Blanchard Should Listen to What His Commercial Property Vacancy Survey is Telling Him

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published July 12, 2013

CBC Hamilton has published a revealing story about mixed messages on commercial vacancy rates in downtown Hamilton. The story can be boiled down to three quotes:

According to an annual commercial survey of downtown core office space by Blair, Blanchard and Stapleton Real Estate, downtown Hamilton's commercial vacancy rate was sitting at 22 per cent in 2012.


Blair, Blanchard and Stapleton only measure commercial space over 20,000 square feet


This shows that Hamilton is still lagging behind the GTA when it comes to large commercial entities, but smaller boutique shops downtown help the core's vacancy rate drop.

The obvious conclusion is that that the demand for large office and commercial space downtown is very low, but that the demand for smaller commercial space downtown is relatively strong.

In fact, this is what the small business people and landowners downtown have been saying: there is good demand for well-renovated historical building space downtown.

Mr Blanchard, please remind us again why you want to demolish buildings that provide uniquely desirable small boutique spaces and replace them (maybe, eventually) with undesirable large commercial spaces?

Blanchard's own data tells us that it would make more sense in today's market to renovate the space in your existing buildings. There just aren't enough big tenants for the large-scale commercial spaces his demolition project would provide. Unless he has an anchor tenant already signed on, this seems like a very risky proposition.

But then again, maybe Blanchard is thinking of the future. Just possibly, in five or ten years, large commercial spaces in downtown Hamilton will be in high demand again. And those empty lots fronting Gore Park will be just the ticket in 2020 when "Target or whatever" wants to open a brand new store downtown.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By TnT (registered) | Posted July 12, 2013 at 12:00:56

It seems to me if you watch the boom bust cycle in North America, it wouldn't be unreasonable to see big retailers faltering as of late. The future must be returning to the past.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted July 13, 2013 at 00:44:22

Except...he's looking to put in a full service grocery store...and high density residential condo units. Both things the core has in short supply, are in demand and aid urban objectives.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-07-13 00:45:17

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By demand math (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2013 at 11:54:49 in reply to Comment 90216

If the demand was so high, one of the dozens of empty blocks would be condos by now. THe demand is clearly not high enough to justify more demolition. What he's "looking" to do is assemble land in the hopes of future sale. Nothing more.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 13, 2013 at 07:44:01 in reply to Comment 90216

One thing the core doesn't have in short supply is vacant land that he could build on if he truly wanted to 'aid urban objectives'.

Heritage architecture is a proven draw for visitors and investment. As grannysaga points out, the small enterprises that Blanchard dismisses are exactly the sort of thing that attracts people to the downtown. If we keep destroying our heritage and replacing it with monolithic glass boxes of the kind seen in Blanchard's renderings, we aren't going to need large anchor tenants like "maybe a grocery store or a Target or whatever I don't know" and high density condos because nobody will want to live here.

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By Connie (registered) | Posted July 13, 2013 at 03:40:20 in reply to Comment 90216

There is a new grocery store downtown. We need the condos - more people living downtown. I think the 18-28 historic bldngs need to be cafes and restaurants with patios, gathering places for downtowners and destinations for others.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2013 at 11:02:26 in reply to Comment 90217

Agreed, and he has plenty of land to build a condo on along Main and along James (surrounding the landed banking and loan building) that could be developed into condos without destroying the look of Gore Park any further (the modern office towers currently there have done quite a bit of harm already, replacing beautiful buildlings like the original Birks building).

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By blanche (anonymous) | Posted July 18, 2013 at 17:33:27

Problem is, he doesn't BUILD CONDOS. He only assembles land and manages large floorplate commercial spaces. He is in way over his head on this block, and the only way he can wrap his head around it is to raze it all and start trying to sell a gravel lot to developers.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted July 19, 2013 at 11:50:26

Demolition has begun today, while Councillor Farr is conveniently on vacation!

It seems the two easternmost buildings are being completely demolished although bricks are being saves for possible later re-use.

"For now" about 40 feet of the facade of the westernmost buildings are being saved, but no one will be surprised to hear the demolition experts "discover" that the building is too structural unstable to save the facades after most of it has been demolished.

Appalling behaviour!

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By itchy back (anonymous) | Posted July 19, 2013 at 13:11:03

Another case of bigwig backscratching. There was no citizen outcry asking for demolition & a huge outcry against. Council plugs their ears to the citizens and opens all of our wallets (on our behalf), to the property speculators and absentee landlords.

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