Hamilton councillors hear pitches for arena reno, downtown rejuvenation

 

It was big day Wednesday (Feb. 5) at the City of Hamilton's General Issues Committee meeting as a number of delegations presented their vision for the city's downtown.

Of most interest were the pitches from Vrancor and the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) that provided more insight into their proposals for rehabilitating the city's ageing entertainment facilities.

Up first was Mario Frankovich, Vrancor Group's project adviser, who spoke at great length about how important it was to get this project underway as soon as possible.

"This is Hamilton's time for substantial investment in commercial office space," Frankovich said.

The Vrancor proposal includes the construction of two "Grade A" office towers, as well as an extensive renovation of the FirstOntario Centre and the acquisition and renovation of the Convention Centre.

Vrancor’s rendering of their proposed FirstOntario Centre.

Frankovich did say that Vrancor has submitted several other confidential scenarios at various price tags to council to consider further but given the unsolicited nature of the bid, the details will not be made public until an agreement to move forward is achieved.

Vrancor and their partners estimate that they can have the arena renovated and operational within 12 to 14 months.

HUPEG, represented by Jasper Kujavsky and PJ Mercanti, shed some much-needed light on their proposal. Petra Matar, of DPAI Architecture, was also part of the delegation to help provide insight on some of the plans.

They started off by introducing the members of their group, which includes local architectural firms, the AGH, financial institutions and local businesses and developers.

The HUPEG proposal provided a number of scenarios that include an extensive renovation of the arena with a reinforced roof and intimacy options to make the arena more accommodating for smaller events.

The plan also includes more upscale concession options with a focus on showcasing local businesses and talents.

A big focus of this proposal is the Convention Centre which, by all accounts, is too small.

HUPEG is looking to rebuild the Convention Centre to be approximately 30 per cent larger than it currently is. To make that happen, however, it would require moving the building from its current location across from City Hall.

They propose moving it to where the City Centre currently sits. They have signed a letter of intent with the current owner of the City Centre, IN8 Developments.

A rendering of a possible FirstOntario facade from HUPEG’s proposal

If the Convention Centre is moved, the proposal suggests then enlarging the Art Gallery and adding two towers which could include residences or office space or both in the lands opposite City Hall, Matar outlined.

Matar also said the proposed design would incorporate green space which would allow for a pedestrian throughway from City Hall to King Street.

DPAI Architecture Tweeted out this image of their vision for the lands where the Convention Centre and Art Gallery currently sit.

Mercanti called this vision a "love letter to Hamilton," in that it will pay homage to the city's past while addressing its needs for the future.

"[A project like this] will futureproof Hamilton for the next generation," he said.

A delegation from Pearle Hospitality, who just earlier this week made their intention to bid on this project known, was dropped from the agenda on Wednesday. There is no word on when councillors will hear from that group.

Photo courtesy Jeff Hitchcock via Flickr.

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