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Mercanti-led group wins entertainment precinct project

Hamilton City Council has given the thumbs up to the development plan from Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P. (known as ‘the Precinct Group’) to rebuild and operate the major entertainment and convention facilities in Hamilton’s downtown core. The Precinct Group’s plan includes a modernized arena, a newly renovated convention centre and concert hall, significant investment in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, as well as new residential, affordable housing, office and retail space development.

Next steps include negotiations between the City and the Precinct Group to create a “Master Agreement”, which is expected to be finalized in late 2020. The completion of this “Master Agreement” would see arena renovations beginning in the Fall of 2021.

In addition to taking on all capital costs for the renewal of the City’s entertainment facilities, under the plan approved by Council today, the Precinct Group would take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre and the FirstOntario Concert Hall for a period of 99 years and of the Hamilton Convention Centre indefinitely, without any monetary contribution from the City. In a 2019 study completed by Ernst and Young, the elimination of the City’s ongoing subsidization and capital commitments at its entertainment assets would provide Hamilton taxpayers with $155M in savings over the next 30 years. The City’s contribution to this initiative involves City owned lands in the downtown core and deferrals of a portion of any additional property taxes resulting from the new developments.

The Precinct Group’s proposed $50M renovation of FirstOntario Centre includes a new building exterior, comprehensive transformation of the lower bowl, expanded concourse level, and a new flexible and attractive curtaining system for the upper bowl balcony. Fans will have access to premium amenities like a microbrewery, suites, and hospitality clubs. Fans will also have year-round access to the experience through street-level hospitality activations on York Blvd. and Bay Street. The management of the transformed arena will pursue global partnerships to supply top touring artists and live events in the facility. The Precinct Group looks forward to the continued partnership with the Hamilton Bulldogs as the arena’s anchor tenant.

In addition to the comprehensive arena transformation, the Precinct Group’s plan also includes over $16M in capital upgrades to the existing Hamilton Convention Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall, and Art Gallery of Hamilton. As well, an estimated $340.5M in auxiliary mixed-use development, including affordable housing, will be part of any residential developments that stem from this initiative.

Commenting in the award, Precinct Group head P.J. Mercanti said,“while our Precinct Group is proud to have been recommended in this process, we want to extend our thanks and appreciation to our competitor. Both proponents have demonstrated a significant commitment to the urban core, and we look forward to working with the Vrancor Group in helping urban Hamilton reach its ultimate potential.”

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