Comment 84265

Exactly. I'm not really enamored with those particular buildings. I know the heritage is important to some, but I could live without them if we saw something awesome going in its place.

If we knew that as soon as the dust was settled we'd see a big condo-tower going up with similar small storefronts facing into the Gore, maintaining a proper street-wall for the pedestrian plaza?

Well, I'd prefer restored facades, but I could live with that.

But realistically, that's not going to happen. The buildings will get demolished and stay demolished for quite some time, while the developer tries to finagle the best deal for the remaining structures on the block and courts clients. And that could take a decade. The heart of our city sporting a big empty crater.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:31:11 in reply to Comment 84234

the 1950's called...they want your textbooks back.

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By theninjasquad (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:10:25

I'm not sure why this was a surprise or caught them off guard. I thought the developer was quite clear in October that he was going to demolish them?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:32:00 in reply to Comment 84235

he was also clear that he had no plans yet. Him and his partner argued over what to possibly build there right in front of the media. Why demolish these buildings when construction could still be years away, according to them.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:37:03 in reply to Comment 84239

Honestly, after seeing his pictures and the way he talked about them, it sounds like he had plans for the grocery store and the parking structure... but all that other stuff was hastily duct-taped on as ideas to make it more palatable.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:37:07

Thanks Ryan for quickly embedding the video.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:49:03

I'm confused by why Wilson-Blanchard believes these properties have no value and cannot be sold to people who would properly redevelop them instead of destroying them, and I'll tell you why.

Our company (factore.ca) was throwing around the idea of moving a couple of months ago, and we were looking at various properties downtown. We need around 4 or 5,000 square feet for it to be worth a move, and we'd love to own our own building.

We didn't see anything that was appropriate, but then we got an email from our realtor telling us that the Chester's building by Gore Park was up for sale. We checked it out - 5,000 square feet, tons of heritage value, some tenants in the building already - it was perfect! This was a Friday, and we contacted our realtor that day to see if we could go see it the following Monday.

She got back to us later that afternoon and told us, "I can try to book a tour for it on Monday, but I'm not sure if it's worth it. There are three offers on it already."

If a building on the next block that goes up for sale gets THREE offers on it the same DAY it goes on the market, I'm having trouble understanding why Wilson-Blanchard needs to demolish all of these buildings.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:11:28 in reply to Comment 84244

The reason there was 3 offers was that people knew Blanchard owned most of the block, giving a remaining property significant value.

Those with offers hoped to be able to flip the property and extort a significant premium from Blanchard for them to get the full contiguous block.

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By Blanched (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 01:36:56 in reply to Comment 84286

Blanchard owns the Chester's building that was up for sale.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:07:17 in reply to Comment 84244

not to mention, Blanchard has managed to renovate some old buildings downtown and completely fill them, while his modern, boring office counterparts have crazy vacancy rates. He knows that restored heritage sells. I don't even care if he saves the buildings. Just the facade would work.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 17:48:12 in reply to Comment 84247

Spreading the wealth around...


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By thisisINSANITY (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:49:56

What if Council insisted the facade be incorporated into the proposed development IF they have to demolish at all?

It's great that this city's heritage is being lost to developer's greed.

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 14:51:37

This is so typical Hamilton. Ten bucks says the site becomes a parking lot for at least five years. Why tear it down? The same reason every property owner downtown does: Less maintenance and liability costs, lower tax rate, and potential parking revenue. The incentives are all wrong.

Forget heritage designation, council should enact a new bylaw: No demolitions unless the property owner guarantees new construction within two years. The city loses value every time a building is demolished, so lets say the owner has to post a bond worth the value of the demolished building, forfeited to the city if (when) they don't rebuild.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:07:41 in reply to Comment 84246

I believe we have such a bylaw, and that it was written specifically in response to Blanchard's demolition of a building on this same block, fronting onto James Street.

Why we aren't able to actually use this bylaw is not clear to me.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:21:01 in reply to Comment 84248

Yes, it already exists. A condition can be put on a demolition permit for a new building to be constructed within a certain period of the demolition. So what the owner of the property does is demolish the building via neglect.

They let the the property decay to the point where the city's engineering department deems it a safety hazard and orders it demolished. Then the condition to rebuild vanishes.

That's exactly what Denninger's did with the property on the south-west corner of King & Wellington.

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 00:26:12 in reply to Comment 84287

No problem. Same bylaw - if a building has to be torn down due to neglect, then the owner is charged the same value as the bond would have been. Add it to their tax bill, and if they can't pay, the city seizes the property.

Make parking lots an expensive option, and landowners will stop creating them.

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By Fred Youngs, CBC Hamilton (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:08:57

In the interest of accuracy, CBC Hamilton attended the meeting. Cory Ruf is covering the story for us.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 20:45:01 in reply to Comment 84249

I join Ryan in congratulating CBC on covering City Hall.

Fred, in the interest of accuracy, your outlet arrived after the debate was done and the vote to designate the buildings taken.

I'm glad you quickly followed up and added to the story.

Looking forward to more coverage in the new year.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:25:15 in reply to Comment 84282

Burn. CBC seemingly has raised their game post Roger Gillespie, but just not far enough yet...

Definitely, looking forward to 2013.

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By pearlstreet (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:39:41

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By what the real project is (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:49:09 in reply to Comment 84255

Blanchard's pictures are not a "project". This is simply a tall tale that will result in an empty lot. We have seen this many times before. Once the demolition permit is issued, they come down and the land owner gets a big fat tax rebate and there's no way for the city to force them to build.

Property values then continue to plummet and the speculator buys more of them.

They want to buy the bank on the corner - one of the only properties they don't own on that block. What better way than to tear everything around it down and turn it into a wasteland. Then it's easy to buy the neighbours at a nice price.

They have no serious plan to develop this now. They will continue demolition until they own the whole block. THEN they will start shopping it out. They don't care how long it takes. Meanwhile the rest of us grow old and suffer.

They will continue this process until a huge chunk of money comes along - and all the better if it's publilc money.

If these buildings come down it will be at least a decade before anything is built - if ever.

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By Vacant Lot (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 16:02:43 in reply to Comment 84257

Apples/oranges, but the city's investing $3.5 million into rehabbing a former strip club at 95 King East. Maybe $10 million -- with a full slate of Lister-esque preconditions -- is a small price to pay to retain 18-28 King East, even if a more principled outcome would be much more palatable. Or, unbeknownst to us all, does the city have a progressive wild card they're prepared to play?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 09:24:11 in reply to Comment 84260

If only we had $10 million left in the future fund...but I think we've already spent all that money...

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By PeeJay (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:50:34

Or like having PJ Mercanti's puppet in charge of the c@sino subcommittee?

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By grahamm (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 15:58:47

Buildings I know off the top of my head where facades are saved, new buildings inserted behind -



In almost any other city, these would be saved, restored and incorporated. Why does Hamilton demolish then build new? Is it that the additional cost of saving these buildings means that projects aren't financially viable?

Comment edited by grahamm on 2012-12-20 15:59:22

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 22, 2012 at 01:27:51 in reply to Comment 84259


I worry that given Hamilton's track record with built heritage, we may end up with many shells of old buildings:

"...Facadism holds out a great temptation - it seems, on the surface, to give both sides what they want. The small, older buildings valued by preservationists appear to be saved, while the large new ones developers seek can still be built.

But while facadism pretends to a certain earnestness, it is at bottom rather pernicious. For the compromise it represents is not really preservation at all. To save only the facade of a building is not to save its essence; it is to turn the building into a stage set, into a cute toy intended to make a skyscraper more palatable. And the street becomes a kind of Disneyland of false fronts."

"This attitude may be better than treating small, older buildings with total indifference, but it is still not enough to make a civilized city. For the whole point is that [old] buildings... are not sentimental objects; they are real buildings.

"For the city is not a place of make-believe, a place of illusion where little buildings exist to be pinned, like brooches, on the front of bigger structures to which they bear only the most distant of relationships. To turn an older building of distinction into a fancy front door for a new tower is to respect neither the integrity of the new or that of the old, but to render both buildings, in a sense, ridiculous. ....This is not to say that there are not cases in which old and new construction cannot be combined successfully."

Hamilton has become a culture of many "false fronts". We call people from all over the world and the region to Hamilton for its opportunities, and then destroy their neighbourhoods and livelihoods with our parochialism.

Our life-term councillors and their shenanigans have ensured that we will never be able to move this city confidently towards the 'urban ideal' we all cherish.

Things are only going to get worse in the coming year as hyper-greed drives more short-term thinking by our fractious councillors, while the local media continues to polarize our residents by pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Under these conditions, offering low hanging fruits such as "preservation of facades" to desperate speculators would be like offering a drink to an alcoholic.

I can see our narrow bandwidth councillors - our mayors in-waiting, jump with glee at such thinking and turn this into a new mantra! and very soon, we may have butt-ugly green-glass boxes soaring twenty floors high, fifteen feet behind the carcases of old buildings lining King and James.

Facadism, is a chance not worth taking in Gore Park, or elsewhere in downtown Hamilton which has already been raped beyond recognition by the neglect of our leaders... at-least not until we manage to figure out how to get some enlightened women/men into our council chamber who know or who are not afraid to learn how to rebuild urbanism for our times and for future generations.

Mahesh P. Butani

More on the practice of facadism.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-12-22 01:32:28

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2012 at 07:43:50 in reply to Comment 84334

Do you really believe this? Why do you have a problem with change? With growth? A hundred years ago all buildings were 3 or 4 or 5 stories or less because elevators were not around. Now we have ultra fast elevators. Now we can build a lot higher. Old buildings are just old buildings. Mankind has been destroying old buildings to build new ones for centuries that's how we got to were we are. Do you wish us to stagnate here and procede no further.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 24, 2012 at 15:10:54 in reply to Comment 84370

And where exactly are we at - having got to "where we are"?

Care to define that, "LOL all over again"?

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 11:31:19 in reply to Comment 84416

Beyond 5 story walkups.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 20:17:47 in reply to Comment 84259

It's a bunch of thing: NO VISION being the first one.

Then, a bunch of lax zoning regulations that don't require anything substantial or attractive to be built in it's place. You can knock down Sanford and replace it with a stucco box that will be falling apart in 20 years.

Other cities have strict design guidelines, especially downtown. You think Shoppers Drug Mart, Sobeys or Canadian Tire are building those amazing looking urban stores in Toronto and Ottawa out of the goodness of their hearts?? No chance. Those cities demand excellence. We demand nothing....and as a result, we get crap.

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By higgicd (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 16:51:11

Amazing. If there's one thing we all know the downtown needs, its a massive parking structure at street-level.

Is the revenue generated through parking really greater than the cost of other uses in the core? I can't believe things are demolished for new construction while much of the core remains a barren wasteland of parking spaces.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 17:17:00

alt text

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-12-20 17:21:20

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 17:27:12

alt text

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By Restorable Assets (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 17:39:22


“Between 2012 and 2014, we will follow five to seven significant renewal projects to discover all it takes to revitalize local restorable assets.” http://www.hamiltoneconomicsummit.ca/index.php/initiatives/renew-hamilton


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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 20:16:14 in reply to Comment 84271

"Renew Hamilton is a new digital media initiative between the Hamilton Economic Summit and the Regeneration Institute for the Great Lakes out of McMaster University. It received $115,000 over three years to document about five case studies of urban renewal projects and create an educational curriculum."


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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 19:35:16

Hamilton's Demolition Derby

The only way one can put an end to this madness is to convince the local Architects and Engineers to stop taking on work from such developers -- which we all know, will be next to impossible.

So the next best thing to do is to expose those architects and Engineers who help such developers and organizations in destroying heritage buildings in the name of progress - and then walk around the high-art circuit of Hamilton with a wine glass in their hand, talking like geniuses about urban revitalization and urban living.

Proposing a concept for discussion with the community is one thing when details are not yet finalized.

Applying for demolition permit even before a sensible concept is finalized is downright shameful behaviour. Such acts only reveal the level of contempt one holds for the local community.

It sure must take a huge amount of ego to propose a figure of $120 Million without having a bloody clue as to what the development would entail.

Real-estate agents and Real-estate developers are two different mind-sets.

Very few real estate agents have been able to make the crossover to successful developments outside of suburban tract-housing or speculative box construction. This is because, a sales agent's mindset is simply incapable of handling the subtle nuances both architectural and financial, for complex urban developments of such magnitude.

The victims as always, are urban residents whose emotions are yanked around with predictable premature announcements, hyped up financial projections and brinkmanship to level buildings.

All serious developers in most cities that I am aware, make a sincere effort to engage the local community in the pre-planning process of projects of such magnitude - as there is a very serious financial responsibility to construction lenders that comes into play with such undertakings. There is no room for error, whims or fancy footwork once a project is announced.

A project conceived with such bravado, supported by an inside-clique of drum beaters in the local media, is simply not ready for show time, let alone a freaking demolition permit - which itself has restriction imposed by the city to ensure that no parking lots materialize on flattened lands.

So what is the agenda here? real, meaningful development? or more tom foolery, which this city has developed a reputation for?

$120 Million divided by $200 per square foot for construction cost, results in 600,000 square feet of developed property. Can the downtown absorb such square footage of yet to be defined space? Can the downtown absorb another market after the one that has already been announced recently?

And at what sale value? $400 per square foot? - considering the re-payment of interest and capital over time it take to construct and sell? So, will a unit of 750 square foot at $400/sq.ft amounting to $300,000 per avg unit, sell the 800 odd units that would accrue from 600,000 square feet of development at $120 million?

And was the $120 Million figure thrown around in the press the cost of construction? or the sales projection?

Most developments start with a solid market study, then design schematic and community consultation, then final designs & financial projections.

Here, we have: the end number first, which sounds great: $120 Million!! and no clue as to what is to be built. And by the way, a demolition permit,which is absolutely essential, since we are so prone to working in reverse in Hamilton.

This site in all probability is getting ready to be sold as a vacant parcel to anyone who will ride into town on a white horse, and who knows what s/he is doing... just as were those hundred flattened sites scattered across the downtown core, which are still awaiting the rider on the horse to come and save downtown.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-12-20 20:29:35

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 20:23:06

I think the scary part of this is the resulting vacant lots that will sit for how long? Is there any way to impact the outcome, make them re-consider until there are actual plans finalized?

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:39:30

Interesting development, I must say. So do people think it is time to storm the Bastille? ``

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:46:22

Hamilton, the new Brantford!

Those up on downtown demolition records will get that statement.

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By Buchanan (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 21:48:42

The whole bunch of them, committee, staff and Councillors should all be fired. They are incompetence personified.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2012 at 22:31:42

Look at Port Dalhousie in St. Catharines - developer bought up all of the old historic buildings in Port Dalhousie - promised a big shiny new condo tower, evicted all the tenants in the historic buildings, boarded up everything...and let it sit for going on two years now...waiting for enough units to be sold to finance the project.

I am not one for holding on to heritage buildings for the sake of heritage - but there is no way you can argue that that section of buildings cannot be economically viable.

I remember going on a starving artist's studio tour in downtown Hamilton in high school circa 1994. I remember going up staircases in sketchy alleys and then into these unbelievable loft studios. Rundown and pathetic to be sure - but even a grade 10 highschool student could see the immediate potential.

Hell, I remember going to a nightclub that was in the old Bank of Montreal building at 1 Main West - that one turned out pretty well (restored and is now a Gowlings office).

If council lets this go through we have a much much much more serious problem in this City than I could have ever suspected...and that is saying a lot.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2012 at 23:11:43

Anyone else hear this rumour of 20 Jackson West being demolished soon to make way for more parking? I hope it's not true, but nothing would surprise me anymore.

It's this building: http://goo.gl/maps/2Bw4O

Seriously, we must figure out a way to get the city to relax it's parking demands. It's the number one obstacle to us ever seeing a vibrant, walkable downtown come back. They only care about parking. I can think of over 6 developments killed by city hall in the past year alone due to parking demands....all in the urban core area. This isn't the Meadowlands. Surely they can come up with a set of guidelines for the old parts of the city, and a different set for the burbs?
Our city is being destroyed on the backs of some of the most outdated zoning you'll ever see. And as is usually the case, nobody at city hall cares enough to fix it. Anything new and progressive in this city has come from hard work of volunteers. From LRT becoming an agenda to two-way streets to bike lanes etc.... if not for the hard volunteer work of citizens, none of these things would be happening. We'd just be paving everything over for more parking. So, if we want to see these outdated zoning laws changed, we need to lead the charge. Any ideas??? Enough is enough.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2012 at 20:31:36 in reply to Comment 84294

A chunk of Jackson East is also up for grabs.

154 & 158 Jackson East, 63 & 65 Walnut South: $519,900


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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 11:35:22 in reply to Comment 84363

If what you say is true then the preservationists on this site should rush right out and buy them. Then they can show us how it is done. Buy up those properties and rehab them and make a bunch of money. Come on show us.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 12:17:14 in reply to Comment 84428

You mean like the people who did EXACTLY THAT on James North. That is how it is done. It's already being done, and with buildings that were in worse shape than the Blanchard Busting Block on King.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 07:43:42 in reply to Comment 84294

Do you think they just don't care, or do we have a little Montreal occurring in Hamilton?

By little Montreal I mean, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/nati...

Another slogan for the city: Hamilton, little Montreal!

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By frig (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 07:54:23 in reply to Comment 84299

I wouldn't mind the one way streets and corruption if we also got all the other cool stuff Montreal has.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 00:10:34

The tenants in these buildings have until April to get out. They are paying rent - I don't think Blanchard will try to fast track it. Question is, can a deal be brokered before then which would see the facades preserved, as with the Thomas building?

Everyone though LIUNA was the devil back then but given a bit of incentive, they came through. The Blanchard group is quite similar - proven track record of adaptive reuse, but also keen to demolish when they see fit. I wouldn't throw in the towel on this yet.

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By Designreviewpanel (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 06:31:10

To address some of the comemnts:
1. Design Review Panel - why is the city so afraid of it? David Premi among other architects, planners, and engineers have been pushing it for year, but no one is taking them on. This will help create a vision and a design standard.
2. Public Consultation/Charette - ask the developer and architect to put this project out for public consultation. Let the people have input into the design. Not for just this project but all projects on main urban streets
3. Structural Integrity - before we say yes or no to tearing things down, how about looking at the structural integrity of these buildings. They may be too unsafe to restore. I believe the developer would have made his decision to demolish or adaptive reuse since he is known for both types of work.

We may not be able to fight this but, we can work with them to ensure good design in a spot that could prove our worth to have a beautified building to replace this. Personally, I think the buildings are a hodgepodge and sore to the eye. I hope both the developer and architect put something there that will make people stand up, take notice and assist in creating a vision for this city.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 13:05:04 in reply to Comment 84298

Thats exactly why its going down structural problem on the higher floors

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 21, 2012 at 14:08:43 in reply to Comment 84324

This is absolutely incorrect.

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By Lenny (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 13:12:47 in reply to Comment 84324

Bollocks. There are tenants in some of those higher floors. All those buildings need is some money to clean them up and renovate inside and they could be productive and valuable. W-B spent a decade not spending any money on them and then complain they can't make money off them. You need to invest to earn, it's that simple.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2012 at 07:53:07 in reply to Comment 84325

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

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By Sky Door Gone (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 09:01:35

He also has until April to get out.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 09:50:46

I wonder sometimes how much mob influence still exists in Hamilton, I bet quite a bit...

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By enbertussi (registered) - website | Posted December 21, 2012 at 15:47:39

This kind of thing is what made living in Hamilton frustrating and heart breaking.

As much as James North et al are trying to do good, many of them are not actually from Hamilton.

As quick as they have come to Hamilton's rescue is as quick as some may grow weary.

Corporate citizens like wilson blanchard must be shamed into submission, the risks for their choosing to destroy our heritage must be too great to approach.


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By Kayla Chelsea (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2012 at 21:10:27

Why Canadians decided to demolish historical buildings instead of renovate / restore them and maintain in good condition, just as the Europeans are doing? These are our national good and no one should have the right to destroy them ! Maybe some "executives" should be send to, for example, Spain, France, Italy or even to Czech Republic, Poland and Russia to learn how to take a proper care of our national heritage:)

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted December 22, 2012 at 02:16:11

Just to point out...these buildings were in pretty rough shape. A good 30 years of neglect. When they took one down, it damaged the next one. You could see light through the bricks. I think many of the tenants have fled since. Sad to see, but like Sanford School; we have to fix these things before they get to the point of demolition.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 22, 2012 at 06:46:24

Why is this a suprise? This was made pretty darn clear in the fall.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2012 at 07:46:55

A surprise more than a decade in the making.


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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2012 at 09:07:38 in reply to Comment 84341

Watch the video. The only surprise here was that staff and the Economic Development and Planning Committee failed to act on the recommendations of the Heritage Committee weeks earlier. It never made it to City Council as Councillor McHattie states on the record.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2012 at 12:02:33

Making minutes available in advance of meetings might have given the Heritage Committee a warning flare. As it stands, as "extremely embarrassing" as this episode is, at least this is somewhat above-board. It could easily be much worse:

Designed by architect John Lyle, he of Union Station and the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the century-old residential building at 7 Austin Terrace was reduced to a shell Tuesday as a small crowd watched in disbelief.

Todd, who bought the property in 2008, wants to tear it down to make way for a row of townhouses.

In theory there's nothing wrong with that, but rather than bother with the niceties of the heritage designation the city is seeking, Todd hired a gang of architectural thugs to tear the place apart, but not demolish it.

For that, a demolition permit would have been required, something Todd and his lawyer, Adam Brown, never asked for.

"Everything that was done today was in our rights as the property owner," said Todd, speaking words that have been heard many times before.

"There's nothing heritage about any part of that building," said Brown. "Today, the building is not listed or designated. My client bought it ... but it's not listed as a designated building. It's a vacant building."

Never more so than now.

"Technically, it wasn't a demolition," Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc explained. "But obviously they are destroying all the heritage features. There's outrage at city hall that they can get away with this."

That's not hard to understand; the way the system works, however, means that until a building has been designated, it isn't protected. But designation takes time, and city council won't reconvene until Jan. 21.

"Once it's designated," Mihevc continued, "Todd can be charged. But you can't designate something that's been destroyed."


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By LovetheGore (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2012 at 16:33:22

Anonymous, I have been in those buildings. I tried to lease the 3rd floor at 28 King St E - it has structural issues. In fact, the whole building has structural issues since the owner tore down the building beside it (apparently, not WB but someone else owned the building beside it). Also, the basements are crumbling which also created structural problems. Most of the buildings have only 1 or 2 tenants.

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By wrong (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2012 at 00:36:45 in reply to Comment 84385

They are not crumbling. They have been standing for a hundred years (some for 150) and will stand for a hundred more in the right hands.

Clearly those hands aren't Blanchard's.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 11:42:49 in reply to Comment 84395

What are you basing your statement on? Have you seen the basements? Do you know that they are sound? or are you simply assuming they are sound? or even worse are you simply wishing that they are sound? When anyone tells me that the basement of a hundred year old building is crumbling my first inclination is to believe them because more hundred year old basements are crumbling then not.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 12:15:42 in reply to Comment 84430

What a load of crap. I live in a neighbourhood FULL of hundred year old buildings and they're in excellent shape. The hundred year old building that is falling apart is the exception, and it's usually because the building was neglected for DECADES instead of taken care of.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 08:21:39 in reply to Comment 84432

Have you been in those homes, jones? Are you a structural engineer who knows a sound building from an unsound one? Stop your trolling.

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By structural engineer (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 09:50:11 in reply to Comment 84448

So, everyone commenting on structural integrity has to be a structural engineer. Except LOL and you.

Got it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:23:21 in reply to Comment 84454

I'm not claiming to be, but having seen failing foundations and condemned buildings, I know what it looks like, albeit a very limited perspective. But to throw around generics, a very common trend around RTH commenters, is getting tired.

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By just a stone's throw away (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:47:44 in reply to Comment 84457

How's the view from your glass house?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:29:06 in reply to Comment 84457

So now the internet trolls who just said most hundred year old buildings have failing foundations are scolding others about "throwing around generics". Classy.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted December 24, 2012 at 18:30:27 in reply to Comment 84395

Sorry, but they are crumbling. I've been in a number of them over the past few years. They needed help 20 years ago.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 24, 2012 at 03:07:18 in reply to Comment 84395

Are they your hands? Do you have the funds to fix decades of neglect in buildings with funny shapes and poor access to upper levels? Are you willing to take on the leases for these, or put an offer down to buy them?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 26, 2012 at 12:11:56

I knew people in the upper floors of those buildings years ago, it was a beautiful space and contributed a lot to the community around it. When they left, "Blanchard" was their explanation. This has been in the works for years. Oh, and by the way, in their new space, they just had their "crumbling basement" fixed without a hundredth of Blanchard's budget.

Paying for regular maintenance is part of buying and owning a building. If you can't be bothered to monitor these issues or manage to fix them in a timely manner, you cannot afford to own the building. Nothing lasts forever, especially without timely maintenance. Don't tell me one of the City's biggest developers/owners didn't understand this or couldn't afford it.

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By Tomato/Potato (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 16:30:33

Three-year flashback:

"Hamilton's makeover master is taking on his biggest project yet -- the CIBC tower at 21 King St. W.

And that has downtown boosters beaming.

Realtor and property manager Dave Blanchard has put together a group of investors who expect to take over the 17-storey mirrored tower, the twin to 1 King St. W., Nov. 10.

The gleaming office building, more than a third vacant right now, opened in 1989, two years after the first tower. It cost $30 million then but Blanchard and associates in Office Mortgage Investments will pay $14 million, plus invest more than $700,000 in equipment. That includes upgrades to electrical, heating and cooling systems.

'This is an A building in terms of size and location, and word on the street is already sending us lots of interested parties,' he said."


Sidewalks in Toronto's financial district are made of meticulous granite pavers. They convey unshakable confidence.

Sidewalks in Hamilton's financial district are made of frost-heaved '80s Interlock and cracked concrete patched with asphalt. They convey malleable principles.


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By dan5010 (registered) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:20:40

On and on it goes! Found a beautiful historic building in Hamilton? - Hamilton will gladly grant a demolition permit to some greedy developer to tear it down and put up some god forsaken parking garage!!!

Hamilton has neither the courage or imagination to find better uses for its buildings.

As the song goes... pave paradise, put in a parking lot!!!! I am so goddam sick it!!!!

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 27, 2012 at 16:03:42

The historic streetwall (part) on Gore Park South above, with the streetwall as it stands today, below: (buildings: 12, 18/20/22, 24/28 + 30)

Except for the garish storefront signage w/stucco backing, which has lowered the main floor facade heights, and the bad stucco job on the face of 24 King, very little needs to be done to bring them back to their former glory. Much like the Terraces on James South, or the Sandyford Place off James South.

These buildings (not counting No:12, the bank bldg), have close to 14,000 sq.feet of retail, (with potential for a patio where 30 Kings was demolished). And close to 33,600 sq.feet of live/work space on upper floors. That is almost 50,000 sq.feet of usable space.

A better visioning process such as below of transplanting the old design on the current -- could have seen the heart of our core thriving as early as 2002.

Because of the contiguous nature of these solid buildings in Gore Park, it would have been very easy to build an addition of two-three floors at the rear half - (set back around 50 feet from front, with stepped terraces facing Gore park; and new exits/elevators at rear), to bring the total live/work space to around 50,000 sq.feet + retail of around 14,000 sq.ft.

Depending on the vision of the developer, an innovative boutique hotel with stepped floors could have been added on these additional floors - without impacting the existing facade -- which could have been stripped down and restored to its original design for little cost (as you can see from the composite images above, very little has to be done to restore these facades). The entrance to this 100+ room terraced boutique hotel on top could have been from the Bank Building, which could have had a thriving indoor urban environment, with: a 24hrs cafe, jazz lounge, gift shops/retail, and Hamilton's history & Hall of fame gallery.

In conjunction with the Right House conversion (across Gore Park) to live/work lofts (and not its current misplaced office use) - close to 125,000 sq. feet of high quality loft space could have been put into the market, which in turn would have seen close to 200 young people living/working in the core for the last ten years.

Why buildings get demolished most often is because their developers aspire for more square footage such as: 14,000 sq.feet (existing floor plate) x 10 floors = 140,000 sq.feet. Hence all the talk of deterioration and the need for progress.

What such developers and their architects who pander to their whims, do not know is that with very little creativity, the very same density can be achieved without demolishing such very well crafted buildings.

In this particular case, the council could very easily satisfy the developer's craving for pre-mature progress, (i.e. growth, height...) by transferring the balance height (air rights) from these wonderful buildings to the empty parking lots at rear, which he owns. These two lots facing James and Main can very easily absorb another 100,000 sq. feet from the buildings facing Gore.

The city gets to keep its heritage - intact, its alleyway free, and acheive the density it needs for assessment revenues, while the developer gets his square footage.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-12-27 16:46:47

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 27, 2012 at 16:08:03 in reply to Comment 84470

Best Butani post of 2012!

Thank you for this.

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By dont do it (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 13:07:17 in reply to Comment 84471

You should not acknowledge this man, let alone praise him. Be warned.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 27, 2012 at 16:51:45 in reply to Comment 84471

Thank You Sean! Seasons Greetings & Best wishes to everyone here for the coming New year.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 16:22:41

Mahesh, I love your vision of things.

I wonder you know, if our ancestors would not be rolling in their graves, to see how things have become. If you ask me, too many brown nosers out there, who lack fortitude to do anything of value.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted December 27, 2012 at 17:55:17 in reply to Comment 84472

Thank You SCRAP! There is a very interesting news article I was just reading about the handing over of the reins of one of the most reputed $100 Billion conglomerate to the new guard.

The advice given by the relatively young outgoing Chairman of 75 yrs, to the new, much younger chief of only 43 years, was striking in its simplicity, and cut to the heart of the matter.

He told him this: "if you want my inputs I will give it to you but be your own man and be yourself and just be driven by the fact that every act you do and every move you make has to stand the test of public scrutiny".

Hamilton's industrial success of decades ago, I believe, was founded on such thinking.

In order to really turn this city around, our old and young entrepreneurs, our public officials including many of our retired politicians who continue to influence extremely poor debates on critical city issues, need to be fired up with such candor.

While our city's productivity continues to be choked by old thinking from those who refuse to retire and allow the new guard to lead -- it is so refreshing to know that one of the most progressive businesses in the world has already handed over the reigns of its immense world wide business operations to the new guard - all of whom in their mid thirties to early fifties.

One can only imagine the impact of such progressive thinking on the productivity and growth of such a business enterprise - and the relevance such trust holds for the younger generation.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-12-27 18:09:41

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 16:56:00 in reply to Comment 84472

What about the buildings that those ones took the place of? Was there this uproar then?

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By actually (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 18:58:35 in reply to Comment 84475

The 1840s buildings are said to be the original buildings at those addresses.

>18-22 King Street East


>Date Built: 1840s
>Original Owner: Archibald and Thomas C. Kerr, dry goods merchants
>Original Use: Wholesale dry goods business to 1906
>Subsequent Uses: Wholesale shoes and leather goods (John Lennox & Co., 1910-1922); financial offices; Honey Dew Coffee Shop (1942-70); various retail stores (including Robert Duncan, book store)
>Previous Building on Site: Unknown, probably none

>Size: Three-storeys
>Design and Style: Neoclassical
>Architect, Builder: William Thomas, architect
>Construction Materials: Brick masonry with limestone front
>Architectural Integrity: Moderate (upper facades largely intact, except for replacement of all but four original windows)
>Architectural Features: #18-20: austere but well-proportioned ashlar facade with a continuous lintel under the third storey windows and flat or round voussoir arches over the windows; decorative stone cornice; eyebrow dormer (originally three)


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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 07:04:29 in reply to Comment 84479

Interesting. Didn't know that. Thanks.

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By Joister (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 17:30:56

Two weeks hence we will have a better idea of what's afoot. In the interim, there are many other buildings looking for enlightened owners. Don't wait too long before telling them how much you care. Those backhanded REIN 'accolades' were an international beacon for property speculators. I'm sure there'll be enough heartbreak in 2013 as well.

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By Afterthought (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 13:03:08

Please don't praise Butani. His track record of making ignorant claims and baseless accusations should have him banned from this site. The largest of his BS is criticizes the stucco frontage. You should see his eyesore of a building in IV.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 13:55:50

In 2012, a Hamilton city council meeting was held on January 11th (the second Wednesday in January). A second council meeting was held on January 25, 2012. http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/C...

In 2013, the first Hamilton city council meeting is scheduled for January 23rd (the fourth Wednesday in January): http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/C...

At the end of the last city council meeting on December 12, 2012, they passed a motion to adjourn without setting a specific date for the next meeting: http://hamilton.siretechnologies.com/sir...

Questions: Who made the decision not to schedule a regular Hamilton city council meeting on January 9, 2013 (the second Wednesday in January)? Why did they make this decision?

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2013-01-01 13:58:37

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By David Chambers (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 14:22:08

If a council quorum meets before Jan 9. they can easily pass an "intent to designate" resolution for the King St. bldgs, that will void the demolition permit. This will allow time for cooler heads to prevail, hopefully for the benefit of our heritage.
Why should the city be obligated to issue a demolition permit if the property owner has not presented a plan of developement for the property??

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By Porking Lots (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 14:35:09 in reply to Comment 84670

"Why should the city be obligated to issue a demolition permit if the property owner has not presented a plan of developement for the property??"

EXACTLY!! It's not like we're getting in the way of progress, unless "progress" means more flattened vacant lots.

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By Layers (anonymous) | Posted January 04, 2013 at 12:46:34

“Dialogue and engagement with stakeholders is essential. Staff need to listen to the concerns of those closest to the potential facility; those whose neighbourhood will be affected; those whose hard work and personal risk have sparked the downtown renewal.”


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