Special Report: Lister Block

Last Chance to Save the Lister

With the City Council vote on whether to deny LIUNA's demolition permit set for June 12, the fate of the Lister Block hangs in the balance.

By RTH Staff
Published May 26, 2006

[Ed. Note: this article was actually published on June 1, 2006. The incorrect posted date above is due to technical limitations of the website.]

Click to download the 8 1/2'' x 11'' SAVE THE LISTER poster (Illustration by Matt McInnes)
Click to download the 8 1/2'' x 11'' SAVE THE LISTER poster (Illustration by Matt McInnes)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2006 at 09:50:15

The link to download the poster was broken but is now fixed (thanks Jason for pointing it out).

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By Joe (registered) | Posted June 02, 2006 at 10:30:49

I admire the strong position people have taken on restoring the Lister project, however, upon seeing this opening page I hope to never hear RTH authors complain about biased reporting from the Hamilton Spectator. Having RTH Staff, not an individual author, throw their support to one side of an argument, makes this publication's agenda transparent and makes it less objective than RTH's nemesis, the Spec. I'm sure the hypocrisy is not intentional, but it's present nonetheless.

For the possibly small minority of RTH readers who want to see Lister rebuilt, go to http://www.buildlisternow.ca.

RTH--keep up the good work, anyone whose heart is with making Hamilton a great city should be commended, but please recognize that not all of your readers agree with the position your authors take, and some of us would like more balanced reporting.

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By J M (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2006 at 11:10:02

The illustration on the poster is awful.
It reinforces LIUNA's view that the building is a decrepit eyesore and beyond repair.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2006 at 11:14:35

Hi Joe,

Thank you very much for your response. It's the best kind of comment - respectful but challenging, and it's gotten me thinking.

When I assembled this article, I attributed it to RTH Staff. The reason I did this was that it referenced articles by a number of different RTH contributors, and I was conscious of taking personal credit for articles I hadn't written.

I never considered that it might be regarded the way you describe. You make some startling points, and they definitely merit a fair response, so here goes:

Our Agenda:

Raise the Hammer absolutely does have an agenda, and we've never made a secret of that fact. We're not straight media like a newspaper, but rather what you might call "advocacy journalism": we're advocates for sustainable urban revitalization. We sometimes take the Hamilton Spectator to task because it also has an agenda but pretends that it does not.

The Spec:

I wouldn't call the Spec our nemesis. This city needs a daily newspaper (I'd say it needs more than one), and the Spec is an invaluable source for much of our reporting and commentary. Much of its work is exemplary, particularly its periodic investigative reports. The Spec has also published many letters and op-eds that various RTH contributors have submitted over the years.

However, the Spec also has a strong bias toward the sprawl industry, as a result of both the paper's business model and the city's political economy in general. We believe that hurts Hamilton and its citizens, and so we call the paper to task when we feel it is necessary.

Balance:

We've published articles from various sides of the Lister issue, from support for LIUNA's plan through skepticism and opposition. We always welcome letter and op-ed submissions and do not discriminate based on the writer's point of view. We also allow readers to comment on every article, so commentary like yours is immediately attached to the article and made available for all to read.

We're volunteers with limited time who generate zero revenue from this, so our resources are extremely limited. We always try to argue from the facts and cite our sources. If we screw up, we admit it and fix our mistakes.

As for balance per se, I don't believe it's an authentic journalistic value. As I've written in another article [1], "Too many journalists seem to believe in looking at all news sources the same way, ignoring background, self-interest, and underlying structural conditions, and then sort of splitting the difference and calling it 'balanced'. If one side of a debate says the earth is round and the other side says the earth is flat, the objective reporter does not write, 'Opinions differ on the shape of the earth,' especially when a little independent research can determine the truth of the matter."

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/14...

If you get your information about Lister from the Spec, you are unlikely to find out that LACAC found serious deficiencies in LIUNA's heritage assessment, and that every architect who has examined the building - including the architect that LIUNA hired - has found it to be structurally sound.

"Balance" means giving equal weight to a bunch of architects, many of whom specialize in restorations, and to the guy who spent the last seven years letting Lister rot and who just signed a sweetheart deal with the city to get $30 million dollars for knocking it down.

Regards,

Ryan

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2006 at 12:43:19


In response to the person who said the illustration was awful - I'd like to point out the artist was evoking the spirit of the place. The illustration was not to be confused with the rendering the developers have offered up. I like Matt's work alot and he is actually showcasing his work next Friday, June 9th at Mixed Media, 174 James St. N. 7 - 10 pm. Come on out and do the art crawl!

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By Joe (registered) | Posted June 02, 2006 at 13:19:16

Thanks for clarifying these issues, Ryan. I do appreciate your thorough reply.

Perhaps 'balanced' was not the best word choice, because I agree with you completely that many journalists who aren't knowledgeable about a topic end up skewing the truth by trying to be balanced. 'Objective' is what I meant. Taking a side, and providing evidence for that side is perfectly legitimate, however, there must be some objective arguments supporting the reconstruction of Lister. Here's my attempt (btw I make no claims of being an expert on this topic)...

  1. If I remember correctly, one of the benefits of reconstructing the building is to provide Hamilton with needed high quality office space (something about not having enough ceiling space with the current building).

  2. LIUNA owns the building. As much as we might disagree with what they have done with it (or lack thereof), it still belongs to them and if they want to hold off until they can make a 'sweetheart deal', then who can blame them? I wish business transactions would be inherently altruistic, but the truth is that real estate is about making a profit. At least their proposal is giving Hamiltonians what appears to be a pretty good replica and not another parking lot or strip mall.

  3. I suppose the question we all want answered is exactly why would LIUNA choose to rebuild Lister when some claim it's cheaper to renovate it? If it's because they can make a larger profit from rebuilding, then the next question is if what they are doing is illegal and/or immoral. If legal--then all the power to them. If immoral (i.e. intentional neglect)--then shame on them. At least Hamiltonians get something in return.

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By fastcars (registered) | Posted June 02, 2006 at 21:15:29

Ryan

I want to congratulate you on your candor regarding RTH's agenda, both on and off the Lister issue. I applaud RTH because in essence--at it's core, RTH is pro-Hamilton. We all sometimes differ on what the most pro-Hamilton solution to an issue is, but the spirit of the argument--wanting what's best for the city--I think that remains close to all of us as we debate here.

I believe in restoration where possible and celebrate adaptive reuse. There have been many great examples in the city--from the Piggot/Sun Life condos to those at the architecturally less significant Alexandra Square/Undermount complex. Both rail terminals are back in use, both restored, albeit for differing purposes. I have a strong personal affection for Lister--I was a rural/suburban kid who's parents were smart enough to have us spend lots of time in the core in the 70s and 80s--and I remember the Lister in it's fading glory. The truth however, in spite of all the positive recent news, is that downtown has fallen a long way for many years. Developers and their lenders simply aren't sold on the future downtown--though a few have been encouraged by generous city incentives, which is great news. The Lister for all it's significance and beauty, has become an albatross around the neck of redevelopment downtown. While the reasons for it being in it's current state are open to debate--the fact of it's condition is plain and simple. The rebirth on James North is separated from the King Street corridor by black holes--namely the Lister and the now missing Tivoli lobby. If "sacrificing" the Lister means a replicated building with great Class "A" office space, vibrant street level retail and a reconnection to James North and King William--the sacrifice of losing the original will be worthwhile. Waiting years for some other redevelopment scheme to get off the ground will be suicide--and homocidal to the many surrounding buildings which have held out hope for the Lister's redevelopment.

If a new Lister brings warm bodies and dollars to the James North/King William/Jackson Square area--maybe efforts to save and redevelop the Tivoli can find some footing (and funding). Taking the time and energy to save the Lister and redirecting at the Tivoli might save the jewel from an ignoble fate also.

Though arguments can be made that there is a glut of office space downtown--much of what is vacant is Class B space--there is a lack of Class A space to some degree--and this prevents the city from being able to attract new tenants to the core. Any hope that a resurgent Stelco or Dofasco/Archelor/SeverStal might be lured back depends on Class A space. LIUNA and HiRise want to construct this space downtown--when they could easily make a far more reliable business case for building Class A space elsewhere--in what you refer to as Sprawl areas such as Ancaster, Stoney Creek or Burlington. In that sense, I think this proposal fits exactly with RTH's agenda.

Continued thanks for your support and acknowledgment of differing ideas and opinions here. Debate like this is healthy afterall, and a signal that there are many people that care about this city's future.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2006 at 08:08:54

Joe and fastcars,

Thanks for your succinct arguments in favour of reconstruction. I agree that there are benefits, and more importantly, that it's the most coherent plan we've seen.

All the arguments in favour of restoration hinge on the fact that the building can be restored but do not flesh out the details. That's why I've called in a recent blog for Lister supporters to create a viable, coherent business plan to restore the building.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/238/

Kind Regards, Ryan

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2006 at 09:58:06

Great discussion here folks.

For what's it's worth, I'm a writer here at RTH and still haven't made up my mind about this project. On one hand I would LOVE to see the building restored, but I don't think downtown businesses (and overall image) can take another ten years of a rotting Lister. It's no coincidence that many downtown businesses are supporting this plan. It's doable, financially feasible (no kidding) and will lend a massive shot in the arm at the very heart of our city....Stand at King and James and scan the horizon for the dominating scenes...Lister, only one block north, is one of them.

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By I Believe (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2006 at 03:54:12

I agree with Jason. This is a big deal for the downtown. We need to get past this for good. I don't want to see this hanging around anymore. Even I bet people hearing about a new Lister will help bring people downtown just to see whats going on.

This is a big piece of the puzzle. As a part of the younger generation I would perfer to see this progect move forward rather then sit in Neutral.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted June 13, 2006 at 13:21:48

So, they had a big meeting at City Hall about the Lister yesterday (June 12). Can anyone describe what took place? Was anything decided?

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2006 at 14:41:46


What was it like last night?

Well - I guess I can represent the guys from Raise the Hammer (as no one was there!) and say it was entertaining, disgusting, angering and VERY long!

We were there from 3 pm - 11 pm and I gotta say some of those councilors have no respect and if I was represented by someone who didn't even have one word to say about the entire process - I would be a very upset citizen!

Terry Whitehead was disrespectful, non-sensical and at times spiteful and he deserves to be voted out this November. Yes Terry we understand you like to have the final word in every conversation - but did you really need to comment after every speaker?

Larry was making snide remarks after speakers talked and a few times had the gallery on their feet asking him to apologize. There is absolutely no reason for him to be throwing in comments about someone's position or what they just said.

Dave Mitchell had his head in the clouds.

Sam Merulla was Sam Merulla. Not paying attention to most of the speakers and only taking notice when he felt he was being attacked. Checking his Crackberry constantly and feeling the need to bother Brain McHattie.

Someone please tell Tom Jackson that white shoes are not permitted in City Council Chambers. Save it for the docks Tom!

I just want to say way to go Margaret McCarthy! Asking the tough questions and standing up for fiscal responsibility!

What are some of these guys and gals gonna do for jobs when they are booted out of office? No one in their right mind would want some of the personalities that currently occupy City Hall. This city is only going to change when we vote in people who can actually do the job and are passionate about the city.

If I hear one more comment about how Europe re-built their cities after the war I am gonna scream! According to officials and downtown business owners, Hamilton is a now wartorn city...sheesh!

Hopefully it all comes out when CATCH transcribes it...



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By jason (registered) | Posted June 13, 2006 at 19:07:58

I, too noticed a few weeks ago that Merulla is addicted to that stupid crackberry during council meetings and never shuts up...if I was McHattie I'd ask to switch seats...you know, like we had to do in grade school when sitting next to some goof who kept getting the both of us in trouble by never shutting up. Talk about a salary for doing nothing.

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By seek (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2006 at 02:10:51

I agree that a definite plan to restore the Lister is needed. We only have 60 days, but it's taking shape. The biggest thing in it's favour right now is the James North Art Crawl which FILLED the street with gallery hoppers last Friday night. If the restored Lister Block was included in that picture, it would draw people from everywhere!

- A renowned architect has volunteered his time.
- A respected developer has said "any developer would jump". If Liuna is to be out of the picture, other developers will step forward.
- McHattie's plan can work - the city buys it, leases cheaper elsewhere and still saves money. The city can fill some of that empty office space. Triple A is for businesses that pay for it out of their profits!
- The James North BIA needs to open their shops Friday nights, and get with the program and support the new entreprenurial business people who are revitalizing James North. A tickytacky replica office building is filled with people who go home at five o'clock. Other than an hour at lunch, the 'Lariuna' plan is a death knell to businesses on James North and King William.

...(insert your ideas here)...

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