Special Report: Heritage

Illegal Parking Lot at 20 Jackson Street West

Cars are parked on the site of the former office building in apparent violation of a standing moratorium on new surface parking downtown.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 06, 2013

Cars were parked on freshly poured asphalt this morning on the site of the former three-storey office building at 20 Jackson Street West, in apparent violation of a municipal by-law banning new surface parking lots.

Cars parked on the site of the demolished building at 20 Jackson Street West
Cars parked on the site of the demolished building at 20 Jackson Street West

Cars are clearly parked directly on the site of the building
Cars are clearly parked directly on the site of the building

The property, owned by property management company Wilson-Blanchard, was demolished this fall after a demolition permit was issued on October 2.

Rumours swirled for months that the building was going to come down and be replaced with parking, and as of today the rumour is confirmed.

Pile of rubble at 20 Jackson Street West in early November (RTH file photo)
Pile of rubble at 20 Jackson Street West in early November (RTH file photo)

Moratorium on New Surface Parking

However, it is illegal to demolish a building in the downtown area of Hamilton and turn the site into a parking lot.

A by-law moratorium on demolition-into-parking was put into effect a little over a decade ago, ironically after the same property owner demolished the former Canada Permanent building on James Street across from the Pigott Building.

According to Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, Municipal Law Enforcement (MLE) staff have been alerted to the situation and will be investigating. Farr has also "requested that the property owners be contacted and reminded of the moratorium in the area."

According to the City, no plans have been submitted to construct anything new on the site. Before the tenants were evicted and the building demolished, it was an occupied three-storey office building with a coffee shop on the main floor.

Huge swaths of the downtown core have been demolished and left as surface parking and vacant lots, due to property owners demolishing buildings and not replacing them with anything new.

Nearby Demolitions on Gore

Wilson-Blanchard also owns the buildings at 18-28 King Street East, which are under an active demolition permit. The building facades were removed in the summer and the open interiors of the buildings are exposed to the element.

Heritage advocates argue that the buildings qualify to be designated under the *Ontario Heritage Act*. The City has been negotiating with the property owner about possible heritage designation of the facades, and has offered $1 million on heritage preservation grants.

In a recent *Spectator* article, co-owner David Blanchard is quoted saying it would cost $2 million to preserve the building fronts.

"If we preserve the façades, we would like it to be revenue neutral," Blanchard said. "If we spend an extra million dollars on that alone, I don't see how we'd ever get it back."

Several studies into the economics of heritage prevervation have found that the money spent preserving heritage produces a positive net return on investment.

Exposed fronts of 18-28 King Street East (RTH file photo)
Exposed fronts of 18-28 King Street East (RTH file photo)

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 fmurray (registered) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 14:15:07

There's a parking booth! The Councillor is looking into the situation but my question is: Why would this developer even try this without having some idea that he could get away with it?

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By Hmm...ilton (registered) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 14:28:13

Every time I read an article regarding the business actions of David Blanchard I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a veterinarian describing the interaction between parasitic heartworms and their host. I wonder why that would be?

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By Leo (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 14:28:39

I truly appreciate the author's efforts to ensure that the by-law moratorium on demolition is strictly adhered to. Heck, I'd loathe to see yet another parking lot in my neighbourhood. That said, there seems to be a misunderstanding as to how the lot was previously used. There was in fact a paid parking lot surrounding the building and it appears that the cars currently parked on the property are parking in areas which were previously spots.


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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2013 at 16:01:54 in reply to Comment 95615

More cars are parked since I was there earlier. Take a look at the following photos:

Parked cars on the footprint of 20 Jackson Street West

Parked cars on the footprint of 20 Jackson Street West

Notice how the cars are lined up perpendicular to the alley. Now look at the Google Maps satellite view of the building: the cars in these pictures are parked directly on the footprint of where the building was.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 16:26:51 in reply to Comment 95628

We had the same problem with the old HMP site at Bay and George street. The illegal parking lot was in operation for over a year before the city decided to actually charge him. The developer then appealed to the OMB. The city then delayed the OMB hearing for six months to give him extra time to prepare a site plan. When the OMB hearing finally took place, the developer failed to show up and the illegal lot was eventually separated with concrete blocks.

The illegal lot operated for over two years, and likely generated over $100k in revenue during that time.

These flagrant (and lucrative) violations of the law need to be pursued quickly and firmly.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-12-06 16:32:58

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By Sara (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 10:25:30 in reply to Comment 95631

Thanks for that history. I've been wondering about the HMP story since it's so similar. I think our current City Councillor will have less patience than our last on this kind of issue. But I was wrong before, so I may be naive again!

Comment edited by Sara on 2013-12-07 10:26:21

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 14:42:09

There was previously parking on the site, east/west/north of 20 Jackson (hence the kiosk) but they should have concrete blocks demarcating the no-go zone.

http://goo.gl/maps/O4ZPd

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By Parked_car (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 14:50:50

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

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By observation (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 15:38:03 in reply to Comment 95617

99.9% of drivers are speeding on the 403 right now. I hope they catch those guys too!

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 15:02:03

I believe parking was previously only located on the east side of the building on a small lot. The west side of the building was a drive-through alleyway.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 13:04:58 in reply to Comment 95618

oops. OK - formed my knowledge of direction when I lived in Oakville. The lake was always south. In all the time I've lived in Hamilton, I've always had to think twice about the directions for north/south/east/west and then screwed it up. Sorry about the confusing comment above.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 15:34:12 in reply to Comment 95618

http://goo.gl/maps/xjhEQ

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 15:33:39

Google Street View shows that lot packed with cars before the demolition. So I guess there is a need.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2013 at 16:04:25 in reply to Comment 95622

The three-storey office building was occupied with paying tenants before the demolition. So I guess there was a need.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 22:57:26 in reply to Comment 95629

Good point.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 16:45:48

At least it's getting easier and easier to finalize the concept for the upcoming gateway signs being planned for the city. Welcome to Hamilton: best place to raise a slumlord.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 18:11:45 in reply to Comment 95633

Downtown Hamilton - Come for the parking. Stay for the... stay for... for the... um...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2013 at 17:03:21 in reply to Comment 95633

Best Place to Raze a Building.

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By Laugh so I don't cry (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 11:57:09 in reply to Comment 95635

Touché. (Slow clap)

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By Sheri (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 18:10:21

It was a beautiful building also. I took photos and posted them on twitter. What happened to the marble, and granite? So much waste. My understanding is that it was an older building that had already been re-habbed(?) once. We want more ppl living here, so why cound't it have been converted to houses? Adaptive reuse.

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By j.servus (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 00:48:18

What we need is a moratorium on demolition permits in the core, unless the owner demonstrates an appropriate plan for the site. It's not enough to forbid using it as a parking lot. We should insist on a plan for the lot.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2013 at 00:59:10

According to the Spec, Blanchard is arguing the parking lot isn't actually illegal, despite the so-called 'Blanchard By-Law':

David Blanchard said there is a provision in the bylaw that a former building site can be used for parking as long as the owner has other buildings within 300 metres of the lot.

Gotta give him credit for sheer chutzpah.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 12:56:30 in reply to Comment 95645

More leverage for that Gore windfall.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 12:12:47 in reply to Comment 95645

It's interesting to look up the meaning of some words that are not used regularly.

"Chutzpah" in the traditional Hebrew is a disrespectful term: "used indignantly, to describe someone who has overstepped the boundaries of accepted behaviour. In traditional usage, the word expresses a strong sense of disapproval, condemnation and outrage."

North American business culture has changed the meaning to embrace a more admiring tone and it usually means "courage" or "mettle".

In Wilson-Blanchard's case I can agree there is a form of "chutzpah", but my definition is firmly traditional in this instance.

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By RobertD (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 10:07:49 in reply to Comment 95645

Sounds like the bylaw has a loophole in the bylaw.

Why City Hall would have ever written that loophole in the first place is beyond me.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 01:43:38

Bravo! I sense this doesn't get much play in council, in spite of it just being almost in the councillors view.

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By a (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 12:11:52

If david blanchard loves parking so much why doesn't he build a parking garage?

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By CanPark (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 12:26:37

What a stroke of genius! It's a Parking-Specific Radial Inclusion Bylaw.

What this city *really* needs is a Radial Gratuitous Demolition Bylaw for our most historic core-located buildings.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 13:41:19

It seems that Blanchard is attempting to rely on this by-law, which deals with where required parking for a building may be located:

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/D486...

Where this By-law requires the provision of parking facilities, no lands shall be used and no building shall be used or erected in any zone unless there are provided and maintained facilities for parking in accordance with the following regulations and Parking Schedules, unless otherwise specifically provided for in this By-law.

5.1 LOCATION

i) Required parking facilities shall be located on the same lot as the use requiring the parking.

ii) Notwithstanding Subsection i) above, where the provision of parking on the same lot as the use requiring such parking is not possible, or not practical, such parking facilities may be located on another lot within 300.0 metres of the lot containing the use requiring the parking. Such alternate parking shall only be situated in a Commercial, Industrial or Downtown Zone or within the same zone as the use requiring such parking, and shall be subject to Subsection iii) herein.

In other words, this allows required parking for a building to be provided within 300m of the building if it is not practical to provide it on the same lot. It seems pretty clear that this does not apply here because Blanchard's other buildings must already be satisfying their parking requirements! In any case, Blanchard is operating it as a public parking lot, not restricted to his own tenants.

But this is beside the point as section vi) is absolutely crystal clear that this surface lot is illegal:

vi) Within any Downtown Zone, no new surface parking lots shall be permitted except where the parking is accessory to the main use on the same lot.

Blanchard does not have any other 'main use' on this lot, he has satisfied his by-law parking requirements for his other buildings (which have been in operation for years) and are next to other surface parking lots. This lot is illegal, end of story.

The most frightening thing about this is that it gives us a very good idea of what he has in store for the site of his 19th buildings on Gore Park: he will demolish them and use the site as surface parking until he can sell it on or find financing for his dream development.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-12-07 13:48:46

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By Bill (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 15:02:24

Tweeted by councilor Farr, " I spoke with one of the architects of the moratorium by-law. His perception is the claim is not valid."

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 16:25:14 in reply to Comment 95668

The question now is: How vigorously will Blanchard fight the city to keep this lot for parking? If the "perception is the claim is not valid", is there room for interpretation?

And, do we have to wait for the fix during a legal battle or can the city block off the lot to cars in the meantime?

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 19:04:41

Does anyone have any big rocks?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 01:27:49

Any goodwill I may have had for Mr. Blanchard and him building something new at Gore just evaporated. I expect and DEMAND that the book be thrown at this guy!

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By Agree with -Hammer (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 09:14:41

Agree wholeheartedly with -Hammer-. I've had enough of these developers doing whatever they want and thumbing their nose at our bylaws. I was a bit sympathetic to them before, but this and the crying over the price for saving the facades down at Gore Park has removed that now. City Council: get tough with these bums - throw the book at them!

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By Pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 21:11:59 in reply to Comment 95698

I've had enough of these cyclists & e-bikers doing whatever they want and thumbing their nose at our bylaws and road laws. City Council: get tough with these bums - throw the book at them!

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By Agree with -Hammer- (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 19:00:57 in reply to Comment 95718

Interesting, I'm not a cyclist or e-biker. I'm actually a driver, but I have had enough of Blanchard and co. feeling they can do whatever they feel like while then crying poor and wanting more money from the city to fix buildings they deliberately damaged. Enough!

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By Pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 19:26:05 in reply to Comment 95784

Start saving and you can purchase and develop the downtown the way you want.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2013 at 11:06:10 in reply to Comment 95786

Oh gee, it's so simple! Thanks for the tip!

First, many here ARE property owners who have already put money where their mouths are.

Second, the speculators playing the game (that the city allows them to play) refuse to sell properties at fair market value. They aren't interested in selling until their neighbours do the work to to raise property values, so they can cash out their millions.

Their plan goes nowhere when everyone on the block is a speculator though...

This behaviour is that of a parasite.

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By Pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 18:03:18 in reply to Comment 95803

120 million into the "Blanchard block" is hardly speculative nor parasitic no matter how attached you are to the gore park buildings.

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By number chucker (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 18:47:49 in reply to Comment 95810

what "120 million" are you even talking about?

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By Thespec (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 18:54:01 in reply to Comment 95811

http://m.thespec.com/news-story/2216648--120m-development-planned-for-hamilton-s-core/

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2013 at 19:57:35 in reply to Comment 95812

Haha... the 120 million that doesn't exist you mean. The wish inside Blanchard's head. The development that Blanchard refers to like this: "We don't have a real solid plan there" (direct quote)?

Maybe santy clauz will bring that 120 million dollar lie down your chimney for you if you're a good boy this year.

This is the very definition of parasitic speculation. He'll keep his carrying costs low (through demolition if necessary) while waiting for, say, the connaught to be developed, so that (in 10 years? 20?) he can sell his 120 million dollar dream to an actual developer.

In the meantime the whole city gets to suffer. Ahh, but that's the cost of fair market economics I guess? 30 years of keeping the core depressed so that he can amass properties and take a few million home for retirement. Nothing wrong with that!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 10:52:41 in reply to Comment 95786

It's been tried multiple times. The problem is that, as many potential investors have found, most of these vacant buildings and lots are not for sale at a reasonable market price. Blanchard himself has said his Gore Park buildings are not for sale.

The speculators are holding out for windfall profits they are sure will materialize sometime in the distant future. And some have been holding onto vacant or under-utilized land for decades.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-12-11 10:54:00

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By Bill (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 01:11:44 in reply to Comment 95718

I've had enough of these drivers doing whatever they want and thumbing their nose at our bylaws and road laws. City Council: get tough with these bums - throw the book at them! -- See how dumb and pointless that reply is?

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By Pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 11:00:37 in reply to Comment 95724

Just as dumb and pointless as the original post bill. Don't hate the player. Hate the game. Game is set by council.

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By Bill (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 18:30:51

There is an legal undertaking that is asked for by the city from any property owner before they are allowed to tear a building down in the core. This undertaking specifies the rebuild conditions and categorically disallows the use of the lot in the interim, as a parking lot.

The owners of Denningers were made to sign this undertaking when they were given a permit to tear the building on King East and Wellington. As a result, they were made to gravel the lot and put concrete blocks all around the sides to prevent it being used as a parking lot. More specifically the city also shut down the then existing parking lot on Wellington which was actively used after the adjacent building to this parking lot was torn down.

Why has the staff/council not followed this process with David Blanchard here?

Maybe Clr Jason Farr can clarify this very serious lapse on the part of the city to follow the precedent it already has, from the demolition of the Denningers' building on King and Wellington.

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By Bill (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 19:36:46

"According to Jason Farr, the Councillor for ward 2, and Ed VanderWindt, chief planning official for the City, the property owner, Wilson-Blanchard, has not submitted any plans to redevelop the site.".... (https://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/2806/no_plans_yet_for_20_jackson_street_west )

The issuance of the demolition permit for 20 Jackson street West, in effect violates the city's own precedence it set in 2010 with the issuance of a demolition permit for the Denningers' above mentioned property at King and Wellington where they were expressly made to sign an undertaking that precluded them from using it as a parking lot in spite of them having a dire need for it on account of their large flagship food store within 300 meters on the west.

So, why the exceptional favoritism towards David Blanchard on multiple properties in the core which he has destroyed over the years and turned into parking lots?

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