Our 'Finest Hour'

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 10, 2011

If Hamilton City Council's "finest hour" truly is their vote to demolish an architectural treasure downtown right next to a surface parking lot so they can overpay for new office space for a department that already has office space downtown, all on the basis of a 'rushed and incomplete' staff report that one councillor called a "sales job", we're in bigger trouble than I thought.

On the other hand, the Mayor seems to have decided that some causes are worth championing, even if you don't have all the information.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Palomino (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:22:00

But don't you see...developing near my friend Darko's empty lots is good for his business...smart eh?

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By sidelined (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2011 at 17:39:38 in reply to Comment 67794

Darko, is getting too much of what he wants, and that is in direct conflict of what the residents of this part of downtown want.

Since when does this questionable business man the only answer? Why does he get to decide which well built buildings get to rot.

Why are these kinds of people running this City.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:01:15 in reply to Comment 67794

Actually what doesn't make sense about the LRT situation, is if it's anyone who is going to benefit, it's Darko and his empty lots downtown.

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:12:53

The most bothering thing for me is that the rendering of the building they want to build would actually look awesome if it was integrated into (at least some of) the current building. The glass canvas integrated over the existing building would be really nice.

Here are a few smaller examples:

Also, could this project kill Chedoke? Because, if it did, we're not really gaining a whole lot.

Comment edited by Synxer on 2011-08-10 12:15:47

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By Tanya (anonymous) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 00:25:39 in reply to Comment 67799

Thanks for posting these examples. When I saw the plan for the new building as this ultra modern confection in glass, I wanted to say: yes, fine, but can't you incorporate the old building too? The only example I could think of where this was successfully done was back in the old country:

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By z jones (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:23:42

Typical self loathing Hamilton. A university wouldn't dare pull this crap on a self respecting city. I mean there's a parking lot RIGHT NEXT DOOR that's also owned by the school board. Why the FREAKING HELL wouldn't they put phase 1 on the parking lot and look at putting phase 2 where the building is? Maybe by that time they'll have a tiny bit of imagination and will be able to figure out how to reuse the building. Maybe they could ask their colleagues in other universities how THEY did it.

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By JM (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:03:34

sigh..... can we have a municipal election now?!!? nevermind - they'll just get voted back in again. im surprised the citizens of our fair city have yet to understand WHY their taxes are so high.......... they just complain that they ARE.

we need a change... (huge change) one that was needed well over a decade ago!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:10:49 in reply to Comment 67802

we need a change... (huge change) one that was needed well over a decade ago!


Change can begin in the most obvious ways.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 21:48:45 in reply to Comment 67803

I'd attend, although I work late weeknights, so hopefully a session or two will be held on the weekend...

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By Sterling Argentum (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 14:33:50

We've finally found our magic bullet!

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By Beans (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 15:04:43 in reply to Comment 67811

I think you mean magic beans.....

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By duke raoul (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 15:39:30 in reply to Comment 67813

once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 16:53:50

Our finest hour? If that's true, then Hamilton has run out of time.

We give them $20,000,000 as a capital grant, which is the same amount they asked for earlier but for a larger project, some of which we have to borrow and pay interest on.

We pay them $27,000,000 in rent over 30-years at a rate that far exceeds what we pay now.

Mac has the same number of people working there as did the BOE for the past 45 years, perhaps the only difference being that they'll put in a chain coffee shop like they did at City Hall. Oh, the economic multiplier. I can smell the java from here.

They won't commit to Phase 2. Maybe. Maybe not. We'll have to wait and see.

We receive $0.00 in new taxes (just like the BOE, although we didn't pay them anything). Sure, this is gonna revitalize the downtown core.

Oh, but apparently this building will reduce the rate of teenage pregnancies. Huh? Maybe if we give them even more money and rent more space we can cure cancer too.

And this band of braniacs is going to keep taxes to 0% for each of the next 4 years. Service cuts anybody?

I don't know how many math classes Bratina and the other Councillors who voted yes for this deal missed in high school, but this is just plain stupid. Our finest hour? Holy moly. Brad Clark gets it. So does Brenda Johnson. The others must have bought into the "lovefest" hype Bratina's been spouting on CHML.

And don't get me started about heritage. OK, I got started. When Margaret Atwood comes to tour the Hamilton Library, let's be sure we take her over to see our Board of Education building before McMaster, Bob Bratina and the majority of City Council destroy it.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 17:07:11

That article was a little nauseating.

And how do you say no to an incubator for new vitality and energy in the heart of the city?

This city needs to give up on embracing notions which are neither definable nor measurable. Or in layman's terms, what in hell is that supposed to mean? The point here seems to be more about spending money and rebuilding buildings, and neither of those is terribly beneficial in and of themselves.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 18:27:54

I certainly agree with the views here that knocking down a perfectly good building surrounded by empty parking lots for blocks is one of the dumbest ideas ever. However, I seem to be in the minority in thinking that getting a Mac campus downtown is a good thing. Great, in fact. I've yet to visit or live in a booming North American city without a downtown university campus or three. I've wanted this for years. Plans are still in the works for a Mohawk-Mac campus collaboration downtown as well. If that were to come to fruition, our downtown would radically change for the better.
A sharp, smart intelligent friend of mine came here for Mac and then was lured to Boston for more education and the stunning career options available in that field. If not for the higher ed facilities in Boston, he'd still be here.
One of my favourite examples is Ithaca, NY. It would be worse than Brantford if not for Cornell and Ithaca College. As it is, this tiny town is more cultured and vibrant than most neighbourhoods in Hamilton.

The physical location of this project is baffling, but the fact it's happening excites me.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 03:56:40 in reply to Comment 67821

I agree with you that having Mac downtown will be a boon for the city. In Vancouver, for instance, which lacks a major university campus presence downtown, SFU's relatively tiny downtown footprint has done wonders for an otherwise fairly depressed area of the CBD adjacent to the east side.

Even a little finessing on this deal would have made it far more acceptable for most - for example, having having 'phase 2' set in stone, finding some way of saving or at least incorporating aspects of the educational building, having the city pay less to rent in the space it is after all (largely) paying to build, having the city lay out less cash upfront, or even having this coincide with some sort of reiteration of official support for LRT.

As it is, this deal isn't an out-and-out loss (and it is a very nice-looking building), but it's hard for me to get too excited about.

Comment edited by geoff's two cents on 2011-08-11 03:56:56

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 18:36:26 in reply to Comment 67821

Oh, and btw, don't get me started on 'phase 2'. I'm tired of the same old 'phase 2' schtick everytime a development/extortion deal is being proposed.

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By Imperial (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 21:26:47

Stellar Ryan. What in heaven's name is going on in this City?
We're willing to take a flyer on a $47M "investment" in tearing
down incredible buildings to replace them with glass boxes that
we'll fill with stuff from a few blocks away, that won't pay taxes,
that won't commit to phase 2 (the part we really need), and needs
us to tenant a significant portion of the project.

Monty, I think I'll take whatever is behind the curtain cause this
is just a dirty donkey of a deal. The corvette and winibaggo must
be back there this time.

Whenever I get upset about this stuff I just remember that we have
a beautiful waterfront park that's soon to be filled with interesting
nuggets from all these deals so our kids can remind us how screwed we


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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 21:52:40

Can I get $7 Million to park a french fry truck in Gore Park for the next 25 years if I promise only to serve "healthy" sweet potato fries (which will reduce the obesity rate in Hamilton) and potentially expand to a 5 star restaurant and condominium complex in the Connaught if the city builds LRT and I can get developers on board?

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By Ezaki Glico (anonymous) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 08:54:59

Hamilton: Our Future Is TBD, Our Past Is History

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 11:30:02

Ryan, I actually agree with you on this topic.

This whole MAC deal just stinks for the taxpayers and the downtown benefits are dubious. How can this city get ahead when we continue to fall for these subsidized development projects (i.e. Liuna Stn) that don't bring in any new investment? They just shift jobs and people from one part of dt to another while the taxpayers pick up the tab.

Another good example is the MAC innovation park. The city put $5 M into this. Does anyone know if we have acheived any new commercial/industrial assessment from this project? Just where are the hotels?

Ask yourself this question: Why would a private developer (who would pay commercial property tax - unlike Mac) want to construct some class A office space in dt Hamilton when they have to compete with subsidized projects that pay above market rents? Nobody would be able to make any money in this environment. Additionally because we are just shifing people from on location to another we are increasing the supple of office space and thus driving down the rates for everyone else - making it harder for them to profit on office space. The result? No new private investment and a deteriorating stock of unused office space i.e. abandoned buildings.

This is a big reason as to why our residential tax burden in this city is too high and why many don't want to do business dt.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 12, 2011 at 00:10:49 in reply to Comment 67858

Strangely enough, I agree with Capitalist on this one. Downtown is awash in unused office space. Why sink tens of millions into building more?

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