Construction of the largest new commecial development in decades on James Street North is set to begin.

On Thursday afternoon, crews cordoned off a former parking lot at the corner James North and Vine to prepare for the construction of new 36,000 sq. foot, three-storey office building.

"We should be in the ground on the 17th of June and should be ready for occupancy in April, May or June of next year," said Jack Beume, the developer for the $10-million project.

The building, he said, will have offices on the top two floors and retail on street level.

"We have 50 per cent of space pre-leased with strong interest for the rest," he told CBC Hamilton.

Beume wouldn't reveal the tenants he's secured, but said "the people involved in this project are Hamilton-driven and are dedicated to the revitalization of James Street."

The development, he added, will include 53 underground parking spaces and 22 more on the surface level.

Renderings of the project show red brick walls consistent will the early-20th Century buildings in its surroundings. The glass cylinder planned for the corner of James and Vine shows decidedly more modern flair.

"To the best of our ability, we're trying to replicate the streetscape," said John DiSimone, an architect with Lintack, the company that designed the project. "And we're trying to continue the James Street feel."

'Positive' change

James Street North has undergone a major transformation during the past decade, driven heavily by an influx of artists and new small businesses. However, most of redevelopment has involved the refurbishing of old buildings and not the construction of new ones.

"I'm excited to see any development around here," said Jane Labatte, co-owner of White Elephant, a vintage clothing shop located just metres north of the contruction site.

She said she's anxious to see what businesses end up will occupying the space.

"I hope they're responsible developments."

"I think it's very positive for street because there hasn't been any major development since the Hamilton Eaton Centre," said Robert Keleti, who owns Hamilton Jewellers, invoking the three-storey mall that was built on James North in 1990.

"It's a vote of confidence for the area."