ULI_Hamilton(1) Photo: James Bombales

Once known as Ontario’s gritty, working class steel town, Hamilton is now seeing signs of urban renewal with many new residential and commercial developments launching throughout the city. Accompanied by an influx of new residents with large numbers of young people and professionals attracted to the city’s heritage architecture and low cost real estate, Hamilton is being reinvigorated.

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) recently embarked on a tour of downtown Hamilton to explore the city’s urban renewal and experience the transformation first hand. ULI, an international non-profit organization, provides leadership in the responsible use of land and creating and sustaining thriving communities. The Toronto branch, which serves the City of Toronto, Greater Toronto Area and the Province of Ontario, organized the downtown Hamilton tour.

ULI_Hamilton(2) Photo: James Bombales

The first stop was at the historic Royal Connaught at King Street East and John Street South. The 100-year-old Edwardian hotel that once hosted prime ministers, royalty and Hollywood celebrities, is undergoing a major renovation and expansion. The hotel is being transformed into a mixed-use project which will eventually house over 700 units.

ULI_Hamilton(3) Photo: James Bombales

The next stop on the tour was at Radius, a restaurant, bar and entertainment venue housed in a converted heritage building on James Street South. The tour group enjoyed champagne and oysters while listening to Radius owner Paven Bratch’s thoughts on Hamilton’s revitalization.

“Hamilton was a grand city at one time, and I think it’s coming back,” said Bratch. “The city is growing and we have a lot of people coming from areas like Toronto, where I lived for 13 years, including many professionals in fields like healthcare and education.”

Conolly_Exterior2 The tour continued north towards downtown Hamilton, passing the site of The Connolly by Stanton Renaissance, one of Hamilton’s most unique projects. A mixed-use development, The Connolly will incorporate the facade of the historic James Street Baptist Church into a 30-storey, 259 suite condominium.

ULI_Hamilton(4) Photo: James Bombales

The group then reached the Empire Times Building on King William Street at Hughson Street South where Steve Kulakowsky of Core Urban Inc. spoke to the group about his company’s restoration of the 1890’s era structure. Home to the Hamilton Times newspaper from 1859 to 1920, the extensive renovations saw the historical building gutted to reveal exposed brick and ductwork. It’s now home to a FirstOntario Credit Union branch, collaborative professional workspaces and a rooftop deck with expansive views of the city.

ULI_Hamilton(5) Photo: James Bombales

Directly across the street from the Empire Times Building is another redevelopment project by Core Urban Inc. called The Templar Flats. It’s another example of Hamilton’s old infrastructure finding new life as residential and commercial spaces. This project involves the redevelopment of two existing buildings and construction of a new six-storey structure in between. When completed, the development will house 25 rental residences and a strip of new restaurants on the ground level.

ULI_Hamilton(6) Photo: James Bombales

Hamilton is also home to a vibrant art scene centred around the monthly James Street North Art Crawls and the annual SuperCrawl which now attracts over 150,000 people to the two-day event. Art Crawl founder Tim Potocic addressed the ULI crowd and expressed how important arts and culture is and what it brings to the city in terms of economic and community development.

The next stop was at The Seedworks building on Catherine Street, east of John Street North. Once home to the Tregunno Seeds store and warehouse, the Seedworks is an 1890s era brick and beam building that has been transformed into a bright and open co-working office space for startups.

CannonKnittingMills1 Photo: Jeff Tessier

We ended our tour at the historic Cannon Knitting Mills located just around the corner from The Seedworks at 134 Cannon Street East. With 110,000 square feet of vacant space, the former industrial site has a lot of potential for redevelopment.

“The Cannon Knitting Mills is a fantastic opportunity for the city,” said Glen Norton, Hamilton’s Manager of Urban Renewal. “Inviting the ULI’s membership into the space will hopefully spark their imagination, and get people thinking towards a viable future.”

Participants were invited to explore the space, network and listen to a panel of speakers from a variety of industries including the arts, fashion, food, design, development and technology. The panelists offered their own unique take on what the Canon Knitting Mills could be and included everything from fashion and art studios to residential spaces, cafes and hotels. This is definitely a development to watch!

Check out more photos below, and visit http://toronto.uli.org/events/ for more information on future ULI events.

ULI_Hamilton(7) Photo: James Bombales

ULI_Hamilton(8) Photo: James Bombales

CannonKnittingMills3 Photo: Jeff Tessier

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