Category Archives: Economy

To be or not to be? That is the question for Tivoli Theatre

The Tivoli Theatre could be the latest piece to the James Street North revitalization puzzle, after rumours of a possible buyer for the dormant theatre have surfaced.

Belma Diamante, CEO of the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, bought the theatre for just one dollar in 2004 (when the theatre was already closed) from the Sniderman family – after a wall collapsed on the south side of the building – and the theatre has been closed ever since.

Earlier this week, Diamante has revealed that there is a serious buyer but she has not disclosed who it is.

Tivoli Theatre, Circa 1947 (Photo Courtesy: Archive of Ontario)

Built in stages from 1875 to 1924, the Tivoli Theatre was originally a carriage factory and in 1924 it became a vaudeville venue and movie house. Later, in 1995 it became a venue for live stage until it was closed in 2004.

After the theatre was closed, the city spent over $300,000 to demolish much of the front of the building, including the façade. There have also been some contributions in the form of grants for building stabilization and heating improvements.

“The old auditorium has been empty for a number of years” said Mark Wilson, a member of the Head-of-the-Lake Historical Society who wrote about the history of Tivoli Theatre in the book Vanished Hamilton IV. “To revamp it, it’s going to be huge, huge money.”

Jason Farr, Ward 2 Councilor, says that a renovated Tivoli would further help with the James Street revival and there are numerous grants for which the potential buyer could apply.

“Whomever the purchaser is, if they’re not aware, there is a number of incentives for them,” said Farr.

The buyer could apply for CIT (Communities In Transition) grants, as well as heritage grants (the theatre is on the “Top Ten Most Endangered” list on Heritage Canada’s website).

“Whether it’s live music, or stage venues, or Die Hard, I have some very fond memories [in Tivoli Theatre] and I think a lot of Hamiltonians do too and to hear that there’s some progressive movements afoot is music to my ears,” said Farr.

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Controversy on the waterfront?

Hamilton’s City Council now wants to discuss the possibility that Burlington pay more rent for LaSalle Park.

La Salle Park is a 56-acre piece of waterfront property on Burlington’s lakeshore that is operated and maintained by the City of Burlington, but owned by the City of Hamilton.

The Park consists of two banquet halls, a marina, waterfront trail, and sports fields.

Geraldo’s Banquet and Conference Facility at LaSalle Park

The City of Hamilton is receiving one dollar a year from the City of Burlington under the current agreement that was signed in 1983. The deal is set to expire in 10 years time.

Hamilton’s council voted Tuesday for the Greater Bay Area Subcommittee – a committee consisting of members from both Hamilton and Burlington’s City Council – to begin discussions on the LaSalle Park agreement and to establish a “fair market value” lease.

Ward 4 Hamilton Councilor Sam Merulla moved the motion on Tuesday.

“You have your banquet centre there, as well as your marina. If you were to fully exploit the marina’s potential and look at the nearly 300,000 dollars they’re making from the banquet centre, the one dollar per year is not a fair market value for the land” Merulla said.

However, not everyone agrees with the motion. Ward 1 Burlington councilor Rick Craven (a member of the Greater Bay Area Subcommittee) says that changes to the lease are not on the agenda.

“The subject on the agenda right now […] is the long term expectation that ownership of the park will transfer to the City of Burlington. Under what conditions and for what in return is going to be a very lengthy agenda. That is on the agenda,” said Craven, “increasing the lease or the rent in the short run is not on the agenda.”

Councilor Merulla said that if an agreement isn’t reached before the lease is up Hamilton could possibly keep the land for waterfront development. However, Councilor Craven said that development can’t and won’t happen because under Burlington by-law the parkland is not zoned for that purpose.

“He’s wrong,” said Craven. “His comments have not been helpful.”

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Sounding Off: Mirvish+Gehry. Does Toronto really need a Bilbao effect?

On Monday, David Mirvish and Frank Gehry presented their new vision for Toronto’s Entertainment District, Mirvish+Gehry – a complex consisting of three 85-storey condominiums, an art gallery, six floors of retail space, and a new Ontario College of Art and Design building.  If approved by City Council, the new development is bound to be a world famous complex, but is it what Toronto needs?

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

“The Bilbao Effect” is a term used by architect Witold Rybczynski – named after Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain – to define a work of architecture that puts a city on the proverbial map. Toronto isn’t like Bilbao, however, or even Los Angeles, where Gehry’s other piece of monolithic architecture – Walt Disney Theatre – stands out.

The city already has the CN Tower, the six Toronto-Dominion Centre buildings (which single-handedly modernized the Toronto Skyline in 1967), the SkyDome (also known as Rogers Centre), One King West, the recently completed Trump tower, and countless other iconic buildings with character that adorn the sky.

The Entertainment District is growing at an exponential rate, so why stymie its progress by another blockbuster development? Many prominent architects and urban planners believe that cities develop best organically and a project this large could very easily create not only visual, but also physical borders in an area that thrives off walkability.

Sure, the architecture will be brilliant, with one of the most revered architects in the world, Frank Gehry, designing super-structures for his hometown. There will also be a new 25,000 square foot OCAD building called “The Public Learning Centre for Visual Art, Cultural Studies and Art History” that will be the University’s first satellite campus, but it appears this project is more about egos than people.

For example, another piece of the mega project is a 60,000 square foot art gallery that will exhibit David Mirvish’s personal collection. However, in order for the art gallery to be constructed they will have to tear down Princess of Wales Theatre.

Although the theatre is only 19-years-old, it has become a landmark on King Street and tearing a theatre down to create a personal exhibit has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Torontonians.

There’s no doubt that the Mirvish-Gehry development would bring in plenty of tax revenue for Toronto through condo fees and retail space. However, it’s something that is far too grandiose for the area and even Toronto, in general.

After All, King Street is now the hub of the Toronto International Film Festival, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on the stars of the festival and not the surrounding buildings?

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Ted McMeekin visits Mohawk College to announce new post-secondary grant

Liberal M.P.P. Ted McMeekin visited Mohawk College’s Fennell Campus to announce the provincial government’s new grant for students.

McMeekin, a former Mohawk graduate, addressed a room full of journalism students to discuss the 30% discount Ontario students can receive on their post-secondary tuition. The new grant was launched by the province this January and is available for anyone who meets the requirements.

“We’re delivering our promise for making post-secondary education more accessible and affordable for students and families,” said McMeekin.

The grant will amount to $1,600 a year for university students and $730 for college students.

Students who are eligible must be less than four years out of high school with parents who make (combined) under $160,000, gross. While students who are already on OSAP will have their applications submitted automatically.

McMeekin says the grant was not only to help make post-secondary education more affordable for Ontario residents, but also to help the province compete internationally.

“We’re out to make sure that we can outcompete the world,” said McMeekin.

Rob MacIsaac, President of Mohawk College, was in attendance to thank McMeekin and the provincial government for the grant. MacIsaac says the grant is important for the growth and reputation of Mohawk college.

“With this grant our value proposition just got a whole lot better,” said MacIsaac, “it’s going to make education […] more affordable”.

The deadline to apply for the grant this term is March 12th. Over 300,000 students in Ontario are eligible.

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Citizens voice little concern over proposed amendments

A public meeting was held on September 19th at City Hall for amendments to The Downtown and Community Renewal Community Improvement Plan and Project with citizens approval.

The changes were proposed by Alan Waterfield and Hazel Milsome, of the Urban Renewal committee. What they proposed were amendments for many businesses and communities within Hamilton and the amalgamated areas.

Citizens and business owners who attended voiced few concerns over the proposed amendments.

The changes aim to rehabilitate and revitalize land and buildings within targeted areas of the city. The plan provides greater initiatives for small businesses, heritage buildings and potential business investments.

Waterfield says the committee does not expect approval from city council until early 2012.

The program is currently working with a 20 million dollar budget and is hoping to see the budget expand to 40 million. Milsome said this will not be an issue.

“The idea behind our proposals is to bring in more tax revenue,” said Milsome, with optimism that changes to the program will succeed.

The committee plans to expand the downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) zone, covering areas further outside the core of the city. Six current incentive programs could be modified.

Amendments include loan extensions to heritage buildings, extended deadlines for property improvement loans, more lenient requirements for loan spending on commercial developments, and grants for facade face-lifts of up to $25,000 on new businesses.

The facade upgrades will help give the downtown a facelift, boost property value,  and entice businesses to move into active Business Initiative Areas of Hamilton says Waterfield.

The amendments are just in the first phase of the approval process and Waterfield says there is “always room for improvement”.

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