By Trey Shaughnessy
Published December 22, 2007
This week, CHML interviewed Toronto developer Harry Stinson, who has expressed interest in buying and developing the beleagurered Lister Block.
Harry Stinson is best known for taking on Donald Trump in Toronto in a competition to build the tallest residential tower. Fans of super-tall, skinny skyscrapers adore Stinson's buildings, and he is best known for One King West.
1KW incorporated the 1913 Dominion Bank Building into a magnificent 51-floor hotel/residential post-modern tower. With floor plates that measure a mere 17.1 by 51.8 metres, it stands out from the corner of Yonge and King as towering sliver.
Recently Stinson has shown great interest in Hamilton. More importantly, he's been kicking the tires of the Lister Block and Royal Connaught, two stalled and very prominent projects for the core.
He is no fan of bush-league scale projects. According to Stinson, the 50 unit projects are as much hassle as the 400 unit projects.
The Lister Block, he says, would make an ideal residential complex over ground/bottom floor retail. Perhaps Stinson would restore The Lister to its original glory and in the negative space on Rebecca build a towering condominium to get the economy of scale he prefers.
Regarding the additional costs to restore the Lister versus replicating he said, "A consumer will pay more to live in a well restored historical building that has charm. Give them the chance."
Stinson is right. People always pay more for something that is better: luxury cars, fine food, gracious accommodations. The Lister is no different - a perfect location to live with everything outside your door, and a gloriously renovated building would be easy to attract the buyers. Give the market a chance.
Harry Stinson wants to do something "outrageous" that will gain attention from all over the place and signal that "something is happening in Hamilton". He specifically mentioned 1KW and said he'd like to do the same thing with the Connaught and surrounding parking lots.
He also mentioned something that we've been writing about on RTH constantly: "There's seems to be an obsession with parking lots in this city."
Stinson grew up in Toronto and everyone knows how rare surface parking lots are there, but we can't seem to figure out in Hamilton that the lack of surface parking in Toronto is the reason why its downtown is successful and home to the most valuable real estate in the country.
Stinson says that he will finalize his first building location downtown in the next 30 days and it must be on the Gore. He sees the potential but is frustrated with the lack of desire to build or sell the land by the current landowners downtown.
He's correct when he observes a stalemate downtown with the land speculators waiting for someone to make the first move to 'seed' development and then increase their property value.
I hope Stinson is the one who breaks this Mexican Standoff so all Hamilton can realize the potential and be proud of our downtown.