It's official: two out of three vacant units in the Lister Block are filled.

City councillors have approved signing a lease with local restauranteur Chris DesRoches for a restaurant in the corner space of the historic building.

DesRoches and 28 Lister Inc. will open a "1920s-1930s New York/Chicago style chop/grill house," city staff reported to the general issues committee Wednesday. The eatery will seat 120 and include a patio on King William Street.

DesRoches is a well-known business figure, said Coun. Jason Farr from Ward 2. 

"I don't think there's anybody out there who would say we're not truly looking good with the Lister," he said.

DesRoches ran La Costa restaurant from 1993 to 2005. He expanded the business to seven other locations.

The restaurant was one of four offers received for unit 106, said the report from Rom D'Angelo, director of facilities management and capital programs. The unit is 3,485-square feet with entrances off King William and James North. Rent is $4,222 per month, or $50,664 per year.

Three offers were received for unit 104, the 852-square foot future home of Mezza Caffe.

Unit 114, which is 452 square feet with no street access, still sits vacant. Given the new tenants, Farr said, "with 114, it's just a matter of time."

Located at 28-50 James St. N., the current Lister Block was built in 1923. It closed in 1995 and was seen as a symbol of downtown urban decay until the city renovated it. It reopened last year.

City offices occupy five of the floors, and the Hamilton, Halton, Brant Regional Tourism Association rents out ground floor space.

Money coming from reserves

The city will have to spend some money before the Lister is ready for the new tenants. The building needs $267,000 worth of ventilation, water, drainage and electrical work.

The city will take $125,000 set aside for an aggregate study. Some of that was related to recent battle with St. Marys Cement over a quarry in Flamborough, which ended earlier this month, said Tim McCabe, general manager of economic development.

Another $125,000 will come from a brownfield development fund, and $17,000 from the Lister Block operating budget.

While he's "relieved to see no 'for lease' sign in the window," Coun. Chad Collins questioned the use of funds from reserves.

"It jumps off the page when you look at what we're spending it on now," he said. "They're worlds apart in terms of subject matter.

Mezza Caffe readying for new spot

"We need a discussion around where we're at with these two funds."

As for Mezza Caffe, owner Luis Meza is anxious to open his new location. He's presented drawings to the city and is awaiting approval. Once that happens, he'd like to begin work "as soon as possible."

For the opening, "we're aiming at mid June if I'm very optimistic," he said.

He's happy to hear about the restaurant next door.

"As business owners invest in downtown Hamilton, it's going to benefit each and every business. It makes it a welcoming environment for people to consider."