McMaster buys 9 houses near campus for planned student residence

McMaster University has bought nine houses adjacent to its campus and plans to build a multi-storey project with room for up to 800 beds.

McMaster paid $9.5M for 9 homes a stone's throw from campus

Investors who assembled houses on the south side of Traymore Avenue to build a multi-storey student residence say McMaster University has bought 9 houses from them. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

McMaster University has bought a cluster of nine houses adjacent to the campus with plans to build a multi-storey student residence with room for 800 beds.

The university bought the parcel from Scholar Properties, investors who've been buying up properties in the leafy, residential neighbourhood in recent years. The investors have been planning to tear down the homes and build a mixed-use, multi-storey student residence there, CBC News reported last September

And McMaster has now paid $9.5 million for nine of the homes the group assembled, a total of 1.45 acres. 

The homes are directly south of a strip of land McMaster already owns along Main Street West. Combined, the two areas give it a large piece of property directly east of the campus.

McMaster said the land will give it room to build a multi-storey structure comprising up to 800 beds.

The university plans to "tier" the building with its highest height on Main Street West and lower heights toward Traymore in hopes of "creating interesting architectural elements, eliminating any shadows on area homes and reducing the impact on neighbours across the street."

A "very preliminary" rendering of a project planned for east of McMaster's campus. (McMaster University)

The building, which the university is developing with real estate company Knightstone, will be run as part of McMaster's student residence program.

"We've had positive meetings with neighbours and the neighbourhood associations as the project begins and look forward to working with the city as the planning phase continues," said university communications director Gord Arbeau.

'Pressing need ... for increased student residence space'

"The pressing need we have is for increased student residence space, because we think it leads to greater outcomes for students and allows the university to meet demand," Arbeau said in September.

"Without being on campus proper, it is close — very close — to campus."

The McMaster Children's Hospital towers over the end of Traymore Avenue, where investors have been buying up single-family homes with an eye on redeveloping the block as a student residence. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The investors had assembled 14 properties on Forsyth, Traymore and Dalewood – the length of the city block between the eastern edge of McMaster's campus and Dalewood Recreation Centre.

After selling nine to McMaster, they still own the other five, a cluster of houses on three-quarters of an acre right next to campus. 

The group may sell the remaining lands or develop themselves on that site, they said. 

"We always understood them to be the pick of the litter when it comes to the possibility of a residence," Ross said, "where we believe the most density is justifiable."

Ross said he still envisions a "purpose-built, mixed-use student/academic purposes" development on that corner. 

'The kind of student housing we like'

Ross started talking with the city more than a year ago about the project and a plan to request rezoning for as many as 15 "contiguous lots" at the corner of Main Street West and Forsyth Avenue South, according to emails obtained by CBC News under access to information.

The neighbourhood's single-family homes already house dozens of students, sometimes five or more to a house. Projects on the street would put students within close distance to an LRT stop.

The investors appear to make a hefty profit on the sale of the nine properties.

Ross declined to share purchase price details on the properties. But public land registry records show purchase prices for the homes on Traymore and Dalewood in the range of $600,000 to $750,000 each.

Gary Samuel, a Hamilton native and one of the investors, called the sale "a unique opportunity for McMaster" in a Scholar Properties announcement of the sale. 

Last fall, Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson referred to the idea of a denser, multi-storey project on the site as "the kind of student housing we like."