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  #561  
Old Posted Nov 27, 2008, 8:13 PM
markbarbera markbarbera is offline
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Hopefully this campaign will gather steam. 100 responses is not overly encouraging, but it is early days. The news article may help generate further interest, but the general feeling I am getting from the citizenry is indifference. I hope the generous benefactors that Eisenberger is courting come through fast. The clock is ticking down.
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  #562  
Old Posted Nov 27, 2008, 10:33 PM
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http://raisethehammer.org/index.asp?id=810

City Hall or City Mall? A Vision of Transformation for Our Core

Rather than spending exorbitant sums fixing up 71 Main Street West, the City can purchase City Centre and transform it into a downtown City Hall that immerses Council and staff in the city.


By Sean Burak
Nov. 26, 2008
Special Report: City Hall

It is becoming apparent that our City Hall controversy is to go on interminably until all of this generation is dead and buried.

--quip regarding the selection of a new city hall site, c.1950.

With recent focus aimed squarely at the materials cladding our city hall, perhaps it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate not only the building, but the location itself.

Until 1960, Hamilton's local government was housed in a majestic stone building, complete with a clock tower and bell. Completed in 1890, it was located on James Street North at King William in the heart of Hamilton's business district and, coincidentally, at the same spot where Council currently occupies its temporary office space.

After 60 years in service, our original City Hall was showing signs of age, and the site proved too small for expansion. A multi-year argument over its relocation resulted in the selection of the current Main Street West site, next to what was then the downtown public library. The old Hall was demolished to make way for the Eaton's department store.

The usual controversies over architecture and expenditures finally gave way to completion of our current City Hall, which began operating on the morning of Hallowe'en, 1960.

Since city hall opened, much has changed in our core, with many old buildings replaced by new:

* The Canada Trust Building (1963)
* The Board of Education (1967)
* Demolition of hundreds of homes and businesses to make way for phase one of Jackson Square (1967-1972)
* Hamilton Place (1973)
* The Century 21 building (1974)
* Our current library and market (1980)
* The Convention Centre and Ellen Fairclough building (1981)
* The Sheraton and Copps Coliseum (1985)

This three-decade building spree opened up many new spaces to businesses, but the massive size of each of these projects served to drive a physical wedge between the human-scaled business areas of downtown (King Street and James Street) and the centre of our civic government at 71 Main Street West.

According to geography, City Hall is located downtown, but in reality, the Main Street West site is seriously separated from the true core of Hamilton: the corner of King and James. It sits in the middle of a barren courtyard that never quite turned into the public space it was meant to be. Gore park has historically been the true public centre of Hamilton, and will continue to be no matter what improvements are made to the city hall forecourt.

It lies across five busy traffic lanes from the back side of Hamilton's business district. It takes less time to reach City Hall by car from the 403 than it does to walk there from Gore Park. Simply put, City Hall separates Council and staff from the core of Hamilton, both physically and emotionally.

Ample parking and easy vehicular access to 71 Main Street West encourages Councillors and staff to live on the outskirts of the city, take the highway in, occupy their offices for eight hours, and zoom back out. Each day, our public servants could perform their duties without ever visiting a downtown business, walking a downtown street, passing a downtown resident, or giving a thought to the true heart of our city.

Out of the minds of most staffers, is it surprising that our core has crumbled?

City Staff Return Downtown

Fate, luck, and a lack of maintenance over the years has brought us to a turning point. In July of 2007, city staff began the move to their temporary offices at City Centre (formerly Eaton's Centre, and before that, original City Hall). Since that move, we have seen a flurry of activity in downtown hamilton:

* City goes to court to uphold "Innovation Lands" zoning in attempt to keep big-box retail out of high quality employment site (December 2007)
* City secures deal with CANMET to move into the McMaster Innovation Park (January 2008)
* Plans for removal of buses from Gore; creation of downtown HSR terminal (mid-2008)
* Lister Block deal finally closes (July, 2008)
* VIA rail and enhanced GO service approved for downtown hamilton via a new James North rail platform (2008)
* Police vow to clean up the core, prosecuting 30 graffiti taggers to date (Autumn 2008)
* Council decides to unanimously endorse a bit for LRT (October, 2008)
* City buys the last remaining strip club in the core, to clean up and convert to housing (November, 2008)
* Completion of GO train storage at the Hunter station, allowing better rush hour service (Winter 2008)

After decades of steady decline, the core is sparking back to life. It is no accident that during the last year-and-a-half, City Councillors and staff have been housed in the City Centre - in the true heart of downtown Hamilton. Our public servants must now travel to the heart of our city to get to work.

They park a short walk from their offices, just like thousands of downtown workers. They interact with citizens on the streets. They patronize local businesses. They see firsthand the state of our city, and as a result they are starting to care for the downtown - something that has been long forgotten.

Make the Temporary Move Permanent

How can we maintain this momentum? We would all agree that our government cannot be housed in a mall forever, lest we become the laughing stock of the country. But City Centre does not have to be a mall. Rather than spending exorbitant sums fixing up 71 Main Street West, the City can purchase City Centre and perform some much-needed transformations there.

For starters, a grand stone facade could be built at the entrance across from King William. This could pay homage to our original City Hall, and the original clock and bell can be removed from the hokey Disneyesque tower at York, and moved to the new majestic tower freshly erected across from the Lister.

The rest of the building along James can be given a facelift, with ground floor street-facing retail space. This space could be offerred to current City Centre retailers at a discount, and would result in stretching the streetwall along James, linking the fresh activity of the arts district with the economic centre of the city.

From the street view, we would have transformed a bland, uninviting cement wall to a majestic City Hall entrance flanked by inviting retail spaces.

Inside, the building can be completely de-malled. On the upper levels, office space can be built up to the railing, with windows looking down to an atrium below. The lower level atrium can serve as public space, and all public service kiosks can be located there.

Converting City Centre into City Hall would carry some major benefits. The costs of renovation would be significantly lower than at Main Street. All city hall offices can be in the same location (including the ones slated to move to Lister, which would be directly across the street). Local businesses will continue to enjoy the benefits of hundreds of well paid workers within walking distance of their shops. A current blight on the James North streetwall will be renovated.

But most importantly, all City Councillors and staff will continue to be a part of downtown life daily, and this will be reflected in their attitudes and decisions, benefiting the entire city.

Adaptive Reuse for Current City Hall

But what of the current city hall? Rather than mothball or demolish it, the historical building can be passed on to another institution for a very fair price. It could be leased to McMaster University, which would enjoy the benefits of its grand spaces, surrounding courtyard, and even the ample parking.

In return, Mac would agree to maintain the historical features. McMaster's current downtown location (the courthouse) would be freed up. Rather than put it to waste, it could become Hamilton's equivalent to Union Station. Bus bays and an LRT station could be housed there, with a covered pedestrian link to the nearby Hunter Go terminal.

Spending huge dollars on renovating City Hall, and moving staff into the ivory (marble? limestone? concrete?) tower would represent a huge step backwards. We have moved forward into a time where the downtown has meaning again.

We cannot afford to empty out the City centre, remove our public servants from the heart of the city, and send them back to the suburban mentality fostered by 71 Main Street West over the past 50 years.
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  #563  
Old Posted Nov 27, 2008, 11:47 PM
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I'd be for it as long as an institution like McMaster or Hamilton Health Sciences used the old City Hall after and if the City Centre mall was completely overhauled on the exterior.
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  #564  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 12:20 AM
crhayes crhayes is offline
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I'd be for it as long as an institution like McMaster or Hamilton Health Sciences used the old City Hall after and if the City Centre mall was completely overhauled on the exterior.
Bob Bratina is endorsing the move to city center; it actually sounds like a good plan. There is a small blurb about is on www.bobbratina.ca that is pretty informative.

I think McMaster would be more competent in taking care of 71 Main anyways; there is no doubt in my mind MAC would restore the buildings glory. Would the current city hall building be large enough to be shared by McMaster and the HWDSB? In the end a solution like this may end up saving everyone money.

I think the big thing to note with this proposal is that the money saved should be put TOWARDS LRT. Move to the city center, save money, and put that in a fund for LRT that only betters our chances of us receiving it.

Last edited by crhayes; Nov 28, 2008 at 12:39 AM.
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  #565  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 12:58 AM
crhayes crhayes is offline
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Quote:
Hi Chris.
The deal is being made as we speak. There could be changes and likely another building involved and you should here more by next council meeting. Our savings would be in the order of 50 million dollars
Bob
________________________________________
From: Chris Hayes
To: Bratina, Bob
Sent: Thu Nov 27 19:28:45 2008
Subject: City Hall
Hello Bob,

I was wondering if you got a chance to read this (http://raisethehammer.org/index.asp?id=810) article in the latest edition of Raise The Hammer. I know you have been an advocate for moving city staff to Hamilton City Center, and I have to admit it seems like a solid plan. I am wondering if this option is still being discussed and if there is time to change our minds?

The savings that are anticipated from moving to Hamilton City Center rather than renovating the current city hall could then be put into a fund towards LRT. I think this is extremely important because it will show our city’s dedication to LRT and only better our chances.

Thank you,
Chris Hayes
I'm not sure if he means 'sealing the deal for city hall' or the deal of moving to another location. $50 mil towards LRT could be huge though.
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  #566  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 1:01 AM
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It's one thing to save money on purchasing buildings but it's another thing to upgrade the building for City Hall function.
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  #567  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 1:13 AM
markbarbera markbarbera is offline
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I cannot believe a permanent move into the old Eaton Centre mall could be seriously considered as an alternative to our current city hall. It simply doesn't make sense. While the idea of buying out and renovating City Centre may sound attractive at first blush, the expense of purchasing the property and then retrofitting it to house all city workers permanently would most likely surpass the cost of renovating the current location. This is especially true if adopting the suggestions contained within this commentary. Besides, renovations of City Hall are well underway. Expenses already dealt out to renovate our real City Hall would have to be added to the aforementioned expenses.

The bottom line is we already have a City Hall. It is a dignified building in a prestigious address. It is a heritage building universally admired by the architectual community and and a symbol of this city's civic pride. Why in God's name would we abandon it to adopt a mediocre 80's shopping mall? This really is a no-brainer.
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  #568  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 1:21 AM
Millstone Millstone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coalminecanary View Post
city mall stuff
Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes.

I visit Jackson Square and HCC every day and there seems to be more foot traffic always.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markbarbera View Post
The bottom line is we already have a City Hall. It is a dignified building in a prestigious address. It is a heritage building universally admired by the architectual community and and a symbol of this city's civic pride. Why in God's name would we abandon it to adopt a mediocre 80's shopping mall? This really is a no-brainer.
There is no difference in 'prestigiousness' between 77 James St. North and 71 Main St. West. I'd argue the James address is better.
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  #569  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 1:48 AM
crhayes crhayes is offline
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Originally Posted by markbarbera View Post
I cannot believe a permanent move into the old Eaton Centre mall could be seriously considered as an alternative to our current city hall. It simply doesn't make sense. While the idea of buying out and renovating City Centre may sound attractive at first blush, the expense of purchasing the property and then retrofitting it to house all city workers permanently would most likely surpass the cost of renovating the current location. This is especially true if adopting the suggestions contained within this commentary. Besides, renovations of City Hall are well underway. Expenses already dealt out to renovate our real City Hall would have to be added to the aforementioned expenses.

The bottom line is we already have a City Hall. It is a dignified building in a prestigious address. It is a heritage building universally admired by the architectual community and and a symbol of this city's civic pride. Why in God's name would we abandon it to adopt a mediocre 80's shopping mall? This really is a no-brainer.
The current city hall is half the size they require (200,000 sq ft and they require 400,000). City Center is 425,000 sq ft and could be purchased for around $3mil and the current city hall can be sold.

City Hall has to be renovated at a cost of $70-80mil. The lister block has to be renovated at a cost of around $25 mil and expands the sq footage to around 260,000 sq ft. That is already $100 mil and they still don't have enough sq footage.

Bob Bratina has obviously already worked the figures and come to the conclusion that around $50 million could be saved by moving to city center. Why wouldn't we? It is a nice building, and once renovated would be perfect. It is also right in the core and could really help spur development of York Blvd. Not only that, but if someone such as HHS or McMaster (or another credible organization) purchased 71 Main st. there is probably more of a chance that they will uphold the Heritage values of the building while renovating.

What is wrong with Hamilton City Center? The fact is the city will still have Roscoe's building, it's not like it's just going to disappear. Hamilton City Center could be retrofitted to be a really nice building. That $50 million in savings coud go a long way elsewhere, especially for a cause like LRT which is only going to attract more money to the city.
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  #570  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 2:05 AM
markbarbera markbarbera is offline
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In a word, it's ugly.

It is infinitely inferior architectually and aesthetically as compared to our current City Hall, even if it does end up reclad in concrete. It would be an amazing feat of architectual design to try to dress it up to a point where it looks like something other than a suburban mall trapped in the downtown core. And it never would approach the stature of our current city hall.

There is absolutley no outdoor public space surrounding it that comes remotely close to the amazing public square surrounding the current site. In short, there is no redeeming qualities surrounding it.
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  #571  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 2:09 AM
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There is absolutley no outdoor public space surrounding it that comes remotely close to the amazing public square surrounding the current site. In short, there is no redeeming qualities surrounding it.
Gore Park? Jackson Square? Places that people actually go to?
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  #572  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 2:16 AM
crhayes crhayes is offline
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Originally Posted by markbarbera View Post
In a word, it's ugly.

It is infinitely inferior architectually and aesthetically as compared to our current City Hall, even if it does end up reclad in concrete. It would be an amazing feat of architectual design to try to dress it up to a point where it looks like something other than a suburban mall trapped in the downtown core. And it never would approach the stature of our current city hall.

There is absolutley no outdoor public space surrounding it that comes remotely close to the amazing public square surrounding the current site. In short, there is no redeeming qualities surrounding it.
I think at this point it comes down to weighing pros and cons.

Pros of current City Hall
  • Architecturally significant
  • Nice Public space out front
Cons
  • Too small
  • Expensive renovations (and still too small)
  • Probably clad in concrete destroying the heritage touches
Pros of City Center
  • Save tons of money which could be put towards other uses (LRT?)
  • Right in the heart of downtown; potentially spur redevelopment or York Blvd. and further revitalizatation of King William
  • plenty big enough for current use
  • right across from the lister if they decide to use that space as well
  • sell city hall to reputable organization that CAN maintain heritage
Cons of City Center
  • No public square

I won't include "ugly" as a con of the City Center because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are plenty of people who don't appreciate city hall and find it "ugly".

I am sure they could renovate City Center to look nicer; something more like the Lister. Imagine they did something really nice with the intersection there at James and King William, like stamped concrete with a Hamilton Symbol or something cool like that.
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  #573  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 2:38 AM
bornagainbiking bornagainbiking is offline
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Public Square or upper deck

There is a huge under utilized patio or raised courtyard over Jackson Sq with stairwells off James/King William and another the corner of James and King. Not to mention should there be any big gathering they could use the lower food court and have all the other levels as huge balconies. Year round rain or shine. There is another small courtyard outside the Library. Small medium and large all within a short walk. If need be just block off the first block of King William.
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  #574  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 2:44 AM
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Aren't we just wasting energy on this? I be surprised if any councilor would support Bratina's motion.
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  #575  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 2:47 AM
crhayes crhayes is offline
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Aren't we just wasting energy on this? I be surprised if any councilor would support Bratina's motion.
I think we should still talk about it, it doesn't hurt. If people show support for it who knows what can happen.

As the buildings in the block of Rebecca-Wilson and James-Hughson becomes ever more decrepit they could be bought out and eventually turned into a big square opposite 'city hall'.
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  #576  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 3:10 AM
Bob Bratina Bob Bratina is offline
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As a matter of fact there are two buildings downtown under consideration.

Simply stated the City Hall renovation cost is about $375 a square foot, $416 for the Lister Block, and $110 for the City Centre. The other two combined are 260 thousand square feet, the City Centre is 475 thousand sq ft. If you add to that 10 to 15 million dollars for the sale of the City Hall property, and stipulate to the owner that all heritage attributes must be retained (we have a grant program to assist, and with the money saved could throw in a little more to retain the marble). As private property the site generates taxes, probably in the order of $1.5 to $2 million a year. So all in there is a net saving to tax-payers. Taxes are reduced. Get it? We'll know one way or the other before Christmas, but to carry on with our current plan in light of the current economy would be calamitous. We still have no idea of the final cost of renovating City Hall, so the $75 million used for these estimates could well rise to $100 million or more. To pay for this extravagance we will push ourselves to the debt wall, eliminating any possibility for LRT, and incapable of providing for some extreme unforseen situation. Staff are now evaluating the scenario I have outlined. The likely outcome should be very pleasing to Skyscraper readers.
Bob Bratina
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  #577  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 3:21 AM
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Personally I would love to see Lister Block renovated for City Hall function and have it connected with City Centre, that would be symbolic as well.

But I think it'll be a huge uphill battle to convince other councilors to support this idea. Best of luck though.
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  #578  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 3:22 AM
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Aren't we just wasting energy on this? I be surprised if any councilor would support Bratina's motion.
Put in terms of dollars and cents, they can be convinced.

This hinges on someone buying the old City Hall. There's no way that the city can afford to be stuck with that building sitting empty if they move into City Centre.
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  #579  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 3:25 AM
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I forgot what the estimates were for the lister block and what was the estimate for the city hall building renos?
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  #580  
Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 3:27 AM
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If money was an issue than council would have supported demolishing City Hall for a brand new City Hall. That would have been "fiscally prudent", that seems to be Whitehead's favourite word lately.
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