City council has voted to put more money into a loan program to make room for the Royal Connaught and five other downtown redevelopment projects it anticipates will need funding.
Councillors voted Wednesday to spend $200,000 to increase the amount of loan money available through the downtown multi-residential property investment program. This money, which pays for the increased interest cost, will boost the loan fund from $20 million to $35 million.
There are six projects that will likely ask for money in the next two or three months, and the city wants to be able to say yes, said Glen Norton, Hamilton's manager of urban renewal planning and economic development.
One of those projects is phase one of the Royal Connaught redevelopment project. Another is the Vrancor project at 150 Main St. E. Vrancor also received a $9-million city loan earlier this year.
Norton is hoping to see progress at the Royal Connaught, which was open from 1916 to 2004.
"We don't have an application for the Royal Connaught but everyone is very hopeful there will be," Norton said.
Norton cited six projects that he foresees asking for loans. He would only name three.
One is phase one of the Royal Connaught development, which involves transforming the shuttered hotel into condos. Applications are also expected for the Darko Vranich project and Options for Homes, a condominium project at the corner of Queen and King.
Council was initially going to commit $400,000 to the fund in the next budget. But after an hour-long debate Wednesday, the motion to commit half that narrowly passed 9-7 with a plan to consider the other half during the budget process in the spring. Those voting against it said the increase should have gone through the usual budget process.
Neil Everson, director of economic development and real estate, told council at the meeting that one developer applying for an investment of $4.5 million will likely be ready to apply within the next week.
In a separate interview, Norton told CBC Hamilton that the most imminent application is likely the Vranich one.
Everyone's eager to see the Connaught project move forward, Norton said.
"Beyond its actual financial impact, it's a visceral, emotional response for many people," he said. "So many of us have personal memories of doing things at the Connaught. A lot had high school graduation ceremonies there. A lot of people got married there. It occupies a big piece of downtown real estate in terms of its presence."
Coun. Jason Farr from Ward 2 wanted to give the whole amount ahead of the budget. There is good news on the horizon in terms of downtown development, he said, but he wouldn't elaborate.
"More cranes are coming soon," he said.
He does hope the Connaught comes to fruition soon.
"I would hope that would be one of the frontrunners in terms of funding."
Rudi Spallacci, a principal developer in the Royal Connaught project, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.