The Lister Block could have an additional ground floor tenant as early as next month if council approves a bid by a local café to inhabit one of the vacant spaces.
City staff has deemed a Hamilton coffee shop a good fit to rent out 852 square feet of the historic building, said Rom D'Angelo, Hamilton's manager of corporate buildings and technical services. Council will vote on the proposal on Feb. 6.
'The redevelopment of the Lister Block sent a symbolic message to the business community. Having private sector tenants in there will build confidence as well. —David Adames, CEO, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
While D'Angelo wouldn't name the café, he said it was a company that already runs a Hamilton business, and owns businesses internationally as well.
"We're quite confident in their presence there based on their business plan and how they have set up in the other location," he said.
Three businesses bid to rent out the medium-sized ground-floor space. Four have bid on the 3,485-square foot corner area with entrances off King William and James North. The city is negotiating with a prospective tenant for that area too, D'Angelo said.
There is also a small 455-square foot space that does not front the street. There is an interested party, but the city has not yet seen a business plan, he said.
Mezza Café was one of the bidders on the 852-square foot space that is subject to next month's council vote. Luis Meza and his family own the Ancaster business. Meza also owns a business in Venezuela.
Meza isn't sure whether he is the favoured tenant, he told CBC Hamilton on Wednesday. But he hopes he is.
'I see Hamilton as a city of potential'
"I see Hamilton as a city of potential," said Meza, who opened his Ancaster shop in 2011. "Hamilton deserves good quality businesses and opportunities.
"Maybe coffee and art are the new steel in Hamilton."
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.
A full Lister Block would mean a lot for the downtown, said David Adames, CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
"The redevelopment of the Lister Block sent a symbolic message to the business community," he said. "Having private sector tenants in there will build confidence as well."
Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2 said many councillors are anxious to see the February report. He hopes there is no issue with moving the tenant into the building.
It's overdue, he said.
"Not only will council have the opportunity to hear about the café and what it will offer to the area, but also ask 'What the heck is taking so long?'" Farr said in an email. "I have never failed to pass along what has become a consistent inquiry from residents: 'why are there no shops in it yet?'"
The city has been looking for just the right tenant, D'Angelo said. It hired a real estate marketer to help.
It needed reliable and responsible businesses that would maintain the character of the building, he said. Each interested party has to submit a business plan.
The process, he said, has been "a little bit of a learning curve for us."