Revitalization

The Mills Innovation Exchange: Impressive Redevelopment Plan for Cannon Knitting Mills

By Jason Leach
Published July 04, 2012

My goodness, if there's ever been a project I wanted to succeed downtown, it's this: The Mills Innovation Exchange, a proposed redevelopment of the old Cannon Knitting Mills building at 134 Mary Street next to Beasley Park.

Rendering of The Mills Innovation Exchange at the Cannon Knitting Mills
Rendering of The Mills Innovation Exchange at the Cannon Knitting Mills

If they have a ground floor cafe I will live there. The creativity in such a venture would be incredible.

This reminds me of The Tannery in downtown Kitchener, another old derelict warehouse now bursting with life. They landed Google and have a Balzacs Coffee on the ground floor.

Last month, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board rejected a proposal to move into this building before the details had been fleshed out. If this current plan goes ahead, the HWDSB will one day be sorry they missed out.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 13:22:37

Looks fantastic, and some big names behind it!

I wish nothing but the best for this project.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 13:44:13

"Forum anticipates that the project will be under construction through 2012."

http://www.forumequitypartners.com/real-estate/portfolio/cannon.php

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 14:11:43

This is the 50/50 public/private venture, yeah?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 14:22:02 in reply to Comment 79171

It's the City of Hamilton pairing with Toronto's Forum Equity Partners.

http://www.forumequitypartners.com/news-announcements/news/big-plans-loom.php

Wouldn't hold my breath for Balzacs. They closed shop in NOTL when sales sagged and seem sensitive about their bottom line.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 15:29:10

Is this for real, or just a mock-up/proposal? I saw it a few weeks back and dismissed it since it's hosted on the site for the Billy Bishop Tunnel project. Not that it wouldn't be great for my 'hood, but I'm wary since us Beasley-ites have had one too many rugs yanked out from underneath us in the past 2 years...

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 16:13:07

Careful how you read this, as I read it as "Google" and "Balzacs" are in The Tannery in Kitchener. Not signed up for the Knitting Mills in Hamilton.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 17:04:08 in reply to Comment 79186

I agree, I believe the author was providing info on the Tannery, there is no info yet on the Knitting Mills.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 18:31:56

This certainly would be a great addition to the neighbourhood. But suspicions arise when their site says "Design and development planning work is underway and Forum anticipates that the project will be under construction through 2012.". Only 6 months to go?? Hmmmm.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 21:37:50

Some background and clarification: This proposal is brand new. Once the school board bailed, this became their top plan. The Forum website made the '2012' comment about a year ago. It hasn't yet been updated.

Right now this is the plan: see if there is enough interest among creative firms who would be willing to sign onto a lease at a competitive rate, yet one higher than you'd expect for this neighbourhood, as money will be needed to pull off this reno.
In other words, a bland, new building could fetch a much lower rate than will be proposed here, but the partners are hoping that the right types of tenants will appreciate the incredible working environment and creative hub this could be, and be willing to invest to make it happen. If there is zero interest, back to the drawing board....hopefully some firms are interested and can help make it happen.

If you know of any interested parties, send them to the website to contact these folks.

And yes, my Google/Balzacs reference was shedding info on The Tannery...my point wasn't to expect those companies here, but rather point out that companies like them can be convinced to join something really cool and creative.

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By DowntownDowner (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2012 at 23:04:51

This is a project that would be another great explosion in Hamilton, but there is probably a hold up trying to get a big anchor like Google or whatever. I’ll bet some snotty comments would be made by perspective condo dwellers watching all the people lining up for the food bank and the shelters. I think there is merit to this. Tell me any Hamilton enterpreneur who is interested in investing in this area I would love to hear from them. I’ll bet all the mercury and abestos in the building would be another draw back.

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By RB (registered) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 11:56:49 in reply to Comment 79198

I wonder if we can have our cake & eat it, too? We want people to move into the city, but chastise them when they don't want to live on "skid row" (meant metaphorically).

I hear what you're saying, and I'm not trying to be contrary, but I've noticed a lot of folks who tend to "bite the hand that feeds" around here (RTH & Hamilton in general).

There will unfortunately be some collateral damage done when any sort/level of gentrification goes on... we all seem to love these images & renderings (as do I!), but I fail to notice any crackheads, scooters or panhandlers in ANY of the renderings. That's cause they probably won't be there if/when the project comes to life.

So we should ask ourselves, what would we rather have: an Ambitious City like the kind we talk about all the time on RTH, or one that all walks of life can afford to live in? I'd hope for both, but I'm not sure if that's possible. I could be wrong...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, or have missed a point... I'm just kind of pointing out what I see here with my untrained eye!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2012 at 16:39:06 in reply to Comment 79219

There will unfortunately be some collateral damage done when any sort/level of gentrification goes on... we all seem to love these images & renderings (as do I!), but I fail to notice any crackheads, scooters or panhandlers in ANY of the renderings. That's cause they probably won't be there if/when the project comes to life.

An aspect of the discussion of 'reinvention' that usually gets short-shrift.

Or, in the case of the downtown-core, and why it's diminished so much over the past 20/25 years, ends up turning incendiary, especially when discussing those-elements-that-dissuade-people-from-going-downtown-anymore.

We seem addicted to anger and self-righteous indignation. (Oh, and desperation.)

The lovely rant from Jeff Daniels in the pilot of 'The Newsroom' includes the line 'The first step to solving any problem is recognizing that there is one.' Residents of Hamilton need to arrive at the point where this recognition inspires understanding. Then we can get somewhere.

http://youtu.be/h__uutzcQXc

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2012-07-05 16:42:17

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 16:22:07 in reply to Comment 79219

I'm willing to say I would rather live in a city without crackheads. They add nothing.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 23:16:25 in reply to Comment 79231

Many of them would probably feel the same if they could beat the addiction.

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By LOL (registered) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 09:44:16

let's turn it into a grocery store!

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 11:55:02 in reply to Comment 79205

That would be ironic with a food bank across the road.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 15:29:19

A great proposal but 2 things are gonna make it a really, really tough sell: a food bank across the street, 5 lanes of high speed one way truck traffic on Cannon. I really hope these things can somehow be overcame, but it's hard for me to believe.

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By dave (anonymous) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 18:50:13

The food bank is moving to the old Mohawk College building on Wentworth in the next year, and the neighborhood association is aggressively pursuing getting Cannon converted to two-way. We did it on Wilson...

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 06, 2012 at 16:29:38 in reply to Comment 79239

The Food Bank on Cannon is Good Shepherd, and the one on Wentworth is Mission Services.

Are you suggesting the 2 organizations are going to merge?

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By DowntownDowner (anonymous) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 22:33:54

I met a nice young couple during open streets who told me of their struggles with investing in the city. On FB they sent me a PM saying that they have actually invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into this exact area and that I am being pessimistic about the chances. Are they right? Do investors not care about crackheads, food banks and methodone clinics? They asked me not to mention them, but I hope they are right. Color me septical.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 06, 2012 at 10:02:53 in reply to Comment 79251

Do investors not care about crackheads, food banks and methodone clinics?

Here's the thing about investors - they are people, and as such, they come in all different shapes, sizes, and colours. Some are small investors like your nice young couple, who just want to make decent a living and contribute to their community, some are heedless, absentee speculators interested solely in profit at the expense of city-building, some are corporate and responsible, but must balance their vision with institutional risk aversion, with just about everything in between.

Add to that the fact that the concentration of "crack heads, food banks, and methadone clinics" is largely a matter of perception, and smart investors base their decisions on realities, not fears and stereotypes, and you can begin to see why it doesn't make sense to generalize about what 'investors' may or may not care about.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-07-06 10:15:07

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted July 05, 2012 at 23:14:37

We've seen renaissance along James and parts of King... this would be a key step in spreading that change beyond, and might just help create impetus for something to happen on all those hectares of blacktop wasteland along Rebecca and Wilson.

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