By Adrian Duyzer
Published January 07, 2008
If it wasn't for the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), the deal to restore the Lister Block would likely be sealed by now and we'd be a giant step along the way to a newly energized downtown core.
Instead, it seems like LIUNA, which owns the Lister, will do anything it can to obstruct progress on this important project.
Now they're asking the City of Hamilton to pay an exorbitant $37 per square foot to lease office space in the building instead of the $24 per square foot that was originally proposed.
They say this is necessary because restoring the building will drive up costs by millions, even though a provincial study group concluded restoration should not cost more than demolition and rebuilding.
The City is meant to be the anchor tenant when the building is restored. $24 per square foot is already much higher than the average rental rates for "good" office space in the core, which is $18 to $20 per square foot according to the City, but this additional cost was deemed worth it by Hamilton's last city council because of the Lister's importance to downtown revitalization.
LIUNA is simply intent on demolishing the building and won't let anything stand in it's way. $7 million from the province and a generous rental agreement from the City at $24 per square foot apparently aren't good enough.
Perhaps the problem is that owning a decrepit building in the core is not hurting LIUNA enough. Owning a dilapidated pile of garbage in the downtown of a city should be financially draining not to mention embarrassing. Apparently not.
I don't know where LIUNA's Joe Mancinelli lives, but I wonder if there's any abandoned homes rotting near his house. If his next-door neighbour's house was a decaying hulk, I imagine Mr. Mancinelli would not be terribly pleased.
Guess what, Mr. Mancinelli: many of us live downtown, and we're not too pleased.
If LIUNA isn't capable of maintaining its properties, perhaps it should get out of the property business.
Thankfully, the province is reviewing LIUNA's analysis. But don't get your hopes up if the province finds fault with LIUNA, because LIUNA has shown no sign there's any limit to the number of excuses it can come up with.