Public Works Yard Works as Great Public Place

By Jason Leach
Published February 14, 2013

Our current public works yard is on Barton Street West near Bay Street. Central Park is right behind it, and new development land is right across the street.

Instead of demolishing this building in the usual Hamilton way, why not repurpose it with some creative, cool industries?

For comparison check out this coffee roaster, cafe, coffee education centre and bike shop in California:

Verve Coffee Roasters (Image Credit: Architectural Record)
Verve Coffee Roasters (Image Credit: Architectural Record)

Be sure to check out their slide show - lots of great photos of the facility, inside and out.

Let's cobblestone Barton Street through this stretch and make sure that the new development across the street faces the street with ground-floor stores, patios and street-level activity.

We can also do intersting things with the back of the Public Works property:

Imagine if we cobblestone the back of the building and open it up with more patio/dining/public space as an extension of Central Park. That would be something exciting that would attract more people to choose our city as a creative, positive place to live.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 10:18:41

Coffee makes everything better!

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 22:37:53 in reply to Comment 86281


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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 10:33:43

Oh that looks nice so how about my neak of the wood Cumberland and beteen Sanford and Burris the life saver plant make it into a gym of some sort for the naybor hood around there

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 11:55:05

"Instead of demolishing this building in the usual Hamilton way, why not repurpose it with some creative, cool industries?"

Jason, you make it all sound so easy! Are you prepared to risk your own capital to bring these "cool industries" to town?

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By Sad (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2013 at 00:28:18 in reply to Comment 86286

I'm kinda sad that this down voted.
It's a valid observation.

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By Real Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 12:05:17 in reply to Comment 86286

Screw that crap, your dismissal is as superficial as you accuse Jason of being. Other cities manage to do it and it's because they don't listen to squelchers that every city has that make excuses about how hard it is to restore a building.

Lots of old buildings right in Hamilton, right around the PW building on Barton, are being converted instead of demolished right now. All it takes is a bit of vision to see the potential in good old buildings. And it's not charity of socialism, it's good business, it pays well. Capitalism is supposed to be about investing in value.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 12:37:12

I'm no building expert, but I'm pretty sure the cost to 'restore' metal warehouses isn't akin to the Lister Block. Check the photo tour I linked to from California - open, exposed beams, insulation on the interior of the roof, concrete floors etc.... this is pretty bare bones folks.
The vision is simply something I'm offering as an alternative to our usual program of demolishing and then trying to build the cheapest thing possible from scratch. This restoration concept wouldn't be overly expensive at all.

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By billn (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 13:29:18

The PW building has an interesting material on the main floor: small hardwood blocks laid like paving stones.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 13:32:25 in reply to Comment 86299

Wow...great to know. I've never seen any photos of the inside. Do you have any, or know of anyone with some pics?

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By mikeyj (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 14:19:20

Personally, I'm always confused whether posts like this imply that the City of Hamilton should be restoring, or they're simply pointing out the potential to local private interests.

Also, what is the context of this post? Has the City expressed interest in demolishing this site?

I know that it was to be declared surplus at different points, possibly for use for Pan Am -but as far as I know there are still staff working there from PW & Public Health.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 15:16:49

Sorry, my bad - yea, just making a suggestion for the future of the site because as far as I know, the city plans to demolish it as part of the Setting Sail redevelopment plan. Perhaps that has changed though? I've heard no new news on that front.

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By MikeyJ (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 16:34:25

Yeah, I can't even figure out how old the building is:

The MPAC "Created" year of the 125 Barton property is 1979, but an environmental assessment there only states property, didn't exist there "before 1945", and a similar sized building being there in aerial photography in 1954.

Some points from what I found (your right about setting sail plan):

2012 - Public Health Services have non-clinical services (in a 700 sq ft portion of site) that could be moving to McMaster Downtown Health Campus

2010 - The property seemed to be pegged for Pan Am related use, there was also environmental concerns brought up by Matt Jelly after assessments done in 2009

May 2010:

"(g) That the City-owned real property assets property located at 125 Barton Street comprising an area of approximately 4.46 acres, which includes a storage warehouse (56,401 square feet) and a shop (10,113 square feet), be identified as surplus for the needs of the Public Works Department and that the real property be recognized as a strategic asset either for Pan Am-related development or other re- development opportunities in general, and that any proposed future use of this property be brought back to the appropriate Committee for consideration in accordance with existing policies."

Apr 2010:

"Market Value Assessment of 125 Barton (To be used for Pan Am Games) $1,000,000(revenue)"

"The 5-Yr Capital Requirements of 125 Barton: $2,156,952(avoidance)"

Setting Sail 2005:

"A. The City shall seek to relocate the Public Works facilities on Barton Street and Bay Street to allow the expansion, reconfiguration and improvement of Central Park. The adaptive re-use of all or a portion of the Barton Street Works building for recreational or other public uses shall be considered prior to demolition.

A. Subject to the relocation of the affected Public Works facilities, the City shall undertake to expand, reconfigure and improve Central Park as schematically shown on Schedule “M-2”. Any surplus lands created from the expansion and not required for street extensions may be sold for private residential development."

Higher quality 125 Barton St W image

Comment edited by MikeyJ on 2013-02-14 16:38:59

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 16:46:20 in reply to Comment 86326

fantastic find!! I'm amazed and pleased to see they are recommending exploring it's re-use before demolition.

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