Comment 66366

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 18, 2011 at 15:18:24 in reply to Comment 66360

LRT was the closing word in JC's first comment, which is what I responded to (I'm sometimes guilty of commenting on comments):

In truth, transit isn't discussed at all in JC's piece. The question is more one of leveraging the $55 million, of which you might make the case that $35 million – the portion of the commitment related to leased space for Public Health – would be spent in whole or large part even without the arrival of a new McMaster campus. Yes, that decision does alter the office vacancy rate in the core. A key question, it seems to me, is what is it worth to the City of Hamilton to lure McMaster to make a substantial new investment east of Frid Street.

Ideally, yes, that should come with an MOU for a downtown residence. Could that residence double as a June-August hotel? Sure. Would that alter the hotel vacancy in the core (just above 50% capacity last year)? No doubt.

The fact that the Columbia residence was once a hotel is only one of many omens here. Hamilton's alleged "hotel shortage" is a matter of perspective, and lengthy enough to merit its own essay, but it comes down to the same old chicken-and-egg problem that we see with regard to downtown condo development. The difference here is that the city would either be competing full-time with private businesses that are already struggling or paying to mothball the facility until such time as the city lands a major event or convention that is on track to max out the rooms in the core, activating it on demand. A 450-student residence would be a game changer, but it would also be a third of the city's total existing hotel stock. The Sheraton and the Crowne Plaza, FWIW, have 520 rooms between them. (Granted, I suspect few are as bare-bones as a student residence.)

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