Paul Wilson: Condos, groceries and history in downtown Hamilton - The Sequel

A stretch of 1800s buildings facing Gore Park could be gone by next summer. One of downtown's biggest developments ever is in the planning stages.
David Blanchard and partners want to tear down the Gore Park storefronts behind him next summer for a grocery store, parking and condo development. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

The developers who own a stretch of historic buildings that face the south side of Gore Park can’t predict the future yet. They’re not sure what they want to build, or what it’s going to look like.

But they are certain of one thing – they want a fresh canvas on their piece of King Street East and truly hope the wreckers can get to work on the first day of next June.

For years, developers Robert Miles, David Blanchard and partners have been assembling the pieces of the block bounded by King, James, Main and Hughson.

They now have all they need for a complex worth, by very rough estimate, $120 million.

News of their proposal appeared right here yesterday. They’re talking about a 60,000-square-foot-grocery or other retail, a parking facility and a condo tower.

The plans are rough at best right now. That's King Street East at the bottom. Turquoise represents a supermarket, pink a condo tower. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

They hope to incorporate the glass-walled 1954 Bank of Nova Scotia building into the design. But first they’ll have to come to an agreement with the bank on an alternate home in the core for the bank’s staff – now scattered about in several buildings owned by the developers.

Miles and Blanchard say the five storefronts on King East – some from the 1840s, but not designated under the Ontario Heritage Act – are beyond repair. They’ve told the tenants there to be out by May 31st.

At one of the old buildings to come down, the sign remains for the Hamilton Academy of Music. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

Meanwhile, they’ve had architect David Premi, who designed the award-winning library/market overhaul, to come up with some concepts.

Those are at the very earliest stage, just some coloured blocks where buildings older than Canada stand now.

Miles and Blanchard have worked together for many years and played a role in preserving some of city’s best old architecture. At Main and James, their company owns Bank of Montreal, SunLife/Pigott and the Landed Banking building.

From the rooftop of one of the old buildings on King, David Blanchard can see another of his company's holdings, the SunLife/Pigott complex. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

The pair admit to in-house squabbles. "If we agreed on everything, we’d be boring," Miles says. He seems ready to dismiss saving the facades on King. "You want the real answer, or you want us to fluff it?" he asks.

Blanchard seems more prepared to look at incorporating the historic fronts into whatever design they come up with. "I know all the heritage people. I knew there would be issues. I don’t know the costs." @PaulWilsonCBC


You can read more CBC Hamilton stories by Paul Wilson here.