Hamilton residents can expect a preview in January of the next act for the storied Tivoli Theatre and the stack of condos that’s slated to spring up beside it, says a developer who’s spearheading the project.
Berardo Diamante, of Diamante Investments, which owns the Tivoli, said the firm is meeting with city staff in the middle of the month to pore over architects’ plans for the site. Armed with the city’s feedback, developers will put together an official announcement before the beginning of February, he said.
“January is going to tell us a lot and then we can start sharing a lot of other details,” said Diamante, son of company president Domenic Diamante. “I would like to have a rough mock-up of what the building will look like.”
The project, Diamante said, will restore the theatre, as well as build a condo tower beside it, and ground-level storefronts installed on the west side of the complex facing James Street North. Diamante hopes construction will be complete by mid-2015.
'We wanted to make sure we have all our I’s dotted and T’s crossed before we come forward.'—Berardo Diamante, Diamante Investments
Diamante wouldn't say how many storeys are planned for the condo or how much the project is expected to cost.
“What we’re thinking of doing could completely change [based on the city’s input],” he said. “We wanted to make sure we have all our I’s dotted and T’s crossed before we come forward.”
But Diamante stressed the revitalization of the Tivoli is central to the plan, and that the revival is at the heart of his father’s vision for the location.
“This is the signature last project that he’s doing,” Diamante said. “He wants to build something that he can look at and enjoy.”
Councillor Jason Farr, whose ward includes the downtown core, said he's looking forward to learning more about what the developers are planning.
“I hope for the best. It’s intensification. It’s something we need. It’s a great proximity to a lot of things, including [the new James Street North GO station that's scheduled to open in 2015]," he said. "I'm very encouraged that they're sitting down with staff."
In recent years, Diamante’s family has taken an active, sometimes mysterious role in rescuing the 89-year-old auditorium, which was last used as a functioning public theatre in 2004.
In the mid-2000s, Belma Gurdil-Diamante, Berardo’s mother, purchased the crumbling relic for the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble (CBYE), for which she serves as CEO. Toronto’s Sniderman family, of Sam the Record Man fame, sold it for $2.
But this act of mercy was only meant to be a temporary solution. The dance company could not keep up with the repairs necessary to maintain the Tivoli, and CBYE had to apply for tens of thousands of dollars to keep the theatre from falling apart.
As a result, in February 2013, her husband’s company bought the Tivoli from the CBYE for $900,000, and the family hinted at plans for a major redevelopment.
It wasn’t until September when banners advertising the “Tivoli Condos” appeared on the street-art-spangled exterior of the building.
"We are looking at marketing boutique-style condominiums at the site of the Tivoli," Monica O'Reilly said at the time. She's a brand strategist for Toolbox Strategies, which is overseeing marketing for the project.
The CBYE, which still uses the space, will play a major role in the redevelopment and the future operations of the theatre, Diamante said.
“We are planning to work with them to restore it and ultimately donate it back to the ballet,” he said.
Diamante noted he isn’t certain on the shape the partnership will take, but suggested the theatre might be treated as if it were another condo unit, whose owners would pay maintenance fees to the building’s management.
“We don’t know what it’s going to look like, "said Gary Santucci, a CBYE board member, "but we know that it’s going to be favourable."
A group of local community members is coalescing around the dance company to contribute to the redevelopment plans, added Santucci, who is a co-owner of the Landsdale theatre and art space The Pearl Company.
“We have the beginnings of something called the Tivoli Performing Arts Association. It’s still early days, but it’s moving forward.”
Farr said he's pleased the local arts community will have a significant role in reviving the Tivoli.
"I think there’s a lot of people that are going to appreciate hearing that," he said. "I’m certain that we, as a community and beyond, will get good use of that historic building."
The general consensus around the restoration of the theatre, which has received heritage designation under Ontario law, “is about returning it to what it was,” Santucci said.
'The plan is to keep it simple and get [the Tivoli] back to its former glory.”—Gary Santucci, board member, Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble
“It’s not going to be a full-blown modern theatre…I would say that the plan is to keep it simple and get it back to its former glory.”
The new Tivoli will serve as a venue for “concerts, films and other events,” he added.
Diamante envisions the refurbished theatre as a kind of showpiece that will woo prospective condo-buyers to move into the adjoining residential building.
He said the condos will “ideally” be ready for occupants by mid-2015, but noted the development team must prepare for delays — government red tape or community opposition, for example — that might be in store.
“Whatever it takes to get this damn thing going, we’re going to do it,” Diamante said.