Hamilton

Developer plans to rebuild Hamilton City Centre for 'urban intensification'

Darryl Firsten will soon be the new owner of the largest parcel of land in the heart of downtown Hamilton, which covers approximately 3.5 acres of land — he's got some big ideas for the future of the Hamilton City Centre.

IN8 Developments want to be part of the 'urban renewal'

The Hamilton City Centre was originally opened in 1990 by Cadillac Fairview. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Darryl Firsten will soon be the new owner of the largest parcel of land in the heart of downtown Hamilton, which covers approximately 3.5 acres of land — and he's got some big ideas for the future of the Hamilton City Centre.

Firsten is the president of Toronto-based IN8 Developments, the company behind urban revitalization projects in cities including Kitchener and Kingston. 

Hamilton is the next stop for the company. 

The developer — accompanied by Hamilton's director of economic development, Glen Norton — led a tour of the City Centre Tuesday afternoon to discuss their vision and ideas for the revitalization with the public. 

However, development plans are still very much up in the air, as the sale won't close until December and a provincial environmental assessment could take years. 

Small changes first

"This is day one pretty much, we're just in the process of acquiring the site right now," Firsten said. "The existing mall we'd deem to be stable ... so the first thing we'd like to do is help the existing mall."

The developer says that isn't the long-term vision, but in the interim they plan to "find some new tenants [to the City Centre], breathe some new life in and fix some stuff up."

But IN8 Developments does specialize in building condo towers — they're currently constructing a 40-storey high rise in downtown Kitchener, where Firsten says an "urban renewal" is taking place.

"We wanted to be a part of [the urban renewal] and we've learned a lot as we've gone. We've been very successful and we'll bring those lessons to Hamilton," he said.

"We do know that their vision is to take the centre right down, tear it down and in its place put up five different towers," Norton said, "creating a fairly intense living space, probably rental and sale units with commercial and some retail on the lower floors."

One possible plan for the City Centre, Firsten says, is to erect a "multi-tower site" of mixed-use buildings with a mix of residential and commercial space.

Build it and they will come

That "kind of vision is exciting," according to Norton, who sees an investment in new condos bringing more people, businesses, restaurants and shopping to downtown Hamilton.

"There's a reasonable chance [the development] will be a phased approach and with each tower we can add to the site," Firsten said, "that brings a lot of customers for the businesses that [will] operate there."

Norton says potentially creating hundreds of new downtown condo units supports what the city has said about "intensifying" while "using existing infrastructure" and it also supports the city's investment in transit. 

IN8 Developments says its first priority is to breathe some new life into the existing mall. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

It will also generate a decent amount of money for the city in taxes, as well as development charges, which is a "very good thing," Norton said.

When asked about the rising cost of living, Norton said Hamilton's market is different than Toronto's. 

"Most of the condos being sold [in Hamilton] are owner occupied or it's someone who has bought one extra unit as an investment and is renting it out," he said.

"The market sets its own level, but the more units you have built the less likely it is the price is going to escalate too fast." 

And for Norton's hope that more families will move downtown in subsequent years, prices will have to remain affordable.

now