Tivoli 22-storey condo tower approved unanimously

City council unanimously approved the proposal for a 22-storey condo tower on the site of the Tivoli Theatre on James Street North on Tuesday -- but there are conditions.

Special council meeting approves condo tower at 22-storeys, with conditions

The planned public meeting on March 3 on the Tivoli condos was delayed so that ward councillor Jason Farr could undertake community consultation. He will bring back a compromise Tuesday. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

City council unanimously approved the proposal for a 22-storey condo tower on the site of the Tivoli Theatre on James Street North on Tuesday.

But there are conditions.

Under a modified comprise proposal, the city will require developers to put the structure on a five-storey podium, and position the tower portion of the condo a further step back from the street.

But in terms of height, no concessions were made.

And the theatre must open first before the condos. 

"I'm happy that it went through," said the building's developer Dominic Diamante. "It's a step forward."

A rendering of the 22-storey Tivoli condo tower. (tivolicondos.ca)
Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr said the motion, which passed through planning committee and a special council meeting unanimously Tuesday, "meets in the middle."

BNA says building size is 'incompatable' with neighbourhood

City staff recommended planning committee deny the previous Tivoli application, which was up against a 120-day deadline and set to expire April 1. If council did not address the issue Tuesday, the Tivoli developers could have forced a decision through the Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

Instead, Farr was congratulated by council for finding some middle ground, including appeasing some of the concerns from the Beasley Neighbourhood Association (BNA). Alison Chewter of the BNA said the Tivoli tower would be "incompatible" with the existing neighbourhood.

Chewter said the BNA accepted the larger podium, which was increased from three to five storeys, and was looking for a greater step back of the tower. The current drawings have the tower two metres away from the face of the podium, how far back it can be moved is still up for debate.

City of Hamilton planner Edward John said to be a meaningful step back from the street, it would need to be larger than the current drawings, but the larger the better.

City still has final approval

Diamante said he and his team will head back to their offices, which are on James St. N, Tuesday afternoon to begin looking at possible solutions.

Any future plan would still need approval by the city's Development Review Panel, and is contingent on the theatre being restored.

It keeps the city still in the position to approve the final building. The Tivoli Theatre restoration is the primary part of the approval, which will cost upwards of $5-million according to estimates by Diamante's consultants. The condos are contingent on the theatre, a fact which appeared to sway some councillors.

'As these buildings sit, they start to crumble'

Ward 10 Coun. Maria Pearson, who sits on the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee (HMHC), said nothing restorative has happened at Tivoli location in more than a decade since one of the walls collapsed in 2004.

"As these buildings sit, they start to crumble," Pearson said.

Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins added, "10 to 15 years ago we would have rolled out the red carpet on (a project like) this."

And Ward 9 Coun. Doug Conley added, "This is a way of proving we're really open for business."

In addition to the motion from Farr, letters of support and opposition of the project were submitted, with letters of support outnumbering its opposition 33 to 22, according to Farr.

"While I am all for the further development and improvement of the James Street North area," writes Craig Williams, who described himself as a Ward 2 resident, "I do not believe it is in Hamilton's best interest to go down the path Toronto has chosen and authorize big, green glass condo towers to anyone who walks in with a checkbook."

Anita Finnerty wrote in support of the motion, saying that it is "long overdue for the Northern portion of Hamilton. I believe that the building symbolizes both heritage and cultural conservation, and will greatly improve the economics of the downtown."

Farr's motion does not include an increase to parking, but rather a provision for a minimum amount of parking. The original plan included 52 parking spots in a stacker, as well as 17 surface spots for a total of 69 — well above the 0.5 spots for every residential unit (a minimum of 53 spots). 

It also includes a provision that the condo portion density and permission are different from the theatre density and permission — a possible further protection to ensure the Tivoli is restored and not later developed if deemed beyond repair.

Background of the Tivoli Theatre:

The Tivoli Theatre is 140 years old. Diamante Holdings, owned by Domenic Diamante, bought the theatre for $900,000 last February. He purchased it from the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble (CBYE), whose CEO is Belma Diamante, Domenic's wife.

The CBYE bought the theatre in 2004 from the Sniderman family, of Sam the Record Man fame, for $2. In June of that year, while the Snidermans still owned the Tivoli, a south-facing wall collapsed inside the building, pushing debris through an exterior wall.

The last time the Tivoli was in use was between 1998 and 2004, when the Snidermans rented the Tivoli to a local theatre company, the Tivoli Renaissance Project.

Later in 2004, the city spent $300,000 to demolish the front portion of the building, which included the original facade that faced James Street North, as well as the long lobby leading into the theatre and the washrooms.

The city granted the CBYE $75,455 in 2009 for building stabilization and heating improvements. It also gave the owners $20,000 in 2008 for a heritage feasibility study to identify potential uses for the property and gauge community interest in the building's restoration. City council also approved a $50,000 interest-free loan — since repaid — to retrofit the theatre's roof in December 2009. 


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