Developer wants to build a multi-tower tech hub around Hamilton city hall

A group called Metro Partners Inc. wants to build two towers, a municipal high-rise, a three-storey podium and an urban plaza on city hall land. It even proposes a rooftop skating rink.

The plan even includes a rooftop skating rink

Metro Partners Inc. wants to build a technology hub around city hall that would include a buildings as tall as 24 storeys, and even a rooftop skating rink. (Metro Partners Inc.)

Hamilton city councillors say they're intrigued by a plan by Metro Partners Inc. to build a technology hub with two towers on city hall property, but they want to look for more options too.

The development collective, led by local entrepreneur Paven Bratch, wants to build on city hall's back parking lots at 71 Main St. W. He plans a 20-storey tower, a 24-storey tower, a three-storey podium around the buildings, and a 12-storey municipal building. Hamilton firm Lintack Architects would design.

City council's general issues committee likes the proposal so far, but councillors want to hear other ideas too. The city put out a call for expressions of interest for the land in 2016, and a year later, met with five proponents. City council heard about them, but didn't move ahead on them, said Jason Thorne, general manager of planning economic development. So the process stalled.

Bratch's team came on its own to councillors Wednesday, Thorne said. 

This image shows the current space around city hall. (Metro Partners Inc.)

Councillors were interested, but most wanted to look at the feasibility of the tech hub concept, so staff will report back on that later this year. 

"You've got a great team and certainly a great vision," Mayor Fred Eisenberger told Bratch. "I think the discussion will be how can we move forward."

Bratch was originally a co-owner of Radius Cafe. He also bought and eventually sold the Pasadena apartments, a historic building at 27 Bold St. that was nearly destroyed by fire. Bratch started the restoration process.

Another rendering of the Metro Partners project. (Metro Partners Inc.)

The tech hub plan includes two levels of parking, a wellness centre, a grocery store, a running track and even a rooftop skating rink. Bratch said there's enough demand for tech office space to warrant it.

"I'm extremely confident," he told councillors. "Not only am I confident, but there are key players involved in the majority of the leases in Toronto who are on our team. They are without a question confident."

Not everyone wanted to wait. Jason Farr, Ward 2 (downtown) councillor, was prepared to move that the city negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Metro Partners, contingent on the project including parking, green space, and green building design, and being compatible with city hall. As councillors expressed more hesitation, he changed the motion.

The Metro Partners includes an urban plaza and a 12-storey building the municipality could lease, says Paven Bratch. (Metro Partners Inc.)

"I don't see any financials here," said Coun. Judi Partridge of Ward 15 (Waterdown/Flamborough). "I don't see anything to back up what is before us."

Councillors were also worried about the concept of selling land to a developer, then leasing office space from it.

Thorne said the other four proponents "could potentially be interested. We haven't had follow up conversations with them."

As for Metro Partners, "I appreciate them coming in," Eisenberger said, "and inspiring the thought process around what happens at the rear of our city hall."

The plan is limited to the surface lots around city hall and doesn't impact nearby heritage buildings.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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