What's Really Chasing Investment Away

The next time a prospective business owner is scared away by the state of the Connaught or Lister Block, we can all thank our Council for throwing up yet more roadblocks to investment.

By Jason Leach
Published September 09, 2007

CHML reports that Councillor Lloyd Ferguson (Ancaster) led the opposition to a proposal from Councillor Brian McHattie (Ward 1) requiring property owners to maintain property standards in heritage buildings, on the grounds that doing so is "chasing investment away".

I didn't realize buying a designated heritage property (and knowing full-well the range of protections such properties have upon purchase) and then leaving it empty to rot for 15 years was called 'investing' in Hamilton.

The last time I checked, people in the suburbs make a grandiose scene of identifying that as a rundown and decrepit downtown that they "won't visit".

Perhaps we need to clear up the meaning of the word 'investment'.

It isn't just any money spent regardless of the outcome. If that were the case, Hamilton Police recently chased out a very high-tech and money-making investment in the old Sandbar Tavern.

Investment is something that improves our city and brings us closer to our stated goals of becoming a great place to live, work and play.

I'm utterly disappointed in Council for not endorsing this simple piece of legislation that would have resulted in far fewer decaying, empty buildings in our city, which would have then led to further investment in our city.

The next time a business owner comes to check out our city as a possible place to invest, but is scared away by the state of the Connaught or Lister Block, we can all thank our Council and specifically its suburban Councillors for throwing up yet more roadblocks to turning this city around.

I would strongly urge all Council members in the former city of Hamilton to push forward with an end to the discriminatory area rating system (also known here in the downtown core as the 'free ride for the burbs' system) as well as the incredibly low tax rates in Hamilton's suburbs.

It's time for some financial fairness in this city instead of always robbing from the poorest. Lord knows we're going to need to find more funds in this city to continue cleaning up collapsing buildings.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By jason (registered) | Posted September 11, 2007 at 18:47:15

as a follow up on this, the Spectator website has had a poll question for the past 2 days asking whether people think council should force heritage building owners to maintain their buildings in order to prevent demolition by neglect. Not suprisingly, 77% of people have said 'yes'. Anyone blessed with the gift of eyesight can see what a negative effect this has on our city and our image. It's pretty bad when city council stands in the way of tidying up the city a little. As the city staff report said "this bylaw will only affect a few properties since most do a good job of maintaining their properties". Apparently city council finds it charming to have a few derelict buildings around town. I guess we wouldn't want outsiders to think we've cleaned up our act entirely. Or could it be deeper than that?? perhaps the suburban councillors have determined to stand in the way of Hamilton truly turning around and becoming prosperous again....

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By Catherine (anonymous) | Posted September 26, 2007 at 21:34:00

When looking at successful areas in urban or small town neighborhoods, its always apparent that people want to go where there are quaint, architecturally interesting, historical, people friendly buildings. For example:Locke Street, Queen Street Toronto, Cambridge, Unionville, downtown Dundas, Elora, Paris On, etc. If you fix up the historical buildings, people will come. You cannot "create" this atmosphere. Hamilton downtown still has numerous wonderful buildings that can be restored and turned into an interesting people friendly setting. It saddens me to see such ignorance on the part of city counsellors. My husband and I restored a derelict 1840 brick cottage (It was updated with insul brick and then siding) and people constantly come by to comment how the house has beautified the corner. Sometimes they just come by to look. People like old buildings. Fix them and they will come.

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By dumb farmer's son (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2007 at 00:11:51

in addition to this truely essential bylaw hamilton needs to stop giving property tax rebates to vacant buildings. i propose instead a one year reduction tiered at %100 for the first three months, %75 for the second quarter, ect. gives property owners a little breathing room but reduces the incentive for property speculators to buy and hold at little loss to them. this would do two things: temporarily lower rents around the city as owners have more incentive to get these buildings occupied and secondly it would temorarily lower real estate values as owners of derelict buildings decide to sell as opposed to lose more money. both good things as they would spur a new wave of investment in the downtown as costs decrease. in both cases the decreases would only be temporary as investment ALWAYS attracts other investment. the city wins in increased tax revenue in the short term and the long term. who losses? nobody any sane voter should care about, only the real estate speculator and absentee landlords who cast a blight over this city. the reason areas like james north are attracting young businesses is that real estate is (was) cheap. people are usually more willing to take risks when the stakes are lower.

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