By Ryan McGreal
Published June 01, 2012
This week, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) voted to shut down the downtown headquarters task force just three weeks before it was supposed to present a recommendation to Board trustees. The recommendation they decided not to wait for was a new centre at the Cannon Knitting Mills at the corner of Cannon and Mary Streets, next to Dr. J. Edgar Davey Public School and Beasley Park.
Through the Hamilton Realty Capital Corporation, the City has been working with Forum Equity, a Toronto-based real estate development corporation, on a financial plan to redevelop the site, and the HWDSB head office would have been an excellent fit.
City Councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie, who proposed the task force back in February, had high hopes that the site would actually come in at a lower overall cost than the Board's plan to move to the Crestwood School site near Lime Ridge Mall.
In an email to RTH, McHattie noted that the Board voted to discontinue the task force "despire earlier discussions allowing us until June 18 to finalize a business plan which they could then compare to their existing Crestwood business plan." He added:
We believe that is very unfortunate as the Cannon Knitting Mill plan was expected to come in at a lower capital cost than the Crestwood site with significant benefits: restoration of historic building; cleanup of a brownfield site, keynote School Board HQ beside their vaunted Dr Davy School, spurring on redevelopment in the Beasley neighbourhood, with possible expansion to Beasley Park, etc.
Under the proposed plan, "The Board would have owned most of the building outright, sold to them by the Realty Corp following the redevelopment. The building was slightly larger than they needed so we would have retained a small component of the building for another but compatible use (ie. café)."
Farr believes their work on the Cannon Knitting Mills proposal "revealed wonderful potential for the site and the neighbourhood" and that "the steady momentum of revitalization in our core will soon reach a company that will see great value in the CKM site on many levels and Dr. Davey and Beasley families will be most welcoming."
With hundreds of new condo units and other intensification projects driving an urban revival, Farr muses, "some of those six trustees [who voted to discontinue the task force] will be kicking themselves for missing out on being part of something very special and progressive."