innsertnamehere

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This is a major deal in Hamilton. The City is getting a private consortium to renovate and take over the aging FirstOntario Centre (Copps Coliseum), as well as more minor renovations at the Hamilton Convention Centre, art gallery, and Concert Hall, in exchange for three development sites the city owns surrounding the arena.

Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P. is a consortium of a couple of developers including LiUNA, Fengate, Paletta, Carmens Group (a large convention / events operator in Hamilton), and a few others. They are aiming to create a new entertainment district surrounding the arena on the parcels they have, and are also actively discussing relocating the Salvation Army facility directly across York St from the arena.

Expect more on this one and the other redevelopment sites in the future. The developer is well heeled and has several reputable names, so I have high hopes for this one.

The renovations will include retractable sheathing to hide the upper bowl as most events in the arena don't use it right now (it was designed for an NHL team that never arrived).

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NEWS: the @honeybadgerscan will relocate to Brampton permanently due to an arena closure in Hamilton.
 
FirstOntario Centre Major Renovations has been delayed after the 2023 110th Grey Cup Here is the screenshots from the The Hamilton Spectator
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So their idea of what benefits the community is forcing 3 other sports teams out of an arena just to turn around and say they need to use it to raise funds for an event that is happening at another venue. Meanwhile, my Grey Cup ticket is 800% the value of my seat. Something here doesn’t pass the smell test.
 
Article from the spec today:

Cirque du Soleil booking raises more questions about the timing of FirstOntario Centre renos, which will be more than two years behind schedule

We’re coming up on the third anniversary of city council choosing the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) to redevelop FirstOntario Centre. The teamsthat called it home have already bolted or are making plans to leave. Yet the downtown arena remains untouched and according to the city, it has yet to receive building permits or site plans.

And on Monday — two weeks after saying the Grey Cup festival could use the building in November — a Cirque du Soleil ice show was announced for mid December which suggests shovels aren’t going in the ground any time soon.

What’s going on?

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” says HUPEG president PJ Mercanti. “That’s, I think, the honest to goodness truth. We’re just about there.”

That answer sounds positive. But if you’re also thinking it sounds somewhat familiar, you’re not wrong.

When HUPEG was first chosen for the project in the summer of 2020 we were told construction could begin in the fall of 2021. By April of 2021, Mercanti — who has previously said COVID slowed the process — was saying negotiations to get things rolling were wrapping up quickly.

“We are very, very close,” he said at the time.

When a master agreement was signed with the city that June, a new expected start date of the fall of 2022 was announced. That October, the Oak View Group — led by former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment boss Tim Leiweke — was brought on board as a partner. At that point, HUPEG partner Jasper Kujavsky said plans were being significantly upscaled but the final budget was just a month or so away.

By July 2022, he said site plan approvals and building permits should be ready by February 2023 and construction should begin after this past Bulldogs’ season ended. Maybe in June or July.

By February, Kujavsky tweaked the start time again.

“We’ll be under construction in the fall of 2023,” he said.

Yet the city says it hasn’t yet received any site plans or building permits. And a few weeks ago, the arena was made available for the Grey Cup festival in mid-November which means nothing will be happening before then.

Then on Monday, the Cirque du Soleil ice show was added for a four-day stay beginning a month after the Grey Cup. Which is going to mean construction won’t begin until sometime in 2024 at the earliest. And will surely raise even more questions. Such as, is there a new anticipated start date for the reno?

“That is an active conversation,” Mercanti says. “But the intent is for it to be as close to the Grey Cup wrap-up as reasonably possible.”

With the project slated to take 20 months, it should be finished sometime in the fall of 2025. Assuming it started right at the beginning of the year and everything remained on schedule. Which is a big ask considering how smoothly things have gone so far.

If HUPEG and OVG are partners in this, do they have a signed agreement in place?

“We’re working through the process with the city and in the … immediate future, more information and details will be made public,” Mercanti says. “But we are pleased with the progress that we are making and we’re very hopeful to have a conclusion to OVG’s formal engagement with the project in the very near future.”

OVG says it has no updates to share.

Has a construction company been signed on yet to do the work?

“That’ll be another one of the details that we’ll be making available to the public in the near future,” Mercanti says.

There’s no doubt this rebuild is a big task. Initially, the arena reno was going to cost about $50 million as part of a larger reimagining of that downtown area that includes Hamilton Place and the convention centre. Now the rink alone is going to be more than $100 million.

Mercanti says this isn’t a money issue. There are simply many layers that HUPEG is working through with the city and its partners. Much has been happening behind the scenes, including work on the architectural drawings and other preliminary tasks so the process will speed up once it gets going.

Let’s hope. Having no teams and few events there is already going to cost the city money. And here’s guessing all these delays aren’t exactly imbuing the citizenry with an overwhelming feeling of confidence about the whole thing.

Meanwhile, one more holdup that pushes a start date into March or April next year would mean the now-departed Bulldogs could’ve played their entire season at the rink rather than in Brantford.

That would be a bad, bad look.
 
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Dear Members of the Hamilton Community:

We hear you! We understand that there is significant interest in the redevelopment of FirstOntario Centre and the other City entertainment assets under the terms of the agreement with the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG).

Specifically, we note that there is sincere interest in learning more about the renovations, getting more details on timelines, and getting greater clarity on the details of the agreement between HUPEG and the City. Given the taxpayer assets at play and the pride our community has in its teams and sports facilities, we get it.

As the leaders of HUPEG, we understand and share your concerns and are eager to address them as soon as possible.

Most of the details of the agreement will be familiar to Hamiltonians as they are consistent with the information — all released to the media and posted on the City’s website on June 9, 2021 — easily found by typing “downtown entertainment district approved” into the City website’s search bar to review for yourself — all of which highlights the many benefits the City should expect from the hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that this agreement will bring into the downtown.

For clarity, those investments include, but are not limited to:
  • $150 million in avoided capital and maintenance costs for City taxpayers over the next 30 years as HUPEG takes over the operation and maintenance of the assets which will remain City owned.
  • Our commitment to invest a minimum of $50 million in the renovation of the FirstOntario Centre, including a new exterior façade and video board, comprehensive transformation of the lower bowl, expanded concourse level, and a new flexible curtaining system for the upper bowl balcony.
    • HUPEG’s investment of $12.5 million in capital upgrades, expansion and esthetic enhancements to the existing Hamilton Convention Centre and Concert Hall; and,
    • $440 million in residential redevelopment investment which is estimated to grow the City’s tax revenue by $100+ million which is sorely needed by our community.
    The project will not only maintain and improve valuable City assets, but it will also free up considerable funding for the City to redirect to pressing community priorities, including housing.

    These investments follow the success of previous agreements for the private operation of the arena, and Hamilton Convention Centre. Carmen’s Group operating leadership has saved the City $13 million in operational subsidies since 2013.

    We understand the importance and significance of this investment to the citizens of Hamilton and due to our obligation of confidentiality under the terms of our agreement with the City, and the fact that some agreements are still being negotiated with private partners, there are limitations on what we can say publicly at the moment. Noting that, we have been working with the city to release large portions of our agreement which we understand will be undertaken very shortly.

    The restrictions governing our ability to comment publicly have also made it very difficult to comment more broadly on the complaints and criticisms levelled against us by former and current tenants of First Ontario as much as we might wish to. Beyond that, we can clarify a couple of items:
    • There are no events booked at the Arena past Dec. 31, 2023, as the planning for the reconstruction of FOC is still scheduled for early in the first quarter of 2024.
    • Our current stakeholder relations are in unison with the desire of Toronto Rock to return post renovations.
    • We are hopeful that the Bulldogs will also want to return so that their fans can enjoy a world class environment for their favourite team.
    Ultimately, we are working hard to do our best to strike the balance between private and public sector expectations around information sharing with a commitment to provide as much information to the public as we can. This will include a comprehensive program of public consultation and engagement as it relates to the full vision for the urban heart of our community as soon as circumstances permit.


    We are deeply committed to this city and its future and invite your continued patience as we work through and look forward to being part of the changes that will bring new vibrancy to our downtown core.


    https://www.thespec.com/opinion/contributors/2023/05/26/hupeg-hears-firstontario-centre-anxiety.html
 
I did a brief search online, but can't seem to find anything too concrete about the renovation plans for the former Hamilton Place concert hall, nor the Convention Centre.
I desperately hope that renovations to the convention Centre include a deep reworking of how it meets the street. Especially along the Highway 8 (across from the Sheraton) and McNab Street sides, where it presents forbiddingly closed brick walls. It's such an indomitable block on the streetscape, it practically cuts the flow of downtown off as it heads westward. Terrible.
One of Hamilton's main obstacles downtown were the amounts of empty parking lots and gaps. These look like they're starting to get filled in a bit. The second are the bases of these late '70's - early '80's structures, following the worst principles of outdated urban renewal. (And ugh! - that parking ramp to the basement at a major intersection!!)
I hope the city does the right thing here. An opened, pleasing and engaging streetscape in these locales would work wonders.

Screenshots of the base of the Convention Centre.
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I did a brief search online, but can't seem to find anything too concrete about the renovation plans for the former Hamilton Place concert hall, nor the Convention Centre.
I desperately hope that renovations to the convention Centre include a deep reworking of how it meets the street. Especially along the Highway 8 (across from the Sheraton) and McNab Street sides, where it presents forbiddingly closed brick walls. It's such an indomitable block on the streetscape, it practically cuts the flow of downtown off as it heads westward. Terrible.
One of Hamilton's main obstacles downtown were the amounts of empty parking lots and gaps. These look like they're starting to get filled in a bit. The second are the bases of these late '70's - early '80's structures, following the worst principles of outdated urban renewal. (And ugh! - that parking ramp to the basement at a major intersection!!)
I hope the city does the right thing here. An opened, pleasing and engaging streetscape in these locales would work wonders.

Agreed, my personal opinion is that the city blocks running north of Hamilton City Hall from Main Street to York Boulevard are essentially dead urban tissue for walkability and vibrance, and constitute the greater urban renewal failure in downtown Hamilton.

If Civic Suqare/Hamilton Place had retained the original early-60s mid-mod civic plaza design and if the whole Jackson Square block had never been redeveloped, the whole area would be far better. Unfortunately I guess the project dragged on too long, and by the time the shovels were in the ground, the late-60s-70s-era introverted superblock/pedetrian segregation fad had taken hold.

Now all there is is a massive knot of buildings/parking/walkways with no cohesion or coordination, but there are still some glimpses of the original layout in the placement of the buildings.


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Agreed, my personal opinion is that the city blocks running north of Hamilton City Hall from Main Street to York Boulevard are essentially dead urban tissue for walkability and vibrance, and constitute the greater urban renewal failure in downtown Hamilton.

If Civic Suqare/Hamilton Place had retained the original early-60s mid-mod civic plaza design and if the whole Jackson Square block had never been redeveloped, the whole area would be far better. Unfortunately I guess the project dragged on too long, and by the time the shovels were in the ground, the late-60s-70s-era introverted superblock/pedetrian segregation fad had taken hold.

Now all there is is a massive knot of buildings/parking/walkways with no cohesion or coordination, but there are still some glimpses of the original layout in the placement of the buildings.


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OMG! Thanks so much for posting these. I found them online years ago, but lost them somehow.
The compromised mix we ended up getting is full of problems, but despite their spacy charms, I don't know this version wouldn't have been just as destructive. The skating/sculpture mall with the planetarium is a nice touch, by egad! - all those open lawns. Fun to speculate wandering around in. However, the whole thing, one way or another, is vexing when you look at all the fine-grained and functional human-scale stock that was torn out to make room for it. Gorgeous pieces like the former city hall, for example - a stellar example of civic architecture, which should never have been touched. Haste certainly made for some tragic waste.

Nonetheless! I hope Hamilton can get it together to deeply redo these present blockbusting behemoths. They owe it to the future of the city.
 
OMG! Thanks so much for posting these. I found them online years ago, but lost them somehow.
The compromised mix we ended up getting is full of problems, but despite their spacy charms, I don't know this version wouldn't have been just as destructive. The skating/sculpture mall with the planetarium is a nice touch, by egad! - all those open lawns. Fun to speculate wandering around in. However, the whole thing, one way or another, is vexing when you look at all the fine-grained and functional human-scale stock that was torn out to make room for it. Gorgeous pieces like the former city hall, for example - a stellar example of civic architecture, which should never have been touched. Haste certainly made for some tragic waste.

Nonetheless! I hope Hamilton can get it together to deeply redo these present blockbusting behemoths. They owe it to the future of the city.
I agree that there would be trade-offs regardless of whatever version was built, but I think the 1965 scheme would have offered Hamilton an ordered ceremonial space and parkland with high levels of pedestrian permeability- which is lacking in the current version.

In my opinion, city planning should focus on salvaging the portion of Civic Square/Hamilton Place between Main Street and King, which directly faces City Hall. I am simply not convinced that the square in its current configuration can be made into a successful space with only surface-level treatments.

Medium-term plans should look at removing Summer Lane and its elevated walkway, creating a street-level plaza with a walkway connecting to King Street, with maybe a small lane left in order to provide access to the Concert Hall/Convention Centre parking if necessary.

Long-term plans should involve the relocation of the Art Gallery into a new Library-Art Gallery complex (the current library/farmer's market is a mess) located on the parking lot at the Northwest corner of the site, thus clearing the way for at least parts of the current Art Gallery to be demolished to expand the plaza further. Likewise, these plans should also involve a large-scale renovation/refacing of the Concert Hall, in order to open it up to the surrounding streets (the street-facing facades are atrocious). The convention centre podium should also be rebuilt, but that could be a separate project as I don't remember who owns the building.

The ultimate goal should be a linear event plaza modelled after Montreal's Place des Festivals, with clear sightlines between King and Main, and cultural programming and institutions lining the square.

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I agree that there would be trade-offs regardless of whatever version was built, but I think the 1965 scheme would have offered Hamilton an ordered ceremonial space and parkland with high levels of pedestrian permeability- which is lacking in the current version.

In my opinion, city planning should focus on salvaging the portion of Civic Square/Hamilton Place between Main Street and King, which directly faces City Hall. I am simply not convinced that the square in its current configuration can be made into a successful space with only surface-level treatments.

Medium-term plans should look at removing Summer Lane and its elevated walkway, creating a street-level plaza with a walkway connecting to King Street, with maybe a small lane left in order to provide access to the Concert Hall/Convention Centre parking if necessary.

Long-term plans should involve the relocation of the Art Gallery into a new Library-Art Gallery complex (the current library/farmer's market is a mess) located on the parking lot at the Northwest corner of the site, thus clearing the way for at least parts of the current Art Gallery to be demolished to expand the plaza further. Likewise, these plans should also involve a large-scale renovation/refacing of the Concert Hall, in order to open it up to the surrounding streets (the street-facing facades are atrocious). The convention centre podium should also be rebuilt, but that could be a separate project as I don't remember who owns the building.

The ultimate goal should be a linear event plaza modelled after Montreal's Place des Festivals, with clear sightlines between King and Main, and cultural programming and institutions lining the square.

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I think these are fantastic ideas.
You're right - it looks like the art gallery is sitting where the planned plaza was. The art gallery is servicable now - a huge improvement on its former condition - but demolishing it wouldn't cause any tears. That would do absolute wonders for the facade and entry to Hamilton Place/FirstOntario, which has been horribly lost in the shadowed obscurity of parking and concrete, in a utterly baffling design gaffe. It'd be justice to correct it.
Hamilton Place/FirstOntario is a standout piece of architecture, with a genuine sense of monumental exuberance.
Opening up the plaza (Calling MVVA or Claude Cormier!!) could be a delight, with a chance to put in a lovely fountain feature and skating rink, amenities, and open up the damn superblock. As in the original supra-modern plan, the new at-grade plaza would also function as the gallery's much-enlarged sculpture garden.
With plenty of street-level retail, this would begin to finally knit the east and west of the Convention Centre together, and make downtown more attractive and contiguous.
The art gallery, now having joined the land of the living, could go further up a step - and become a genuine destination on that north-west lot, making the block even more permeable, granting it street-level amenities on all sides, including new adjacent attractions - like, perhaps the long-delayed planetarium to the side of the plaza as well. That would turn heads.
Sounds like a win-win, all around.
 
I think these are fantastic ideas.
You're right - it looks like the art gallery is sitting where the planned plaza was. The art gallery is servicable now - a huge improvement on its former condition - but demolishing it wouldn't cause any tears. That would do absolute wonders for the facade and entry to Hamilton Place/FirstOntario, which has been horribly lost in the shadowed obscurity of parking and concrete, in a utterly baffling design gaffe. It'd be justice to correct it.
Hamilton Place/FirstOntario is a standout piece of architecture, with a genuine sense of monumental exuberance.
I think the Art Gallery is interesting- it originally fit in far better with the rest of the site (though still with a rather human-free design exterior language)- its current design hasn't aged badly either, though it still fails to resolve the site's bleakness (even the plaza facing facades are rather introverted). I'm all up for removing parts of it and relocating the bulk of the gallery west in order to free up more public space to link the plaza to King Street, though some may argue that such a demolition may be wasteful.

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(Still the same building with a new coat of paint, and still flawed with its glamour-beside-a-dumpster entrance, and its street-facing loading dock and parking entryway)

As for FirstOntario Hall- it has its moments, but I would argue that a facade refresh is desperately needed- to better define a grander-yet-more-human-scaled entrance (the current entrance is somehow underwhelming and yet also unfriendly), and to resolve its south and east facades- which are urbanistically outmoded in this day and age.

Overall, I think this is an interesting point that also relates to FirstOntario Centre- how much can a space like Jackson Place be resolved, especially with its tangle of interlinked spaces and services?
 
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I was looking around and I found an interesting rendering of FirstOntario Centre that appears to be newer than the one that is circulating around, found in a real estate article. It looks similar to the original design commissioned around 2015-2016, but appears to have been modernized with some new design elements. The image metadata is dated February 20, 2021. Interestingly, this makes it newer than the BBB renderings which are dated for 2020.

Potential Newest(?) Render (February 20, 2021):
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More Recent Rendering (2020):
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Original Rendering (2015/2016-ish):
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I was looking around and I found an interesting rendering of FirstOntario Centre that appears to be newer than the one that is circulating around, found in a real estate article. It looks similar to the original design commissioned around 2015-2016, but appears to have been modernized with some new design elements. The image metadata is dated February 20, 2021. Interestingly, this makes it newer than the BBB renderings which are dated for 2020.

Potential Newest(?) Render (February 20, 2021):
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If this is indeed a newer rendering this is just sad. It looks like one of those self-storage warehouse buildings with a hint of industrial distribution warehouse.

Doesnt look good at all.
 

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