Hamilton Councillor hoping City Centre Mall can be used as warming centre or temporary housing

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Published January 17, 2024 at 5:14 pm

Hamilton City Centre

A Hamilton Councillor wants to see the vacant City Centre mall re-purposed to help house the homeless or as a warming centre, though the condition of the building – it has been used for training by both the police and fire departments and partial demolition has already begun – may make the idea unfeasible.

“I’m not an engineer so I can’t comment on whether or not it will work to support those deprived of housing,” noted Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch, who toured the facility January 10. “City staff came with me on the tour and between staff and the developer we’re discussing what might be possible.”

 

IN8 Developments wants to tear down the mall, located at 77 James St. N. and adjacent to Jackson Square Mall, and build 2,000 condominium units but announced last month it was putting the plan on hold until interest rates and the real estate market improves.

With the historic property vacant for at least a year – IN8 is hoping for late 2024 or early 2025 to get the project going – Kroetsch thought the building could be put to good, albeit temporary use.

“The idea was sparked primarily by our ongoing housing and homelessness crises and my desire to make an effort to do everything I can to help,” Kroetsch explained. “The owner of the building reached out to offer me a chance to tour the facility and during our discussions suggested they’d like to find a use for the building, if possible, while it awaits demolition.”

Those ‘training exercises’ by police and fire and the partial demolition that has started might put paid to the idea, however, with Kroetsch hoping before his walk-through the structure would be intact.

There are holes in the walls in some areas that may have caused by some sort of explosion, and it will take some further study to know if the building can be re-purposed prior to demolition or whether the idea it is worth exploring, he added.

“We have not yet determined whether or not it is feasible. We’re working on it, but it’s going to take a little bit of time to get answers from those with expertise who can help us to analyze the potential for the building’s use.”

“I don’t know when I will have firm details to share, but hopefully soon.”

The site housed Hamilton’s old City Hall and the municipal clock tower still stands from that era. Later it was home to an iconic Eaton’s department store that was built in 1900 before it became the City Centre Mall.

Kroetsch said he and City staff didn’t find many items of cultural civic heritage during their tour, though he did find an audio copy of a ‘Hamilton City Centre Jingle,’ as well as a large foam board that will be given to archive staff for potential preservation.

The mall was shut down on New Year’s Eve in 2022 and IN8 Developments promised work would begin within weeks on an “epic” four-storey mixed-use development that would “transform” the city’s downtown.

The project would be anchored by a pedestrian laneway and courtyard, fronted by restaurants, bars and retail space and be home to “thousands of residents.”

Instead, with interest rates still casting a pall on development around the country and especially in the GTA, the project has been put on hold indefinitely.

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