Special Report

What is the Fate of the Old Revenue Canada Building?

It's great that we want to preserve the friezes on 150 Main Street West, but what about the building itself?

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 11, 2011

this article has been updated

We're not seriously going to sit back and watch yet another in a long, ignoble line of heritage buildings get demolished in the name of narrow expediency ... are we?

We already have decades of clear evidence supporting a strong preference for adaptive reuse of existing buildings over demolition, particularly in structurally sound, architecturally significant buildings like the Fed.

This isn't a business vs. heritage argument. Heritage buildings have tangible value for economic uplift, and adaptive reuse confers real net efficiencies and benefits.

old Revenue Canada building at Main and Caroline
Former Revenue Canada Building at Main and Caroline

After the recent annoucement by property developer Darko Vranich that he plans to demolish the former Revenue Canada building at 150 Main Street West (at Caroline St.), the cry went up about Hamilton artist Elizabeth Holbrook's six bas-relief sculptures that adorn the building's facade.

It's great that we want to preserve the friezes - and that Vranich seems willing to allow this to happen - but what about the building itself?

The building is beautiful, structurally sound, emblematic of its time and a good candidate for adaptive reuse. In the hands of an imaginative developer, the L-shaped lee of the building would be perfect for a striking slender tower.

Revenue Canada building view from behind
Revenue Canada building view from behind

In Limbo Since 2004

Vranich has owned the old building since he bought it from the Federal Government in 2004 for $1.2 million, stating his plan to convert it into a condominium with 170 or 180 units.

The building had already been identified in 2003 as a good candidate for conversion into condos, and was specifically named in the 2006 Hamilton Residential Intensification Study.

Vranich quickly submitted plans and a request for $4 million in funding through the Downtown Residential Loan Program. The City approved the request for a conditional loan in September 2004. It sat on the Residential Loan Program books as an as-yet unfunded, pending development project for the next four years.

In late 2006, Vranich applied to the City's "Enterprise Zone Municipal Realty Tax Incentive Grant Program", an incentive program that essentially returns the increased tax assessment on a renovated downtown property back to the owner for several years. For condo developments, the developer is allowed to pass the tax grant onto the buyers of the individual condo units.

In 2008, four years after Vranich bought the building, the City canceled the Downtown Residential Loan offer "due to the owner not proceeding with the residential development project".

In 2009, Vranich applied for a grant through the Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program 2009 Extension to build affordable housing in the old Revenue Canada building, but the application did not pass the program's eligibility criteria.

Corruption Charge

In May 2008, the OPP filed criminal charges against Gord Moodie, the head of the City's Downtown Residential Loan Program, for allegedly accepting a $5,000 bribe from Darko's son Denis on behalf of the elder Vranich.

The alleged bribe was in the form of a check dated November 11, 2005 from the Gown and Gavel Restaurant, a Hess Village pub that Vranich co-owned. The OPP indicated their belief that the cheque was a kickback for considering the municipal loan for the Revenue Canada building.

Denis Vranich and Gord Moodie were both charged under Section 123 of the Criminal Code, which reads:

(1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years who directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer to a municipal official or to anyone for the benefit of a municipal official - or, being a municipal official, directly or indirectly demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept from any person for themselves or another person - a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for the official

(a) to abstain from voting at a meeting of the municipal council or a committee of the council;

(b) to vote in favour of or against a measure, motion or resolution;

(c) to aid in procuring or preventing the adoption of a measure, motion or resolution; or

(d) to perform or fail to perform an official act.

Influencing municipal official

(2) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years who influences or attempts to influence a municipal official to do anything mentioned in paragraphs (1)(a) to (d) by

(a) suppression of the truth, in the case of a person who is under a duty to disclose the truth;

(b) threats or deceit; or

(c) any unlawful means.

In September 2009, Superior Court Justice James Ramsay dismissed the charge against Moodie, concluding Moodie did not qualify as a "municipal official" under the Criminal Code but was merely a municipal employee.

Section 123 defines a "municipal official" as:

a member of a municipal council or a person who holds an office under a municipal government.

By this time, Moodie was no longer working for the City. He was fired in April 2009, after he pleaded guilty to impaired driving and driving with a suspended licence. It was his second drunk driving offence.

At the time of his second arrest, he was driving a vehicle registered to Vrancor Real Estate Corp, a development company owned by Denis Vranich.

Warehousing Mattresses

The old Revenue Canada building has sat derelict and undeveloped throughout all these affairs.

For several years, it has been on the radar of the Municipal Heritage Committee (LACAC) for years, identified as a Building of Concern.

In March 2008, the Heritage Committee noticed that in addition to the graffiti and broken windows, the building was now being used to store furniture and mattresses, which were propped up against the window.

Committee member Michael Adkins and then-Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina notified the City's Property Standards office about the building's apparent use as a furniture warehouse. By the end of the year, the building had been secured at street level but was still being used to store mattresses.

Finally, in August 2009 the City levied a $10,500 fine for violating the Ontario Fire Code. The office building was not coded as a warehouse, and the sprinkler system was not operational.

Meanwhile, in March 2009 Vranich installed a new parking kiosk near George St.

Developments in 2010

In June 2010, a proposal was floated to designate the six sculptures on the building as protected heritage features.

In July, the Heritage Committee noted that it was impossible to see into the building to assess whether it was being used to store materials that "may endanger the heritage assets of the building" and moved to ask City staff to investigate.

In August 2010, Vranich claimed that he would start developing the block framed by Main, Bay, King and Caroline if the City went ahead with a West Harbour stadium.

However, the City ultimately committed to a partial rebuild of Ivor Wynne Stadium instead of a new stadium at the West Harbour.

Demolition Plan

Now Vrancor intends to demolish the building at 150 Main West, ostensibly to build a 140 unit, 20-storey condominium on the site.

The Municipal Heritage Committee submitted a recommendation to the Planning Committee on February 1, 2011 to designate 150 Main Street West as a Municipal Heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act. They cited the following heritage criteria:

Thanks to the intrepid, tireless volunteers at Citizens at City Hall (CATCH), you can read a full transcript of the Planning Committee meeting.

Tim McCabe, the Director of Planning and Economic Development, noted that the recommendation was "done as a rush to stop a demolition permit that is before us" and argued that issuing a notice to designate "at the ninth hour" would provide "uncertainty to our investment community".

At the Committee meeting, Councillor Terry Whitehead pointed out that the Federal Government sold the property to Vranich along with a covenant committing the owner to "conserve, protect and maintain the heritage features and characteristics" of the building and "not to raze to the ground or otherwise demolish the entire building located on the lands."

Vranich signed the covenant when he bought the property.

Asked directly about this covenant, McCabe said that the covenant is between Vranich and the Federal Government and it is not the City's job to enforce it.

Councillor Whitehead asked whether the City has an "ethical responsibility" to inform the Federal Government about Vranich's intent to demolish the building.

Lisa Pasternak from the City's Legal department responded that the Feds could be involved "informally" if "there was a desire to get them involved", but that the Covenant "can't affect [Vranich's] building code process".

The Committee voted against the Heritage Committee's recommendation to designate the building and agreed to issue the demolition permit.

The next day, Government Services Canada sent a leter to Vranich stating that the building cannot be demolished.

The letter, written by Robert Brick, states:

Please be reminded that the Government of Canada sold the property with a covenant that runs with the land in perpetuity which, in addition to protecting certain designated features and facades, requires that you and subsequent purchasers not 'raze to the ground or otherwise demolish the entire building'.

It adds that the Federal Government will ask the City to refuse the demolition permit request.

150 Main West, view from southeast
150 Main West, view from southeast

Track Record

Vranich also owns the property just east of the old Revenue Canada building, the site of the old Hamilton Motor Products (HMP) automobile dealership at Main and Bay, which was constructed in 1911 and expanded in 1917-18. (HMP moved to a new dealership at Rymal Rd. and Hwy. 20, but General Motors decided in May 2009 not to renew its sales and service contract as part of a major restructuring.)

Council granted Vranich permission to demolish the building in October 2007 and it was demolished in November in November 2007, ostensibly to make room for a 15-story Hilton Homewood Suites hotel. That has not happened.

According to Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr in an email to RTH, "I have been told by Vrancor the project (ultimately five major projects in one) will be breaking ground very soon."

Farr, who held a press conference with Vranich on February 11 in regards to preserving the bas-relief friezes, concluded:

My intent was to save the Friezes and encourage positive growth in our core. The Vrancor Group have told me they are committed to on both fronts. I am hopeful we (all of us) will be satisfied with the results.

Vranich is apparently negotiating with the Federal Government.


Update: This article originally stated that Vrancor owns the site of an illegal parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Bay Street. This is incorrect: the HMP site, at 132 Main Street West, is an L-shaped lot that wraps to the east and north of the parking lot at the corner, which is at 114 Main Street West and is not owned by Vrancor. RTH regrets the error.

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. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 00:28:05

I don't get it. How does he make money? Near as I can tell, his process is to buy up old buildings, sit on them until they become dilapidated, and maybe convert a few into parking lots. How is that a business model? Where's the revenue? Are these old buildings really of such completely negative value?

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By David Reid (anonymous) | Posted March 11, 2011 at 22:08:38 in reply to Comment 59618

The unfortunate answer to that is that a parking lot in downtown Hamilton earns more profit due to low overhead, than office or residential space per square foot. Building in the area is costly and refurbishing an existing building even more so with operating costs and taxes associated with such a venture. The project for restoration and expansion can go forward with fundraising or investment but is unlikely to gain significant returns on such a large investment. The city of Hamilton would have much to gain however, from such an investment garnering business and improving real estate values just as the opposite transpired with the demolition of the HMP building. A building that in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary, would have had developers scrambling to retrofit into profitable units obtainable in Hamilton but without the necessary funding or city council vision.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 01:47:58 in reply to Comment 59618

Vrancor owns Hotels and clubs all over the the place. Their "investments" in Hamilton properties are speculative.

http://pipl.com/directory/name/Vranich/D...

Losses in undeveloped property in Hamilton are easily off-set elsewhere.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 00:29:46

Am I right in thinking he is buddy buddy with Bratina?

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 01:19:28

Hmmmm... Quite a track record. Between father and son, illegal parking lots, derelict buildings, failure to abide by a covenant with the Federal government, an allegation of bribing a municipal employee, and wasn't there a civil court sexual assault award against the son?

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

These two are quite a pair. And McCabe is worried about "uncertainty in the investment community"? Given their history in Hamilton I'd be worried about investing in them.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 11:12:42 in reply to Comment 59620

I wrote about the sex assault charge against Denis Vranich here. He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female bartender at his nightclub Elixir Lounge during a private, after-hours party.

This follows an earlier conviction on prostitution-related offenses:

In January 2001, Vranich was ordered to pay more than $85,000 in fines and surcharges after being convicted on three counts of prostitution-related offences and three charges of falsifying immigration records.

The charges were laid in 1999 following a joint police task force investigated complaints that young Hungarian women were being lured to this country with the prospect of lucrative employment as exotic dancers.

The section of the Criminal Code under which Vranich was convicted in 2001 refers to procuring persons under the age of 18 and exercising control over them to engage in prostitution.

On the more recent sexual assault conviction, Vranich was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest, meaning he was allowed to enjoy his incarceration from the comfort of his own Ancaster home.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 05:12:23

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Comment edited by hammy on 2011-02-12 05:14:30

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 08:45:44

He's planning 5 projects on these sites? Man, I wish I owned a company that specialized in low quality stucco.

If this guy wants any goodwill or confidence from the city or public, he should build his condo project 7 steps from the Federal Building on his illegal parking lot. Surely if there is a market for a 20 storey condo at the fed building site, there is a market for one 7 feet away.

This is why we need an architectural design board. Based on Vranich's track record, this will be the ugliest complex of buildings ever built in the city. I'd much rather see empty lots for another decade than low quality buildings.

Also, is nobody else concerned that the new 20 storey proposal will hold less units than the original proposal for the federal building? In other words, expect most of this site to house a parking lot.

I came across this beauty quote from Bratina in 2007: "they don't just sit on properties. They do things with them".

ARTICLE: Developer owns troubled building What will Denis Vranich do with Dundurn eyesore that cost $1.5 million?

Steve Arnold and Lisa Grace Marr The Hamilton Spectator (Oct 2, 2007)

Denis Vranich is the latest owner of 220 Dundurn St. -- a sorry four-acre plot of land with a large building that has at times acted as a hosiery factory, school board storage facility and flophouse.

Land registry records show Vranich purchased the site Jan. 31 for $1.5 million under the name 220 Dundurn St. Inc.

The building on the site has been plagued with problems that have intensified since 2004 when its third-floor caught fire under then-suspicious circumstances. In 2005, under the ownership of a numbered company in Thornhill, the city had dozens of calls a week from residents complaining about the derelict state of the building.

Brian McHattie, Ward 1 councillor, said the plot at the corner of Chatham and Dundurn streets has been at the top of his priority list since he was elected four years ago.

"It is one of the great frustrations in the city how these abandoned buildings can bring down neighbourhoods," he said.

McHattie said he met with Vranich twice since he purchased the property and while there were no definite plans discussed, Vranich indicated he hoped to submit building plans to the city by the end of November.

"I'm not getting too excited except I'll give him a call about it at that time."

McHattie said the city has received two property standard complaints since Vranich purchased the property.

"We've sent over cleanup crews and just added it to his tax bill -- just what we've done with previous owners."

Paul Buckle, acting co-ordinator of the municipal law enforcement division, said two orders to clear up the property and a third to secure it against trespassers have been issued. The boarding up of windows was done by a city contractor. The status of the cleanup work remains uncertain, but Buckle said if work is being done at the property now, it is likely ordered by Vranich.

Vranich did not return phone calls from The Hamilton Spectator. His father, developer Darko Vranich, refused to comment.

Since 1998, the building has been through five owners -- the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board sold it for $400,000 to a company called Dundurn Street Loffts Inc. which planned to turn it into loft apartments. A year after the purchase Dundurn Loffts gave a $1.5 million mortgage to Mississauga-based Retrocom Growth Fund Inc. Retrocom took possession of the property under power of sale in 2003 and sold it to 1574296 Ontario Inc., of Thornhill, for $2 million. The numbered company then sold it this year to Vranich for $1.5 million.

Neighbour Mark Powell, was delighted by the chance something might finally happen with a building which has been a blight on the neighbourhood for years. "If we can do anything to expedite something happening there I'm sure the whole community will get behind it," he said.

Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina said it was his understanding that Denis has a business separate from his father.

But Bratina said that both father and son don't "just sit on properties, (they) do things with them."

Darko Vranich owns the former Hamilton Motor Products (HMP) building on Bay Street and is proposing a 120-room Hilton Homewood Suites Hotel at that site. He is also behind plans for a 100-room Holiday Inn Express at King and Queen streets and a 60-room Days Inn at Main and Spring streets.

Bratina said Darko Vranich told him he intends to submit plans to the city's building department in October, which will have details about the Hilton hotel complex.

"He's had to change his plans for the (HMP) building at the behest of the heritage committee," said Bratina.

Darko Vranich, with partner Steve Pocrnic, is also behind a plan to transform ratty buildings on Main Street West, Hess Street South and Queen Street South into modern loft-office combinations, while Denis Vranich and partner John Bukovac are behind plans for a $30-million hotel-office project at Golf Links and Stone Church roads in Ancaster's Meadowlands.

Denis Vranich, 31, pleaded guilty in court in September to sexually assaulting a female bartender at a Hess Street business where he is property owner and manager. He is to be sentenced Oct. 30.

He is not the first owner of the Dundurn Street building to find himself in court -- in 2005 Dundurn Loffts owner Adam J. Stelmaszynski of Brantford and two of his companies were convicted of four charges under the federal Excise Tax Act in a Brantford court.

Comment edited by jason on 2011-02-12 08:47:08

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 09:50:55

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 11:14:54 in reply to Comment 59624

Well Smith, your "logic" is flawed. The "part of the city" that you mention was built by industry. Factories, office buildings, and commercial properties have been sold to free-market multinationals that then shut them down and move jobs and operations to nations with few labour or safety/environmental laws. The loss of income in this "part of the city" was never in-filled, and lead to the slow bleed that results in speculative buyers and abandoned properties.

Your blessed free market created this situation, not "lefties and whiners".

And your "government freebies" quip? Glib, but nothing from the government is free. If you want to save 17% on your property taxes you may want to concentrate your efforts on getting the social service costs (down-loaded to the municipality by the Harris PCs, maintained by The McGuinty Libs) up-loaded to the province.

http://www.hamilton.ca/ProjectsInitiativ...

Your attempt to draw conclusions from the random joining of words is simple-minded. From all of your compilations of figures and statistics I somehow expected more from you.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 12:46:47 in reply to Comment 59630

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 14:43:28 in reply to Comment 59639

Great idea. I think I'll start up a brewery here in the old building on BArton. Oh, wait, I can't. That big multinational took that posibility away from me, and everyone else who wishes to compete fairly out of it.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 17:38:21 in reply to Comment 59643

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 08:48:05 in reply to Comment 59772

Sent them a letter already, bet you didn't?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 11:18:05 in reply to Comment 59630

A Smith is famous around these parts for his tireless Cargo Cult analysis. I can write from experience that any time you spend trying to engage A Smith in an honest debate is time you'll never get back.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-02-12 11:18:25

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 12:24:17 in reply to Comment 59632

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 12:55:58 in reply to Comment 59637

Massachusetts has been living on borrowed money for years. Oregon is doing better. These are 2007 numbers from a 2009 report. But I can't imagine the recession has helped the situation.

situation.http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/rpt/2009-R-0009.htm

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 14:12:23 in reply to Comment 59640

I just find it interesting that two of the cities talked about most on RTH are Portland and Boston. Both are put forward as examples of forward thinking, progressive communities.

I suppose in this case, progressive also means tax caps and tight budget controls to limit overspending.

For example, Boston's city spending increased only around 22% after adjusting for population growth from 2005-2009. More than Portland's 19%, but less than Hamilton's 28.9%.

How is it that when I mention keeping spending and taxes low, the RTH'ers cry foul. And yet when RTH speaks of Boston and Portland, they shower praise on their leadership. Do they not understand that the tax caps exist precisely because the people don't trust the leadership?

Handing over our wallets to government to spend does not help Hamilton's economy. Putting them on a strict budget and allowing tax rates to fall and investors to invest will. In this scenario, the city will have to prioritize spending, just as households do.

If progressives love to talk about reducing waste in terms of energy use and garbage, why not taxpayers money as well? Or is it smart to waste money on things that nobody wants or needs?

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 12:37:11 in reply to Comment 59637

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 11:36:29 in reply to Comment 59632

Ahhhh! A+B=7 (adjusted for population growth and inflation). Yeah, it's not like I haven't read his comments before. It's the blame game that bothers me. There are real private investment success stories in this city (many of which have been written about in RTH), yet he defends dead-beat land speculators and uses faulty cause and effect logic to deflect blame.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 10:34:05 in reply to Comment 59624

sorry, we forgot that it's communist to hold multi-millionaires to societal standards that the rest of us adhere to.
Maybe I'll buy every house on your street, except yours, and demolish them all and leave weedy lots there for the next few decades. I'm sure your property value will be just fine. The free market will simply do it's thing, right?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 10:56:15

Ask yourself why the downtown is the only place this is happening? Why isn't it happening in Ancaster, Dundas, Stoney Creek, on the Mountain, Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, Toronto, etc.

What is unique about downtown Hamilton that makes evil developers want to destroy the neighbourhood but nowhere else in the GTA? Is it a conspiracy?

Perhaps, just perhaps, it has to do with government policies that tax property investment at high rates, plus spending policies that encourage consumption but not work.

You want new private investment downtown, great. But the only answer I hear from RTH'ers is more government spending. WH stadium, LRT, new roads, etc.

I thought the goal was new PRIVATE investment, NOT new taxpayer investment. What am I missing?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 00:28:03 in reply to Comment 59628

Property investments aren't taxed at high rates. They are taxed at low rates. Particularly given that capital appreciation is only half taxed, and then is deferred until disposition.

Learn something about tax policy before you start to talk about it, son.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 10:43:03 in reply to Comment 59715

As compared to other areas, downtown properties ARE taxed at high rates...

$200k investment downtown Hamilton * 1.538% = $3,076
$200k investment in Ancaster * 1.391% = $2,782
$200k investment in Dundas * 1.374% = $2,748
$200k investment in Stoney Creek * 1.356% = $2,712
$200k investment in Burlington * 1.04% = $2,080

Therefore, a person that invests $200k buying a house and hoping to build equity, will have the hardest time doing that if they buy in the old city of Hamilton.

Let's say home values go up an average of 3% every year after inflation. In this scenario, the homeowner in Hamilton will be left with 3% - 1.538% = 1.462% after property taxes. The Burlington homeowner will have 3% - 1.04% = 1.96% after tax return.

If the goal is to increase the amount of new investment downtown Hamilton, shouldn't we be giving people tax incentives, rather than tax penalties?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 11:15:41

Jason, I know you admire Portland. I have never been, but it looks like a nice city. In that state, there is a property tax cap which limits local government spending.

From 2005-2009, the City of Portland increased spending by 23.6%, while population increased by 4.6%. In contrast, Hamilton increased spending by 30.2%, while population increased only 1.3%. After adjusting for population growth, spending in Portland was 19%, while in Hamilton it was 28.9%. That's 52.1% more public spending in Hamilton than Portland from 2005-2009.

Is it possible that if we followed the Portland model of restrained government here in Hamilton, we would encourage private individuals to invest, rather than having them look to the government to kick start projects?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 11:24:40

Now, what have we learned?

a) Don't sell important parts of government-owned real estate to shady speculators and developers.

b) Don't give twice the purchase price of that government-owned real estate to the shady developer in "incentives" and "loans"

c) Don't expect anybody to live up to deals made with the Federal Government that involve not simply levelling whatever they buy (cough US Steel).

d) Sometimes those nasty cynical people are absolutely right about what shady developers are going to do with buildings.

When this is done we'll be able to see from bay to Hess. Now how much of that land is owned by you-know-who? And am I the only one who sees more parking directly next to Hess Village (also largely a Vranich holding) as a serious public safety threat?

Comment edited by Undustrial on 2011-02-12 11:25:43

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 14:54:56

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Comment edited by hammy on 2011-02-12 15:11:26

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 16:36:37 in reply to Comment 59644

By the way... I'm assuming congratulations are in order. 'Mcgreal' et al seem to have such power in this town that they were capable of scuppering what (presumably) was a sure-thing.

Wowza.

Betcha didn't realize you'd been imbued with so much cachet!

Thanks to The Enlightened One, aka 'hammy' for pointing this out.

So, 'Mcgreal'; how are you going to (mis)use your powers next? Can't wait for hammy's commentary. Not.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-02-12 16:37:10

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By PeterF (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 19:09:39 in reply to Comment 59649

It is comical, when someone like hampster goes from saying RTH is a minority without a voice to actually saying that RTH set the whole WH agenda. Almost as much nonsense as IW cannot work anymore. We will not play at WH never, ever. EM, driveway to driveway experience. MIP, OK for us, CP lands, that will work. Aldershot, now that is the ticket!!! You know what IW WILL work. Sorry we put you guys through this.

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By Tyrone (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 15:28:20

Hammy - I ask this honestly and as a straight forward question: What exactly is your issue? Is it that you simply disagree with what the people on this site talk about or is it something more significant? The reason I ask is that you come across as a really angry person as opposed just having a different point of view.

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By just me (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 15:46:02

re un-nameable troll-brain nearby (we can't mention 'cause it'd only encouraging her/him): RTH will soon require a minor pass level on an intelligence test administered by the hosts (blab dopes) "hosting" CHML's 'call-ins'. That should be a threshold low enough to allow many to post to RTH but high enough to reduce painful junk messages. I know, an IQ test won't really keep anybody out except those who deserve real help

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 16:27:28

When's the next RTH 'live, and in-person' get-together?

Can we take up a collection for Joey C to webcast it?

And have 'hammy' as the guest speaker?

Better yet...how about a roast? A la 'Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts'?

'Roast hammy' Mmm-mmm-good.

We could make it a charity event. A fund-raiser.

Can't wait to see the highlights...

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 18:13:50

Ryan says "the is building is beautiful" - Whaaat? It is ugly. Save the sculptures, tear it down and build a beautiful modern building at the entrance to our downtown.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 00:32:21 in reply to Comment 59650

Myself, I love the building.

The fed building is at its low point in the cycle of historical appreciation right now, but it is heading upwards. (Almost all buildings go through a cycle of public esteem, that hits its lowest point when a building is around 50 years old if I remember correctly).

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 18:14:54

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By PeterF (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 18:58:51

Hampster, be consistent!!! Are we pinkos or neocons??? Cannot be both. Go to your ticat forum and complain about "what would have been" if we only accepted BY's offer to build at the EM. He offered us OUR money to build the velodrome and an amphitheatre at WH. Try reading sometime before you post.

Comment edited by PeterF on 2011-02-12 19:10:16

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 19:23:18

Blame RTH, blame the communists, blame the west harbour stadium, the NIMBY crowd, the heritage advocates, the government, the homeless people downtown and the spectator.

Blame anybody but the people who actually own the building, make all the decisions, and have a track record of doing exactly the same thing on countless sites within a few minutes walk. Surely, the people responsible for submitting the demolition permit can't be blamed...

At what point is this just denial? All of this is on public record - the bribery, the fire code violations, the promise not to "raze" the building... When exactly are we going to start holding developers accountable for this tomfoolery?

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By Scamich (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 19:33:58

@NorthEastWind: Have you seen Vranich's previous additions to downtown? The stucco-covered retirement home (former hotel) behind the new Federal Building on Bay St?

I sure would love a stucco tower welcoming all those to Hamilton. "In Hamilton; Where Quality Never Counts"

So, don't tear it down. Renovate, market as 'heritage' lofts. Then build a brand new, quality, slim tower beside it on the old HMP footprint. Maybe Stinson can get in on this? He did it with 1 King West in Toronto.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 20:55:19

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Comment edited by hammy on 2011-02-12 21:39:36

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 12, 2011 at 21:45:48 in reply to Comment 59656

Hahahahahaaaaaaahahahahaha!! Hammy, you are priceless, and you don't even know it. You're a character in a Beckett play... you're the love child of George Bush Jr and Sarah Palin.

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By PeterF (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:07:15 in reply to Comment 59659

He cannot be for real, he must be just putting on this act. If it is for real..... wow, how sad. Bang on with the Beckett play.

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By PeterF (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 21:34:47 in reply to Comment 59656

Hamster, so since you are registered at RTH, you are a pinko, neocon RTHer?. Every time you post your stupidity reaches a new level.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 21:38:21

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Comment edited by hammy on 2011-02-12 21:41:16

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By Emptor (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 21:57:42 in reply to Comment 59658

You are registered, that pretty much makes you a member. A jackass; but nonetheless, a member! Welcome to the team sizzle chest!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 21:50:12

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:08:07

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By Jeff_Stock (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:17:48

This pithy online bickering is pathetic. It reeks of cowardice. It is easy to spew anger while hiding behind a computer screen.

Let me offer a quote from the late Jane Jacobs:

"Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

Let's hope something new and wonderful comes from this staple of the core.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:23:22

The city should also get working on cleaning up the Rheem site. I know how bad all you RTH'ers felt when you lost the stadium debate, so it's the least the city can do to make it up. What would we all like to see there once it's rehabilitated? Condos? Retail? Social housing?

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By Emptor (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:47:51 in reply to Comment 59665

Every citizen of this city lost the debate. You CHML'ers were screaming at the top of your lungs that stadiums don't city build, when you thought the stadium was going to WH but your leader told you he wanted con fed park or EM. Now that you're at IW again, it is all about the city building at a location that has never been able to city build. The one location that definitely and unequivocally does not and has not been able to make money for this city or the Ticats. Yeah, you won the debate, right! And Bob Young has investors and Santa Claus is real!

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By Jeff_Stock (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:27:43

A Smith, would you be willing to offer some constructive advice? What do you wish for this site?

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:41:03

A Velodrome and amphitheatre. Maybe build a new YMCA there as well. How about a Great Lakes/RCN Naval history museum (better located near the Haida). Just random thoughts.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:44:38

Jeff, here are some ideas, because I can't seem to think of any myself...

http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/industrial_space/

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By Jeff_Stock (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 22:57:26

Interesting site. The article regarding the rezoning of manufacturing in NYC to residential reminds me of an issue that was brought up in an urban ecology course I took a couple years ago. Essentially the problem is that when a city begins to redevelop with a focus on residential reclamation, a hole is created in the core where jobs used to exist. People living in the core who have moved into these converted lofts have to commute out of town. A perfect example is what's happening in downtown Toronto right now.

Something definitely worth considering as the downtown rejuvenates.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 12, 2011 at 23:52:44

I'm hearing rumours from someone I know well in the building trades that the Board of Education will be moving to the West Harbour. I hope this is not the case but the scuttlebutt is that underground utility locates have been done for the project. He also said something about McMaster taking over the Board of Ed building for a medical research location. I'm pretty sure these projects have been floated in the Spec before as well, but from what I'm hearing they are gaining traction.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-02-12 23:54:10

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 00:04:48 in reply to Comment 59671

oh brother. The school board is almost as bad as Vranich. Now our WH will have a huge, one storey box surrounded by hundreds of parking spaces. Way to use the most precious water-view land in the city.

Comment edited by jason on 2011-02-13 00:05:24

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 00:14:04

Jason, what is the goal for this land? Is it jobs, tourism, living, entertainment? Cleaning it up is easy, but what do you do with a blank slate?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 08:49:38 in reply to Comment 59673

I'd like to see a high density, mixed use community. Sort of like Portland's Pearl District or Vancouvers False Creek area. Lots of residential needs to be included. And then other uses that encompass the areas you mention. Make it a 365 neighbourhood/destination in a true urban sense. Very walkable and connected by transit. Make it Hamilton's model 21st Century neighbourhood. The same way Westdale was the model planned neighbourhood in it's time. That's my two cents anyhow.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 10:43:03 in reply to Comment 59677

Jason, you and other RTH'ers should go to his office, bring along some pictures of what you have in mind and then ask him to start funding it.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 10:47:17 in reply to Comment 59684

...unless of course you're too scared of rejection.

You're not scared are you Jason?

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By PeterF (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 01:17:51

Something like the distillery section of TO would be amazing. Of course some of the buildings already existed. Makes you think about all the cotton mills that were once all over this city at one time.

http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/

Speaking of NYC, the last time I was there, I ran into a fellow who explained how the repurposing of buildings tended to happen there in certain areas of Manhatten. As companies, wharehouses old hotels etc. moved on and the area became derelict. Artists and artisans would rent them for basically next to nothing. As the area became hip, the rents went up, the spaces renovated and places like SOHO become trendy and cool to live in. The starving artists then move on, the wealthy ones open galleries and so on. One place in Brooklyn is just starting to get super expensive but has gone through the same type of evolution as SOHO is DUMBO. They love acronyms. Makes you think, maybe James ST. N is going through this now??

http://www.southbrooklyn.net/dumbo.html

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 08:50:10 in reply to Comment 59674

I'll be sitting in Distillery tomorrow. Can't wait! I walked the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this year and was struck mainly by two things: The redevelopment district along Brooklyns waterfront. Tons of old warehouses being repurposed as living spaces and work places. And of course, I was in awe of Gehry's new tower in Manhattan. Wow. What a beauty.

Comment edited by jason on 2011-02-13 08:51:53

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 13, 2011 at 02:07:48

It isn't up to RTH to provide an alternative building plan. It's up to the people who bought the building and accepted millions in public funding to provide one.

Anyone noticed that Vranich is also seeking control of the Convention Centre?

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/2...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 11:02:10 in reply to Comment 59675

Undustrial >> It isn't up to RTH to provide an alternative building plan.

And it isn't up to me to make pretty girls smile, but I do it anyway. Clue in genius, if you aspire to something good, you need to show some passion and fight.

I bet if you wanted to you could find a way to buy that building, fix it up and sell it for a profit. Are you willing to try or are you happier pointing fingers?

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By Realist (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 08:46:50

Tear that building down. It's obsolete and an inefficient energy hog and can never hope to get anything close to LEED, it's also full of asbestos that many belive killed a number of public servants after they developed Mesothelioma while working in there. The Oncologist report I read from the lawsuit that was filed by the victims families stated the the icidence of cancer in that building was 2.5 times the rate found in the general population.

Anyone here want to buy a condo there?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 13, 2011 at 10:18:44 in reply to Comment 59676

can never hope to get anything close to LEED,

LEEDs is a joke. A certification typically costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and need not actually even look at the finished building's performance. It's a marketing scheme for new developments and a make-work project for highly paid consultants - not an effective building code.

http://beyondmacgyver.wordpress.com/2009...

Why not knock down every old building in town that can't cough up a six figure sum to have their building greenwashed?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 13:39:24

mrjanitor wrote:

“I’m hearing rumours from someone I know well in the building trades that the Board of Education will be moving to the west harbour. I hope this is not the case but the scuttlebutt is that the underground utility locates have been done for the project. He also said something about McMaster taking over the Board of Ed building for a medical research location. I’m pretty sure these projects have been floated in the Spec before as well, but from what I’m hearing they’re gaining traction.”

mrjanitor and his source appear to be spot on. This interest of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in the west harbour lands is listed as item 12.4 “Private and Confidential- Verbal” on the agenda for Hamilton city council’s General Issues Committee meeting tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.

http://hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/Corpo...

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-02-13 13:41:18

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By Egyptor (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 16:21:02

The Federal Building is an eyesore that should get fixed. Period. The end.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 13, 2011 at 16:47:23

The reason Vranich (or more probably any developer) does not/would not want to redevelop the Fed building is that a retrofit/renovation/development of that nature is tremendously more expensive than ripping it down and building from scratch. While the building may be sound, there are no doubt issues of asbestos abatement, tear out of every old system in the building, the engineering required to retrofit new systems like electrical, water, hvac, fire suppression and detection, reroute ingress and egress to accomodate new residential floor plans and on and on. Its not that its not doable, it simply costs more. His only motivation here is bottom line. If you are familiar with any of his other projects downtown, visionary and forward thinking are not words that are normally associated with Vrancor.

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By jc x (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 19:11:16

Just a question re. the cost of asbestos abatement being a factor in retrofitting a building vs. demolition...
Wouldn't the asbestos still have to be removed safely/properly before the building could be demolished?

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 09:39:54 in reply to Comment 59703

I believe so, yes... but not applicable in the case of the Federal building. Vranich has already carried out the abatement, I've seen it myself.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 09:45:15 in reply to Comment 59731

Why the heck would he go through the trouble of cleaning out the asbestos only to knock the building down later? What, does he get a big tax cut for having an empty lot instead of an empty building?

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 10:03:53 in reply to Comment 59732

The abatement was done years ago, soon after he bought the building. I can only imagine that at the time, his plans to develop the building were more concrete.

Same thing happened with the Connaught, they did the asbestos abatement as soon as the building was purchased... but then it sat, plans died... and now it's still empty and for sale.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 00:38:07 in reply to Comment 59703

Yes it would.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 14, 2011 at 08:10:33 in reply to Comment 59717

Yes it would. But in a renovation/redevelopment the process is more time consuming and meticulous. If the whole building is coming down there is stuff that gets overlooked. Not supposed to but it does. Just the nature of the beast.

The engineering and install costs to retrofit modern electrical, hvac, fire suppression, detection, are the real costs that make these projects more expensive vs tear down new build.

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By Lightheart (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 20:39:24

What are the chances Vranich is telling Bratina what to do?
What are the chances Bratina is doing it?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 00:39:08 in reply to Comment 59707

I don't know, what are they? Bratina and Vranich are pals. I don't think Vranich wags Bratina any way he likes though.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 21:06:05

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 08:41:20

Look who's a two-way proponent!

http://www.stoneycreeknews.com/news/article/229450

Converting Caroline Street to two-way traffic in downtown Hamilton is the linch-pin to the development of a $100-million downtown development, says a prominent local developer.

Darko Vranich, president and chief executive officer of Vrancor Group, said the city needs to convert the current one-way traffic along Caroline Street to two-way to make his proposed residential and commercial development from Bay to Caroline streets work.

“Two-way on Caroline is key to the development,” said Vranich.

The proposed scheme includes building three 25-storey towers for residential and possibly senior condominiums, and two hotels. Vranich said he could begin construction on the hotel at George and Caroline streets within six months.

“I’m ready to go,” said Vranich. “I’m looking forward to working with the city staff and planning committee.”

He said there will be 800 underground parking spaces, and along George Street there will be commercial spaces. But to make the development work, he said, people must be able to drive along Caroline from Main Street to get to George Street. He said if all goes well, the development could be completed within five years.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 09:35:46

Thats good that he is getting on board with a good idea, but it doesn't change my opinion of him. He has a lot of good quality hotels and condos to build before I take him seriously.

Comment edited by MattM on 2011-02-14 09:36:19

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 11:20:33

Asbestos abatement has to be done before any demolition to protect the public and workers from any exposure. The stuff is light and flies everywhere. Trust me, I've been working in old boilerhouses for years and see it frequently.

Abatement in an old building can be either a sign of demolition or residential conversion. The Ministry of Labour allows encapsulation (containing it in-situ on the pipe or vessel in a plastic or fiberglass wrap) as a acceptable asbestos control strategy for workplaces. This is by far the cheapest option and the one most companies take. If the asbestos is removed it's coming down or it's going to be made into something special.

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By Realist (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 12:32:02

We all know that any contaminant has to be removed from any building. I am speaking as a tenant or a purchaser, I would not want to live or work in a building that's been exposed or is going to cost me more to heat and cool especially in Mr. Green Premiers new Ontario. I don't trust that a clean-up would get everything, as mrjanitor said, when this stuff is friable, it goes everywhere. Given the choice between a modern new building and an old one, I will always put my money into a condo that has a warranty. Builders love condo renos because they're off the hook for major problems and leaves the consumer with no recourse.

There is also a matter of disclosure, asbestos contamination cleanup should be disclosed to any tenant or purchaser prior to signing any deal.

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By Tybalt1 (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 12:36:35

A Smith, I would vote you up if I could. Will when I get the chance. Your point about property taxes (a small part of the tax mix, mind you) is absolutely right (we need to get better control over city spending, for sure, and stop penalizing downtown) but the numbers applied to homes aren't particularly relevant for a commercial development.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 13:19:36

I hope the provincial plaques in the foyer above the elevators weren't trashed. They were pretty and still untouched when I saw them about 3 years ago.

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By DubbleDeez (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 14:50:09

This is an interesting thread and one I've enjoyed reading. With exception of a couple of singularly questionable posts that try only to assassinate character, a lot of people make some great points.

That said, I think underpinning all of the talk surrounding redevelopment or building new is quite simply cost. You can complain about 'ugly stucco' hotels all you want popping up along the side of the QEW but folks the slave labour that built the world's most beautiful structures no longer exists. Stucco keeps room rates at $100 bucks a night. Brick and stone ... you'd have to pay double that. And frankly, there is NO market for that.

The market gets forgotten a lot in these conversations. I too would like to see a conversion of this building but those units would have to come to the market likely in the over $350K range to make them viable. I know you all love downtown, but there is simply NOT the market here for that yet. Perhaps someday but certainly not now.

In the meantime, whatever happens, happens. Beyond the sculptures, there is NO reason to save this building. It is significant of nothing although perhaps sentimental to the people who worked there for years, a member of my family included. Every building must be looked at individually and realistically to determine its true value.

By the way, on the issue of speculation, in this city more will lose than will win. The pick-up in Hamilton is simply not going to be like it was in Toronto. It will come more slowly than that and perhaps in more concentrated bursts. It will be a LONG time before a residential community at WH can be built in a manner that makes economic sense. And if it was SO easy to convert and make a profit, why aren't we ALL doing it? Heck, I could use the money.

Anyway, keep up the good debate. It's healthy. But please, as a newer reader of this blog, keep it professional and maintain some integrity. Simply because someone leans one way or another away from your typical line of thinking, doesn't mean they deserve your scorn. Neither does it mean you pull out run ins with the law on completely un-related matters.

Let he who is without sin ...

Cheers,




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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 00:51:35 in reply to Comment 59758

Doesn't that depend on the kind of run-ins?

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By r silva (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 23:00:27

The city should buy this building, fix it up and then sell it to people who want to live downtown.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 08:56:54 in reply to Comment 59780

Maybe this would be possible if they didn't just spend a giant amount of money on something-something for you-know-who at the you-know-what.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 12:58:26 in reply to Comment 59794

MattM >> Maybe this would be possible if they didn't just spend a giant amount of money

As of 2010, NYC had $12,908 in net debt (including capital assets) per resident. In 2009, Hamilton had $7392 in net assets per resident (including capital assets).

That's a difference of $20,300 in debt per resident.

Boston has net assets of only $860 per resident in 2010.

As of 20009, Toronto has net assets per resident of $5,358.

If Hamilton's financial picture was to match that of Toronto, we would have to incur an additional $2,034 in net debt per resident, or $1.07 billion.

If the things we spent money on had a long lifespan (bridge, building, fibre optic network, research facility equipment, LRT, subway, etc) or returned some portion of the debt to the taxpayer (fixing and selling the Federal Building to homebuyers), the net debt would be reduced further.

Before I looked at the numbers myself, I assumed that Hamilton was poor because it had squandered money. Now I'm starting to think that Hamilton is more like the corner bum, who just happens to have an investment account worth millions. He may look poor, but he's just really, really frugal.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:02:06 in reply to Comment 59806

Smithy, you would be awesome to drink with. Bustin' out that calculator of yours whenever someone shoots off a joke or un-researched opinion.

I salute you, fine sir.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 00:21:34

It's not as if asbestos in an old building is really unusual any way. If we were to rip down every building that'd ever had asbestos in it, we'd have a lot of people living, working, and going to school in tents.

In any case, whatever costs would have been necessary when the building was originally purchased would be tiny compared to what is now required after years of neglect, vacancy, and structural damage during the HMP demolition.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 12:42:19

The market gets forgotten a lot in these conversations. I too would like to see a conversion of this building but those units would have to come to the market likely in the over $350K range to make them viable. I know you all love downtown, but there is simply NOT the market here for that yet. Perhaps someday but certainly not now.

I heard recently from a condo developer that the cost of converting a building is substantially less than that of new construction, and that is why most condos here in Hamilton are in fact conversions. This developer is planning a new construction with units starting in the low $200's. Unless the Federal Building is an unusually hard case for conversion, I wouldn't write off the possibility of a suitable market.

180 units at $200,000 each gives him a budget of $36M. Unless City Hall is giving out the contracts, he should be able make that work. Don't forget, someone made it work for the Pigott and SunLife, and the Bell Canada building, not to mention all the smaller projects.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 20:42:28 in reply to Comment 59803

Don't forget the Chateau Royale building right beside the GO station. How is it working out?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:02:06 in reply to Comment 59803

Thats a blanket statement that depends on each and every building, its condition, its age, its type of construction and the desired "feel" and look the developer is attempting to accomplish.

In general any renovation/redevelopment is fraught with unforseen costs in addition to known procedures that must take place before any kind of conversion can even start.

The build process takes longer, retrofitting building systems can be problematic, and sometimes you get into a portion of a project to the enth degree only to find "we can't do this this way"

So an individual project might ......MIGHT...... come in costing less than new build. But generally no.

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By Malex (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 13:43:50 in reply to Comment 59803

Where is your developer friend building these new condos? Downtown, I hope!? Is it an infill project?

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By F.Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 13:24:56

A few posters here have suggested the adaptive reuse of this building is not financially viable. I find those assumptions troubling, given the fact that the developer proposed a 120 unit condo development in 2003 with a $9.6 million pricetag. Even with inflation factored in at 3% over 8 years the same project is $11 million give or take. That's less than a $100k per unit. The question is, 'what's the expected profit margin?'
If one were to design and build the existing structure to meet today's building code, 'what would that cost?' No one has ever suggested the structure is not sound and a basic knowledge of building construction would prove the opposite is true. The adaptive reuse of this building has its challenges but I'am sure Vrancor has talented people working on their behave who can design and build a signature development without destroying the heritage that the 'Federal Building' possesses.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:56:41 in reply to Comment 59808

He made this proposal in 2003 when the economy was growing rapidly. Why didn't it happen? Likely because the realized the price tag was considerably larger than 9.6 million. The asbestos abatement alone on a building that size would have run into the millions.

By dropping the Fed and building new, higher to accomodate 180-200 units he most likely drives his per unit cost down and the per unit profit up.

Retrofitting and redeveloping is more expensive than new construction, period. Vrancor likely doesn't see the appetite for 300k plus condo units in downtown Hamilton. We can disagree with him all we want. Its his money to spend.

Personally I would be less and less accommadating were I running the city develpment department until this organization started doing something with the numerous illegal parking lots they have erected on sites they have razed in our downtown.

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By bra-buddy (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 17:13:31

Bob Bratina should be vocally fighting this demolition in order to publicly distance himself from vrancor.

He needs a publicity manager BADLY

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 20:44:38

Paging Matt Jelly, where have you gone?

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By Disappointed (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2011 at 15:54:21

I'm starting to realize that people run for the salary, not the issues. Where are those same voices now? Passion run dry? This is very disappointing actually Martinez and Matt. Especially Matt, I'm really sorry to say.

This entire issue around the Federal Building is truly sickening. Vranich has created a serious issue for our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. The City's legal dept has no balls and is simply downright corrupt! That goes for the Planning Dept. The worst in the country sadly. Again, where is Matt and others who ran for Ward 2? Guess they got too deflated and gave up.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 20, 2011 at 16:27:38 in reply to Comment 60071

You don't have the right to demand of any volunteer that they step up and spend there own time and energy doing something you think is important, if it's important to you, there's no stopping you from doing what Matt, Martinus and other have already been doing, getting involved and trying to make a difference.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 21, 2011 at 12:00:23 in reply to Comment 60073

Fair enough. I certainly wasn't demanding a volunteer to stand up and dedicate their time, more it was admiration for the work in the past that has been done. I don't know Matt Jelly personally, but was very impressed with his grassroot activism. He has been missed.

Yet, I doubt that he was doing any of the work as a cheap political stunt. That is going way too far.

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By MonkeyDo (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2011 at 16:22:07

The Federal Government sold the building to Vranich for $1.2M with a covanent to ensure he wouldn't raise the building, or destroy the heritage elements. The price of the sale was determined based on these elements being preserved - which means they were assigned a value. While they may not have been given a dollar value - they were given a cultural value. Since the Federal government was relieving itself of the maintenance of these items it was willing to give the building owner a deal on the asset provided he/she maintained the culturally significant items for all to enjoy.

I have been given a tour of the building and the internal items noted in the covanent no longer exist to my recollection. The freizes on the outside have been left to rot for years and are in the worst condition since their installation in the 1950s. The owner has requested the right to tear down the building. If this final requests moves forward he will have broken every covanent in the agreement with the Federal government.

Is this emblematic of how all contracts with the Federal government are enforced?
Are there any other buildings in our community that are governed by similar covanents?

I would argue that the owner is in a breach of contract scenario and the Feds should demand the building back. The Feds should buy it back from him for the cost he paid less the decreased value in the asset now that he has ripped out every piece of recycleable metal, countless windows, HVAC, internal heritage elements as noted in the covanent, and now doubt countless other issues.

This would bring the building value down under $1M and I would personally guarantee that the community could raise the funds to buy the building from the Feds and to renovate it into a truly mixed use facility for the community - housing, services, creative industry space, commercial and retail.

There is now reason we should accept shit developments in our core any more. As noted by so many people if Vranich needs an empty lots he can use the HMP as promised or deal with his burnt out building at King and Hess.

We simply shouldn't stand for this crap. Where is our Federal government? Who is representing us in this dialogue?

Jeremy

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 21, 2011 at 12:03:42

Well, I think a letter to our federal NDP members would be a good start. I've noticed from a media standpoint Christopherson has been invisible on this local issues. I assumed that he represents Hamilton, but is it gauche to comment on things seen a Provincal or Municipal, but a Fed?

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 21, 2011 at 21:13:38

It would be nice to see some development, anywhere, but quality is of upmost importance in my opinion. Anyway, anything new for the "Cranespotting" section?? Is the last article really from 2009??

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By Bazouki Joe (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2011 at 08:40:05

Quality.

http://www.nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2995620

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:38:40 in reply to Comment 60292

Not just safety issues:

Kehoe said he has since cut ties with Vrancor, and he accused the developer of hiring only five employees along with subcontractors and other workers who were paid under the table.

Accusations of dodging taxes as well. Unfortunate.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 08:17:42 in reply to Comment 60292

Not just one conviction for unsafe operations, FOUR CONVICTIONS...

Vrancor Development Corp. was fined $65,000 for operating an unsafe job site during construction in 2009 of the $15-million Hampton Inn by Hilton on McKeown Avenue.

Vrancor has three previous convictions under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act for operating other unsafe job sites in the province, including inadequate guardrails during construction of another North Bay hotel, Holiday Inn Express and Suites on Seymour Street, in 2007.

Justice of the Peace James Bubba found Vrancor and site supervisor Sean Kehoe liable for failing to comply with an inspector's order to keep the McKeown Avenue site free of obstructions, including heating equipment and other construction materials embedded in ice.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 08:13:54 in reply to Comment 60292

Oh oh, just great eh.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2011 at 09:33:03

Work on a $100 million project that would change the skyline of downtown Hamilton is expected to start as early as June.

The project, conceived by developer Darko Vranich, will bring 628 condo units, two extended stay hotels and 20,000 square feet of retail space to the core.

“Darko is putting his money where his mouth is for this project,” said downtown councillor Jason Farr. “This spring is what they are shooting for to get shovels in the ground.”

http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/512015--downtown-site-for-massive-re-development-proposal

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