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A new life for The Pasadena


The historic Pasadena Apartments is rising from the ashes.

Located just off James South on a sleepy stretch of Bold Street, Pasadena Apartments have always stood out.

The red brick. The large projecting cornice with delicately brutish corbels. The detailed bay windows and projecting balconies. It’s easy to see why this building (dating back to 1914) pops in an area surrounded by high-rise apartments, stone terraces, and quietly handsome homes.

Then came that terrible night in February of 2014. The fire started in the boiler room and spread up all three floors, which caused a lot of damage. Thankfully, nobody was harmed. Units were charred, the roof collapsed, but the building was salvageable. The bones were still there. For over two years it sat boarded up, sad, waiting to be saved.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

The new owner, Paven Bratch of Metro Partners, saw a second life for the then roofless walk-up. A modern, urban, city-on-the rise kind of plan, which consists of, you guessed it: boutique condos. The Pasadena. The units will be chopped down in size, from 17 to 32, but they will be stacked with upgrades and a better, more fluid design for a living space.

Kitchens will be bigger, walls will be sound proofed, washer and dryer units are to be added, and independent heating and air conditioning controls will be in each unit. That’s just a few upgrades. There is a laundry list of features and finishes.


A view of the city looking North from the new rooftop

It will also see new contemporary amenities, like a rooftop patio with barbecue, and safety provisions while preserving the historical features of the building. Lintack Architects, no strangers to repurposing old buildings, is the firm in charge of designing the redevelopment and they want to make sure this buildings character remain the same.


The central, spiralling red oak staircase will receive a new balustrade of spindles since the old set doesn’t meet modern code. It will be raised 15 centimeters, making the handrail at waist level for the person of average height. Floors are also being restored to their original state.

On the exterior, details like the crown moulding, corbels, dentils, and other original features will be replaced wherever necessary, as some have fallen victim to the fire. The goal is to give the shell of the building the same aesthetic as before, preserving its charm and giving it the San Francisco-esque feel which made it so special to begin with.

Units for The Pasadena start at $260,900. Completion is scheduled for Spring of 2017.


The Pasadena Apartments were heritage designated in 1986.


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20 buildings that make Hamilton so great

1) Yeah, I’d say the Lister Block is pretty damn awesome. The white terracotta and brown brick make it look like an edible piece of cake.


2) The Medical Arts building is a work of art. How awesome are those urns?


3) Stanley Roscoe’s City Hall. A building too beautiful for bureaucracy.

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4) The brutalist Hamilton Place. A gothic-inspired fortress on the exterior. A visually and acoustically masterful interior.


5) Treble Hall: A facade that makes you stop and stare. Also, can you say Wine Bar?


6) The city’s first and best Skyscraper, the Pigott Building. Anybody want to split on a penthouse?


7) Stelco Tower might be rusty (thanks to stelcoloy), but it is still one badass building.


8) It might be a copycat. Honestly though, who cares? The Landed Banking and Loan Company Building is one special piece of architecture.


9) The Right House is more than just alright. It’s allllll right (bad joke).


10) The Hamilton Public Library Central Branch and The Farmers Market. Books and Food. Concrete and glass. Nuff said.


11) We have a freaking castle. (Dundurn Castle)





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14) We all have a love/hate for the city’s tallest building, 100 Main.

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15) All white Victoria Hall. A facade that makes you happy.


16) The Royal Connaught. A lobby suitable for Royalty. We won’t talk about the rest of the development though.

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17) Can we please get this building designated? (The Coppley Building)

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18) The TH&B Go Station: An Art Dec(G)o beauty.


19) Liuna Station is perfect. Look at the garden. Look at those columns. The curtains inside the halls? Versace.


20) Let’s just admire this for a second. (Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King)

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A look at the new RBG Rock Garden Visitors Centre

IMG_3357.JPGThe new David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden Visitors Centre is ready just in time for spring.

The building is a grand gesture, inflecting North towards Aldershot. Its leaf-shaped roof is anything but ordinary, as it swells towards the gardens beyond.

Not only is the building noticeable, so is its entryway. Swooping, welcoming, the entrance is easily navigable. Even with it’s looping drive and expansive grass, which will surely attract Canadian Geese by the flock. Landscape architect Janet Rosenberg curates just a taste of what’s to come.

IMG_3358.JPGWalking towards the entrance of the new Visitors Centre is when the immensity of the building is first felt. Designed by Toronto firm CS&P Architects, there is a touch of Eero Saarinen’s modern influence in its curving imagery.

The front of the building bends in a crescent shape, flanked by small ponds, with feature walls clad in stone. There’s a sense of motion to the building. It’s non-static. The leaf-like hyperbolic paraboloid roof lifts up like the wings of a bird to a maximum height of 26 feet.


IMG_3334.JPGThe vistas from inside the main event room overlook the newly landscaped gardens below and Princess Point beyond. Illuminated glulam beams of Douglas fir line the ceiling like the veins of a leaf. The steel struts, just outside the windows, like trees in a forest. The allusion to nature blends the centre with its surroundings through subtle gestures of crafted symbolism.

IMG_3315.JPGThe building includes offices, event space, public washrooms, and a café. A patio connected to the café is located just outside of the building, a romantic setting to enjoy a drink and overlook the beauty of this man-made paradise. There is also a courtyard for weddings and events, surrounded by walls of limestone, on the opposite end of the building.



At the backend, or bug end, of the building steel struts like angled stilts silently hold the roof up as if it’s weightless. The edge of the roof projects beyond the doors, dipping with a chain downspout, which would give the impression of droplets from a leaf during rainfall.

The new gardens are another story. Serene. Quiet. Beautiful. They are a paradise, an oasis, and an escape from the city beyond. It’s like stepping into a foreign land, beautifully landscaped to feed the imagination with nature as poetic inspiration. Words don’t do it justice.

See this new $20 million rejuvenation project for yourself on May 20th, when the doors open to the public. It’s worth the visit.

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A closer look at 123 James Street North

IMG_3201A year after completion, it’s time to take a closer look at 123 James Street North and the impact it’s had on the neighbourhood.

There was much trepidation when Lintack Architects first released the renderings. Will it fit in with the streetscape? Is it what the street needs? Who or what will occupy the building? Isn’t there enough office space available for rent in the core? Is it actually going to be built?

IMG_3203.JPGThis 32,000 square foot building does mingle well with the streetscape for a few specific reasons. It was designed to meet the datum line of the adjacent buildings, so the height was not an issue. Brick was used to blend with the facades already lining the street and although it’s a larger builders brick, it still bodes well with the surroundings.

IMG_3214.JPGCornices clad in matte black metal mirrors much of the heritage on the street, with a modern take. It may be less ornate, but the idea is there. The cornice cladding could be interpreted as an interaction, or homage, to the black clad façade of it’s neighbour across the street, 118 James Street.


A cylindrical glass corner punctures the sky with big strip mall numbering. This part of the building is often the recipient of some harsh criticism. It reminds some of the Meadowlands, or suburban architecture. One other flaw would have to be the tinted glazing on the upper floors of the building. Less inviting, this glass can give the onlooker a feeling of intimidation. Though the windows are lined with stone lintels and windowsills, which also compliments the heritage characteristics of the street.

IMG_3209.JPGA lot of questions were also raised about why the building is only commercial and not a mixed-use development. The programming of this building was clearly designed with what the client, Jack Beume, had in mind. The site required remediation making the option of a residential development much more expensive. Still, the decision to go with a commercial building paid off, as it is nearing capacity and it’s still just an infant. It’s brought jobs and businesses to James Street North.

The Central and Beasley neighbourhoods are two of the least dense neighbourhoods in Ward 2, but the focus of major infill should come from the empty parking lots that are scattered amongst the core. Adaptive-reuse, midrise development, and remedying the parking lot plague are just some of the directions to take in creating a smart, diverse building stock in two of Hamilton’s hottest ‘hoods.

There’s a lot to consider when evaluating the success of a building, especially in it’s infancy. 123 James is an exception. Like it or not, its impact on the street has been positive. And it’s better than a parking lot.

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Constellate 2016 @ The Spice Factory


This Friday (March 11th) the Spice Factory is hosting Constellate Exhibition 2016.

Constellate features distinctive works by McMaster’s Studio Arts third and fourth year students. More than just painting, the exhibit includes sculpture, print, drawing, and digital work.

Artists at Constellate 2016 include: Kristina Durka, Parker Flood, Stephanie Grant, Rachel Hillock, Meaghan McMurrich, Jonathan Mitchell, Hilary Rosa, Hannah Sampson, Maria Simmons, Jasmyne Smith, Brittany Sostar, Jennifer Tewnion, Riley Vanderzee, Tess Visser, and Cassandra Whall.

There will also be performances by Thomas St. Clair, Timid the Brave, and Jeremy Sklad.

The Spice Factory is located at 121 Hughson Street North and doors open at 7:30PM.

For more details and photos visit: or @constellate2016 on Instagram


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Photo Tour: The Tivoli Theatre



January 13, 2016 · 7:45 pm

Tour: Theatre Lofts


It was a cold, rainy winter day as I entered 189 King Street East through the alleyway. I ascended a narrow corridor of stairs to the top floor and entered a loft that looked like something out of Brooklyn. Greeting me was the smiling face of Peter DeSotto. DeSotto and his partners, Alvaro Valencia and Marvin Grimm, of Urban Map Inc. are in the middle of repurposing the former Sandbar Tavern and I was about to take a tour.

It’s no longer going to be called the Sandbar, though. It’s now Theatre Lofts. And the loft I just entered, next door, is their current office. An open concept space, with an eclectic array of furniture, sleek kitchen, and even a clawfoot tub. After a quick glance of the space, I quickly grasped their vision: open concept, high ceilings, exposed brick. The new recipe for Hamilton’s evolving aesthetic.


We sat down to talk about the project. I found a seat on a midcentury Wings chair, with DeSotto directly across from me on a beautiful tufted brown leather sofa.

DeSotto is a violinist tenor and founder of the famed Quartetto Gelato who recently moved to Hamilton, but you would never know. His love for this city is palpable. Accompanying us were the realtors for this project, Jess Fabrizio and Vince Lazaruk. They were as interested in learning more about this space as I was.

The first thing DeSotto told me is how “toxic” the building was when they first started doing work. Moldy and dusty, they had to wear a breathing apparatus when stepping inside.

“It was a dark place. There was ‘Death’ written on the walls (and) blood on the walls,” he said.

Death would be the perfect word to describe the Sandbar Tavern, a building decaying for years on a street that is rapidly revitalizing. But the International Village is alive and this adaptive re-use project is both literally and figuratively theatre for the street, with a marvelous new façade rambunctiously acting its way into the spotlight as what will surely be one of Hamilton’s hottest addresses.

The King Street façade features restored brick, new fenestration, a jet-black cornice, a balcony on the second floor, and an accordion style glass front at street level, mirroring the two row buildings sandwiching it and creating continuity. If this were a stage set for the theatre, it’s been painted well.

Next we went for a tour of the space. Hard hats, muddy shoes, and makeshift stairs; DeSotto was not only the tour guide, but also the safety officer.

“We’ve been extracting two garbage bins of drywall and plaster per day, for months now,” he says as we lean over a wood safety balustrade to look at the excavation happening below.


At street level the new three thousand square foot space will host a restaurant (The Hamilton Culinary Institute, probably).


The second and third floor is going to be eleven lofts in total. Exposed brick, unique accents, plenty of windows, and even a balcony are just some of the features for the residents on the second floor. Weaving in and out of wall studs, DeSotto paints a picture of what the finished project will look like. It’s easy to envision when you’re on a tour with someone so enthusiastic about a space.



Just getting to the third floor took the balance of a gymnast, but was well worth it. 24-foot ceilings with two levels, glass block windows, I-beams from original signage, exposed columns and ductwork. These spaces will be a harmonious mixture of new and old.

What was a somber day turned into a hopeful day. A building is getting a new life in a tasteful manner. The International Village will get yet another diamond. It’s starting to run out of rough.

I would refer to Peter DeSotto as Shakespeare, and these lofts as Urban Maps Theatre, but the play they’ve written for this building is anything but a tragedy.

Theatre Lofts are slated to be complete by April 2016.

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PEDrides Spotlight: Mills Hardware


Mills Hardware is an adaptive-reuse project that was completed by Thier + Curran Architects in 2013 at a cost of nearly four million dollars. Dating back to 1909, the building went through a lot of changes. From hardware store, to strip club, to now arts centre.

It boasts a multi-purpose gallery, event space, eight artist studios, a meeting room, and twelve loft apartments.


The building has seen much transformation inside. Before work was done, the second floor was replaced by a mezzanine and has since been removed for a two-storey ground floor. The event space is 1800 square feet and is multi-purpose. A portal like metal threshold complete with railings and slat benches, crafted in a raw, industrious manner, extends across the room and separates the event space from the entrance. The space also includes a bar to the east side. Walls are exposed, pipes are showing, and the character of the building can be read in its walls.

Behind the event space are four, two storey studios. The studios include celestial lighting and metal doors displaying inspirational quotes from famous artists. The size of the studios ranges from 400-500 square feet.


The exterior is a complimentary mixture of old and new. The original masonry at the front of the building was restored, with new large picture windows installed. At street level, the curtain wall is angular and inverted from the street. It draws the passerby in and invokes curiosity. Metal panels playfully angle down from the glass and into the ground, and a large pivoting Brazilian wood door welcomes guests into the event space.

Above the ground floor are twelve artist’s lofts ranging from 500-to-700 square feet. The apartments are equipped with light parquet wood floors, wood trim, and stylish kitchen spaces. Some of the units include exposed walls and wood ceilings with original steel columns and beams. The common areas carry the motifs that exist throughout the building, like super graphics, bright colours, industrial lighting, and exposed brick. Another unique feature of the old building is a mailbox and bulletin board installed into a display wall that surrounds an old safe.


The rear of the building includes more restored brick, a corrugated steel clad third floor, and glass block windows. Stylish, preserved, and re-used, Mills Hardware is a catalyst for adaptive re-use in the core and has become an anchor of inspiration and place making on King Street.

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On Sunday I had the opportunity to lead a PedRides bicycle tour on contemporary architecture in the core. The focus of my tour was on adaptive-reuse and restoration, as well as new builds.

I started the tour with a quote from one of the great architectural theorists, Rem Koolhaas. He said, “Preservation is overtaking us.” His theory is as the year’s progress, preservation is becoming more prevalent. It’s being approached proactively instead of retroactively and contemporary architecture plays an important role in regards to a buildings future form and function.

The route was very ad-hoc and the buildings I discussed varied. I didn’t cover everything I wanted because I was under the weather and new to giving tours. When it comes to tours, I’m generally more comfortable in a double-decker bus listening to some overly enthusiastic guide rattle off the same information all day to a bunch of snap-happy tourists.

The ride was fun, the people were great, and it was in the city I love. What more could you ask for? I would gladly do it again.

I will be posting articles about each building in the same order as the tour (except for Witton Lofts, as I’ve already written about it). First up is Mills Hardware. Stay tuned!

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Exhale Presents: HILOTRONS & Scattered Clouds @ The Baltimore House on April 26th


Don’t miss HILOTRONS and Scattered Clouds at The Baltimore House on April 26th for a double album release party, brought to you by Exhale Music Group.

HILOTRONS latest release, To Trip With Terpsichore, delivers a whimsical spectrum of instrumentation, sound, and energy. If you can’t wait, the entire album is available to stream through Exclaim!

Scattered Clouds lend contrastively post-apocalyptic sounds to their moniker. The band aims to deliver a “trance inducing, orchestral and intense cinematic experience”, and their latest, The First Empire, offers just that. The six-track album builds up to an undeniably eerie, haunting sound.

The bill will also feature groovy rhythms from local Dundas band, the Boogies, making for a night you won’t want to miss.

Doors open at 8PM. Tickets are $8. RSVP.

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