Marie Robbins imagines it this way:
You get off the GO train at the new James North station and cross the street, and you grab a coffee at a cute little coffee shop. Or you hop in a car you’re borrowing through an auto-share program. Or maybe, if you’re a commuter who owns one of the condos there, you just go home.
That’s the plan for one of the first developments in the works to take advantage of the new GO station at 353 James St. N. planned for 2015.
Robbins and her husband Doug, long-time business owners and James North boosters, are in the beginning stages of a multi-million-dollar development at the corner of Stuart and MacNab, right across from the new $44-million GO station.
It’s an area of Hamilton that hasn’t always gotten a lot of love, but the GO station is poised to change all that, said Glen Norton, the city’s manager of downtown urban renewal.
“It will definitely be a catalyst,” he said.
The Robbins development isn’t a direct result of the GO station, said Marie Robbins. They got the idea when they saw nearby Witton Lofts on Murray Street — another development that merges new design with a historic building.
Doug owns the mergers and acquisitions company Robbinex, and its offices are located in 41 Stuart St., the former Dorion Vinegar Works building that dates back to at least the 1850s.
He and Marie are in the preliminary stages of a development that would include offices in the old building, along with a rooftop garden. It would be merged with an atrium and roughly six-storey building that includes indoor parking, condos and commercial space.
They’ve had numerous meetings with city officials, hammering out issues such as height and what surveys have to be completed, said Marie, who registered Monday to run for council for Ward 9.
Three years before project is likely to be ready
When that’s complete, she said, they’ll hire an architect.
“As much as we’re so excited and have so many ideas, we are at the preliminary stages.”
Doug and Marie Robbins were early boosters of James North. Doug was the founding chair of the now-defunct Jamesville Business Improvement Area, which collapsed in the early 1990s. Marie, the former owner of a chain of flower shops from Stoney Creek to Brantford, was the founding treasurer.
The James North area, she said, “has grown and changed and become so dynamic.”
Marie estimates it’ll be about three years before the project is completed.
The city is studying the future impact of the GO station on the James North area, and looking at how it can spur related growth, Norton said.
It’s hard to say if any recent projects have been inspired by the GO station, he said. But he expects some will in the future.
“Certainly people are not blind to the opportunities that a GO station creates,” he said.
Hamilton already has a GO station on Hunter Street. The new station will bring two or more commuter trains in and out of Hamilton per day, and have an attached parking complex for 300 vehicles.
Stage one of the project is scheduled to be completed by the July 2015 Pan Am Games.