Hamilton

2 proposals to renovate downtown entertainment facilities 'very much alive'

Hamilton city council won't say what its next move is on two large proposals to build a revamped downtown entertainment precinct, but one councillor says the proposals are still "very much alive."

Vrancor Group and Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group both have plans

The FirstOntario Centre as imagined by the Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group. (Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group)

Hamilton city council won't say what its next move is on two large proposals to build a revamped downtown entertainment precinct, but one councillor says the proposals are still "very much alive."

Councillors met behind closed doors for about four hours Wednesday, partly to discuss plans from Vrancor Group and the Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group. Both groups are pitching a revamped FirstOntario Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall and rebuilding or expanding the Hamilton Convention Centre, all of which are in a state of disrepair.

When council's general issues committee came back into open session, councillors didn't reveal any details about their hours-long discussion. But John-Paul Danko, the Ward 8 (west Mountain) councillor who chaired the meeting, said neither proposal is dead.

Vrancor wants to significantly revamp FirstOntario Centre and add two mid-rise office buildings. (Vrancor)
 

"We had two very good proposals," he said, "and I think the residents of Hamilton should be pretty optimistic about the outcome of that."

There is a third proposal, Danko said, but it's not as developed. However, "all viable proposals are being considered."

The discussion had to be in camera, he said, because the bids contain proprietary information that can jeopardize "the integrity of the process."

The Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group envisions three towers that include the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and moving the convention centre to part of Hamilton City Centre. (Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group)

Both teams presented their ideas Wednesday.

Vrancor Group, a prolific Hamilton development company owned by Darko Vranich, has a $200 million plan that includes significantly renovating FirstOntario Centre and adding two mid-rise office buildings. The seating capacity of the arena would be 15,400 seats, says Mario Frankovitch, Vrancor's project advisor, but architects have a plan to expand the capacity to the current 17,000 seats if it's needed at some point.

Vrancor also wants to expand the convention centre and renovate FirstOntario Concert Hall.

The Hamilton Convention Centre as envisioned by the Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group. (Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group)

Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group, meanwhile, has a more sweeping plan worth about $500 million. The group includes Carmen's Group, LiUNA, Fengate Capital, Meridian Credit Union, Paletta International, dpai architects and Jetport Inc., among others.

The group wants to significantly renovate FirstOntario Centre and keep its current seating capacity, as well as FirstOntario Concert Hall. It also wants to relocate the convention centre to part of Hamilton City Centre, and even proposes three high-rises that would include the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the convention centre, condos and commercial space. It even proposed two more possible towers at the corner of Bay Street and King Street East.

This rendering shows what Vrancor has in mind for FirstOntario Centre. (Vrancor)

Council recently rejected a proposal by Cadillac Fairview and Michael Andlauer, current owner of the Hamilton Bulldogs hockey team, for a 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall. 

Councillors who voted against it say the proposal would have required about $96 million in city dollars for a facility on land the city doesn't own.

The Vrancor and Hamilton Urban Precinct Arts and Entertainment Group proposals do not, so far, include any city money.

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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