'Wonderful Potential' for Cannon Knitting Mills

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 01, 2012

This week, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) voted to shut down the downtown headquarters task force just three weeks before it was supposed to present a recommendation to Board trustees. The recommendation they decided not to wait for was a new centre at the Cannon Knitting Mills at the corner of Cannon and Mary Streets, next to Dr. J. Edgar Davey Public School and Beasley Park.

Through the Hamilton Realty Capital Corporation, the City has been working with Forum Equity, a Toronto-based real estate development corporation, on a financial plan to redevelop the site, and the HWDSB head office would have been an excellent fit.

City Councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie, who proposed the task force back in February, had high hopes that the site would actually come in at a lower overall cost than the Board's plan to move to the Crestwood School site near Lime Ridge Mall.

In an email to RTH, McHattie noted that the Board voted to discontinue the task force "despire earlier discussions allowing us until June 18 to finalize a business plan which they could then compare to their existing Crestwood business plan." He added:

We believe that is very unfortunate as the Cannon Knitting Mill plan was expected to come in at a lower capital cost than the Crestwood site with significant benefits: restoration of historic building; cleanup of a brownfield site, keynote School Board HQ beside their vaunted Dr Davy School, spurring on redevelopment in the Beasley neighbourhood, with possible expansion to Beasley Park, etc.

Under the proposed plan, "The Board would have owned most of the building outright, sold to them by the Realty Corp following the redevelopment. The building was slightly larger than they needed so we would have retained a small component of the building for another but compatible use (ie. café)."

Farr believes their work on the Cannon Knitting Mills proposal "revealed wonderful potential for the site and the neighbourhood" and that "the steady momentum of revitalization in our core will soon reach a company that will see great value in the CKM site on many levels and Dr. Davey and Beasley families will be most welcoming."

With hundreds of new condo units and other intensification projects driving an urban revival, Farr muses, "some of those six trustees [who voted to discontinue the task force] will be kicking themselves for missing out on being part of something very special and progressive."

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 H+H (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 07:36:24

It's all so disappointing. Deeply.

Having said that, I really take my hat off to Councillors Farr and McHattie for their tenacity and for their vision. I know they didn't do all of this without the help from City staff, but they were the ones who stuck their political necks out and tried to do what was best for most. Too bad 6 Trustees (Johnstone, Bishop, Barlow, Brennan, Mulholland, Hicks) on the HWDSB didn't see it the same way.

Now Board Chair Tim Simmons is saying the Crestwood site is the centre of the universe (see Spectator article).

Who knew? As in, who knew such idiocy would come from the mouthes of people entrusted with the education of our kids?

Comment edited by H+H on 2012-06-01 08:04:14

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 08:12:39

I've asked this elsewhere, but I'll post here as well because God, don't you just love crowdsourcing when it comes to information? (Googling has not been kind to me this morning.)

"Any idea of a) what the *declared* square-footage requirements are for the HWDSB headquarters, and b) what the Cannon Knitting Mills’ capacity is?"

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By rednic (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 08:59:50 in reply to Comment 77712

When it was on MLS the knitting mills was 110,000 sq feet (approx)

~660 000 was the listing price if your interested

Comment edited by rednic on 2012-06-01 09:01:51

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:10:30 in reply to Comment 77716

Thanks kindly for this.

I found a Spec article that contained this:

"Preliminary designs for the $31.6-million headquarters call for a 2.5-storey, 113,500 square foot building, but other elements, including location on the property and the number of parking spaces, remain to be determined."

But I thought that it was requirement to consolidate not just the staffing, but also the maintenance aspects of the Board. Was there anything thrown around about this, concerning the Cannon Knitting Mills site?

Oh, and because there sure seems to be some 'blurriness' going on about what's unfolded re: this property:

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:51:40 in reply to Comment 77720

I don't believe ther is any requirement to consolidate staffing and maintenance, that was more of a "wish" than a requirement.

I believe Maintenance is currently located out of Crestwood.

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By CouldaShouldaWoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 20:38:55 in reply to Comment 77815

"I don't believe ther is any requirement to consolidate staffing and maintenance, that was more of a "wish" than a requirement."

While I appreciate your sentiment, this points up what most concerns me about this situation. Not the 'dispicable behaviour' of the Board, resulting in at least two facebook pages to get the trustees from Wards 1, 2 and 3 'ousted', nor the inferences drawn from taking the headquarters out of the downtown. But the disconnect from that old gem from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the US:

"You're entitled to your own opinion. But you're not entitled to your own facts."

It's a shame that hectoring takes the place of sound examination when something like this (what is labeled as an egregious transgression, a certifiable crime) unfolds.

I hope that at some point we find a teeny-tiny space to get past the 'Us vs Them' loop and find some facts we can actually agree on.

(As for the 'wish': I guess if you're going to see things that way, then you could label everything the Board has set out to do this way. My impression all along as been that they -as many Boards across the province have been doing in order to fulful their feduciary responsibilities to their 'bosses', the Ministry of Edcuation- have intended to consolidate both staffing and maintenance in one facility. So again, 'More facts, please.')

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 22:33:32 in reply to Comment 77843

The 'facts' are that there have been conflicting statements and reports coming out of the board on the need to include the maintenance facilities in the consolidation of non-instructional facilities, so Robert is quite correct to be circumspect.

I agree we need more facts. From the board.

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By Enviroman (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:08:51

The site is so contaminated that it will take 5-10 years and many EA applications to get approvals to do anything there. The School Board AND the city know this. So let's be truthful.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:50:51 in reply to Comment 77773

Contaminated with what exactly?

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By good point (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:55:31 in reply to Comment 77773

Yeah, it's too much effort to remove all that contamination. What a terrible unintended consequence that spending public money would remove toxic waste from the poorest neighbourhood in Hamilton.

Those kids that play in the park beside it shouldn't enter into the Board of Ed's decision making priorities.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:24:36

So I get the impression that there may have been sufficient office space in the location.

I hate to bring up a(nother) toxic issue, but what about all the requested/required parking? Were there any suggestions as to where all that was going to be facilitated?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 19:30:34 in reply to Comment 77811

Not being familiar with the area, I flew around in googlemaps...

What about the lots at the corner of Mary and Wilson - they're only a block away. They look like they could accomodate parking.

Alternatively looks to be a park behind the knitting mills...I guess we could pave over that greenspace, since that's roughly what they're going to do on Crestwood anyways... (this paragraph is meant to be read with sarcasm).

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By transportation plan (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 19:23:25

Its actually more about an overall deficiency of all modes of transportation that needed to be overcome on this site. Parking is virtually non existent in the area, transit riders require transfers to a route with inferior service times and short of a major redesign of the street which everyone here is pushing for but is far from certain cycling and walking are far less than ideal. Ultimately the lack of parking for even a small percentage of workers or visitors may have been insurmountable but with the board walking away prematurely we'll never know

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By just wait (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 00:22:32

The first thing that popped up into my mind is that once they move up the mountain just wait till you get the extra congestion on both Upper Wentworth and the Linc especially during the evning rush when the Linc going westbound bunches significantly from 4:30 till about 6pm. Add another 200-300 cars.

Too bad they are leaving downtown but hey atleast in this case we have what I think will end up being an even better group taking over. Imaging if the proerty was going to sit vacant for years.

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By Riposte (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2012 at 13:47:20

Too bad the private sector doesn't see value in investing in buildings like the Knitting Mills, I guess.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2012 at 14:37:28

I don't think the school board stooges would be interested in ANY dt location.

Do you guys ever get the feeling that they want to move to the mountain just so they don't have to pay for parking anymore?

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