Comment 89985

By KieranC.Dickson (registered) | Posted July 06, 2013 at 19:09:26 in reply to Comment 89983

This is complicated by the fact that what is beyond economic repair turns on the permitted use of the property – and whether demolition is allowed.

If there are no major structural issues -- and I do not believe that there has been any serious suggestion that there are -- then these buildings are suited for rehabilitation into residential and retail and perhaps small office/studio units. There is good (and growing) demand for quality spaces in Hamilton’s core. Based on my own experience with renovating somewhat-similar buildings, and using conservative per-square-foot renovation cost and lease rate estimates, these buildings could be renovated to a high standard in a profitable way… but only if the buildings are acquired at a reasonable price.

And this is where the problem arises. If the owner of these buildings, or ANY owner of heritage building stock in the core, has demolition as an option, then the question of what is economically feasible or reasonable has to take into account the alternative use of the property as (say) the footprint of a large retail store, office tour, condominium, parking lot, or whatever. While the Downtown Secondary Plan says that these alternatives should not be on the table, they clearly are.

With these alternatives, the land may be so valuable for some alternative use that renovation could not possibly be the most economic option, as one would have to pay far more to acquire the unrenovated building than could be justified for a decent return on investment. Even having to throw a coat of paint on might be “uneconomic,” in the sense that even if the renovation cost was ZERO one would be further ahead to clear the land for alternative use.

This is why we have the Ontario Heritage Act and higher-order planning directions at the municipal level: these are in recognition that there is community value to our built environment, community value that warrants certain limitations on the free market. Where these limitations take away an owner’s range of options, the economic choice effectively becomes one of either rehabilitating built heritage or selling the property to those who will – at a market rate that reflects the fact that demolition is not an option.

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