A proposal to construct office towers on the property at the rear of Hamilton City Hall that would be home to a tech hub got some pushback at General Issues Committee today. Hamilton entrepreneur Paven Brach of Metro Partners had first appeared before council in February with his plan for a twin tower tech hub, that also provided for the possibility of a third tower that could accommodate city staff. Currently the city has staff in scattered leased office space in several locations in downtown Hamilton.
At the February meeting staff were asked to prepare a feasibility study of the concept which was presented at this week’s meeting. It recommended having staff prepare a land disposition strategy for the City Hall lands.
In his presentation Brach pointed out that Hamilton does not have any Class “A” office space, which is a prerequisite for the attraction of a technology hub. His proposal would also have provided retail space on the ground floor. In particular, a grocery store that would be of service to residents of the Durand neighbourhood. He predicted the hub would be home to 6,000 jobs. The plan called for the replacement of the city’s existing 200-space parking lot with an underground lot providing up to 1,300 spaces. The existing lot would be reconfigured to provide some greenspace. The presentation noted that with the current Hamilton development emphasis on residential development, that without the establishment of a tech hub, people would still be forced to commute out of the city for this type of work.
Even though the current Council had asked staff in February to look at options for the city hall lands, a process that actually started in 2016 when council invited proposals that included the Metro Partners plan; members had questions when they saw the staff proposal. Councillor Tom Jackson questioned any scheme that involved the use of the City Hal rear court; although it was pointed out that the original architect of City hall, Stan Roscoe had allowed for the eventual construction of a second tower on the site. Several Councillors were concerned about the optics of appearing to enter into a sole-source deal. Staff admitted that there were precedents including the recent establishment of a film hub.
Staff have requested funding to allow them to further study the land-use issue and will be back with a report this fall.