Forge & Foster Brings an Exciting Development to Canada’s Prettiest Town
We are very excited to be launching an exciting new development in “Canada’s prettiest town,” The Walker Press located in Paris, Ontario.
With our eye for identifying properties with distinct character and a unique history, Forge & Foster acquired the exquisite Walker Press building in 2020. The Walker Press will be restored into a multi-use, commercial facility that will richly contribute to the growing community of culinary and craft-goods experiences in experience in Paris.
Located on 3 Yeo street, with the oldest portion of the structure – the Maxwell wing – built in 1872, The Walker Press (est. 1910) moved into the Penman Wing in 1915. Expanding into the Maxwell wing in 1920, connecting the two buildings in the process, they operated for over 60 years, printing everything from gift coupons to royal portraits.
With its proximity to the historic downtown district of Paris, surrounded by thriving densification projects, and rooted in a destination that is only a short drive from the urban centres of Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, The Walker Press is the perfect location for multiple emerging businesses ranging from culinary and retail, to office and light-industrial.
“Paris is a beautifully historic town and an incredible destination, we are thrilled to play a role in reviving this property and writing it’s next chapter.”
“The Walker Press will be an idyllic and innovative setting for a new generation of Paris-based businesses. A perfect setting for emerging industries and employment opportunities in ‘Canada’s prettiest town.’”
Forge & Foster greatly acknowledges and thanks The Paris Museum & Historical Society for all their support in understanding the background of The Walker Press. For more information, please see the accompanying materials.
This week witnessed a higher than average volume of transactions take place including a mix of all asset classes. The most expensive transaction this week was for 50 acres of agricultural land, located near Binbrook, in Hamilton for $17,000,000 or $337,435/acre. This could either indicate a future industrial development or speculative future residential development given the existing zoning. Other notable transactions include 117 John St N, which looks to be part of an assembly for the 41 Wilson St acquisition by First Avenue Investment Counsel and Broccolini Construction’s purchase of 10 acres in Cambridge, further cementing their foothold in Southern Ontario. In the news, the city of Hamilton has approved a rezoning application for a proposed 769 unit, 27, 14 & 8 storey development by Slate Asset Management. Feel free to reach out with any questions regarding the GHA transactions or news.
Update brought to you by: Alex Manojlovich, Forge & Foster Investment Management
Please click the “GHA Sales Transaction Database” link below to view the most recent transaction activity.
It’s lights, cameras and action – everywhere. While just a few months ago, it appeared COVID-19 was forcing a wrap for the film industry, there’s now so much demand for production space that studios are expanding, and new ones are being built in all corners of the Greater Toronto Area.
“What the pandemic did was force a pause in production, but we have not altered course on our expansion plans,” says Geoff Grant, general manager of Pinewood Toronto Studios, which is majority owned by Bell Media. Studio clients aren’t changing their plans either; “We’re bursting at the seams and turning away viable productions because of the lack of space available.”
Pinewood’s complex on Toronto’s Port Lands currently has 11 stages, including Megastage, the second largest in North America, which, at 46,000 square feet, can accommodate sets as tall as five storeys. In November, Pinewood broke ground on an expansion that will add five more stages by early 2022, along with craft workshops in a project built by Ledcor Group of Companies and managed by Turner & Townsend.
Pinewood is one of several production centres located in Toronto’s Port Lands, a redevelopment zone east of the city core. A pioneer in the Port Lands, Cinespace Film Studios is expanding with an additional 165,000 square feet of production space.
To the east of the Pinewood complex, a big site on Basin Street is about to add to the Port Lands creative cluster. City of Toronto’s real estate agency, CreateTO, has invited proposals to build studios on an 8.9-acre former industrial site, renamed Basin Media Hub, that could include up to 500,000 square feet of creative spaces.
According to Vic Gupta, senior vice-president of strategic development for CreateTO, “Hollywood is coming north [because] we’ve got the facilities and a skilled work force that’s world class,” along with a supportive film office that makes it easy to get permits around the city. Another advantage is Port Lands’ proximity to diverse locations throughout Toronto that can stand in for almost any city in North America.
Many studios are developed in retrofitted warehouses, but increasingly stages are being purpose-built to create height for hanging equipment and obstruction-free space within the building, Mr. Gupta says.
The city has developed renderings of Basin Media Hub, but they are tentative. The successful bidders will design and build their own facilities, with the land remaining city-owned on long-term leases, Mr. Gupta says. “There could be multiple tenants; we’re leaving this up to the industry.”
“We’re looking for proposals with a sense of design and sustainability,” he adds. “When fully developed, [Basin Media Hub] will be a destination not only for the industry but for the public.” A waterfront promenade with public access along the edge of Lake Ontario is a requirement of the development.
And it’s not just the Port Lands where studio capacity is expanding.
Industry equipment specialist William F. White International Inc. will open its third production centre in converted warehouses in Mississauga in February. Whites Studios Cantay facility, which will include four studios, as well as offices and wardrobe space, joins recently opened Century Studio and another production centre, Edwards Blvd. Studio. The company is continuing to scout for more production locations because there’s an increasing demand, says Rick Perotto, White’s vice-president of business development.
The Cantay facility is also close to another new TV and film production hub in Mississauga, CBS Stages Canada, which opened in 2019. The 260,000-square-foot complex on Matheson Boulevard East, near Dixie Road, features six soundstages, production offices and support facilities.
And in addition to expanding in the Port Lands, Cinespace has developed the 50,000-square-foot Titan Studios as part of a multi-year expansion of its Kipling Campus in Etobicoke, west of the city core, where The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s superhero series Titans were filmed.
“The industry is alive and well in Toronto,” Mr. Gupta says. According to the Toronto Economic Development agency, it provided more than 44,000 jobs in the Toronto area and pumped more than $2-billion into the local economy in 2019.
“While everyone has had to take a deep breath for a while, everybody is very optimistic about the future.”
Hamilton gets ready for its closeup
As soon as Aeon Studio Group announced plans to convert a former manufacturing plant in Hamilton into production studios, they were getting calls from prospective tenants.
“While there are 900 film-related businesses and 9,000 people employed in production in Hamilton, until now there has not been a real film studio facility in the city,” says Jeff Anders, a co-founder of Aeon, which has a master plan to build Hamilton into an international hub for film, television and digital media production.
The company took over the former manufacturing plant on Queen Street North the first week of December and is aiming to have it open as Aeon Bayfront Studios by Feb. 1. The building’s former owner, power equipment maker AVL Manufacturing Inc., is moving to a new location in the Hamilton area.
The studio will feature a 27,000-square-foot clear-span mainstage with a 50-foot ceiling, 40,000 square feet of additional production space of varying ceiling heights and 6,500 square feet of furnished offices. In addition, there are four acres of outdoor space suitable for backlot uses, as well as a paint shop with two paint booths.
“We looked at several other buildings over the past three years and they were not nearly as good as this one,” says Mr. Anders. The modern building will get additional soundproofing and electrical upgrades, but it is in exceptional condition, he adds.
The studio is located across the street from the Barton-Tiffany lands, a city redevelopment site of former industrial sites in the north end of Hamilton. Aeon has longer-term plans to build on a 15-acre parcel it calls the Hamilton Studio District, a hub for the creative industries, which will feature studios, offices, retail and residential space. Aeon’s real estate partner is Forge & Foster, a Hamilton-based investment firm.
“Hamilton is getting busier and busier because you can make it look like anywhere and the locals love us,” comments Robbie David, an Aeon co-founder who has been producing films in Hamilton for many years. As part of its services, Aeon also launched a location representation service, which helps productions find unique filming locations in the Hamilton area and arrange with property owners to offer their spaces up for rent for film and TV productions.
“Hamilton is a top 10 Canadian city, but it’s not huge, so within a small radius you have locations that look like Chicago or New York; you have suburbia, the post-apocalyptic Stelco complex and the Niagara Escarpment within a 10-minute drive,” Mr. David says. “You can literally set up to shoot in an industrial setting and a forest in the same day.”
Hamilton’s west harbour film studio will begin making movie magic in February — to start, inside one of the city’s oldest manufacturing sites.
Aeon Studio Group trumpeted plans back in June 2019 to build a 14-acre film and TV production hub paired with a “live-work” development atop city-owned lands that were originally bulldozed for a failed stadium plan.
The COVID pandemic slowed environmental studies on the properties bounded by Queen, Tiffany and Barton streets and the land remains in taxpayer hands. In fact, the city even bought another area parcel for $3.5 million at the height of the first pandemic lockdown in April.
But the film consortium announced Wednesday that the “first decisive step” toward the Hollywood North dream — now called Aeon Bayfront Studios — will open for business Feb. 1 across the street from its planned mixed-use development, in the current home of AVL Manufacturing at 243 Queen St. N.
The size of the planned sound stage and studio space will be “a first of its kind for Hamilton,” said Aeon partner Jeff Anders, pointing to the 80,000-square-foot building’s 50-foot-tall ceilings and dedicated paint shop. “We are planting a big flag to turn (international) industry attention to this city.”
The Queen Street North factory recently churned out modified shipping containers for use as mobile COVID medical triage units. AVL head Vince DiCristofaro told The Spectator he is relocating his Queen Street operations and 100 workers to another factory on Sherman Avenue.
“We’re staying in Hamilton and more employment is moving in here, so it’s a real win-win for the city,” said DiCristofaro, who plans to sell the property to Aeon and its local real estate partner, Forge and Foster. The 7.5-acre property has had a factory on it since Great Western Railway rerolled worn out rails there in 1861. Now, it will be making movies.
Hamilton hands out 800 filming permits a year — including to well-known productions like “The Umbrella Academy” — but has been criticized for a lack of stage and postproduction space. The city markets itself as the third-largest “film cluster” in Canada, estimating 9,000 people worked in the industry.
At full build-out, the film hub is supposed to add 1,000-plus new jobs. Aeon partner Mike Bruce said more than 100 people could work out of the first building at any one time. Aeon also plans to offer a film shoot location service for Hamilton.
The building still has to be retrofitted, but Ander said building tours for prospective tenants will begin soon.
Anders said work also continues on a purchase and development agreement with the city for the 14 acres of barren land across the road. No timeline or purchase price has been made public, so far.
Coun. Jason Farr expressed confidence Wednesday the new studio building shows the consortium is committed to following through on the larger west harbour development. “I think success breeds success,” he said Wednesday. “Hopefully this provides the financial impetus to grow and expand across the street.”
Hamilton originally bought 20 homes and businesses a decade ago in the Barton-Tiffany block for a planned West Harbour football stadium that ended up being built elsewhere. Over time, taxpayers have spent around $13 million on those and more recent land purchases in the area.
A survey of residential construction in downtown Hamilton published this month reveals a very healthy market for highrises 20 storeys and up in the sector.
Research by commercial real estate investment firm Forge and Foster determined there are six projects of that height currently under construction in and near the downtown and 10 more either approved, in permitting or in pre-construction.
Forge and Foster is not involved in the residential new-build market, Manojlovich explained, rather it specializes in value-added projects — identifying neglected low-rise buildings and securing the financing needed for rebuilds. It is one of the few commercial real estate investment firms based in Hamilton, so it keeps informed on trends in all sectors, he said.“Everyone has their opinion on density and heights, but it is encouraging to see, especially in the downtown core which has been an underutilized area for quite some time. It is fantastic to see the growth,” commented Alex Manojlovich, an associate involved in strategy and acquisition with the firm.
“We have really noticed a boom in the past five years,” he said of residences in the downtown, noting that Hamilton has benefited from Toronto’s status as one of the fastest-growing cities in North America.
“The underlying theme is that Hamilton is a mid-sized city, you still get that city vibe and the lifestyle that you get by living in downtown,” he said, comparing Toronto to Hamilton. “People are recognizing now you can achieve somewhat of that lifestyle in Hamilton for virtually double the space and half the rent. That is why you are seeing the allure of Hamilton.”
Of course, the pandemic has changed a lot.
Manojlovich noted that with uncertainty over the future of the office and retail sectors, and immigration to the GTA down, and other factors, the demand for high-density residences in downtown Toronto is trending to cool down. But he is not seeing that in Hamilton, he said, and he has not heard that any developers of the upcoming crop of downtown highrise projects are backing away.
“You are seeing the opposite happening here,” he said of the Toronto trend. “You are seeing the migration from Toronto looking at the 905 region, and you are actually seeing in Hamilton slight bumps in rental values. So that shows where people are coming in from. That shows how stable our market is in Hamilton.”
Below are residential projects 20 storeys and up either underway or in the planning stages for downtown Hamilton as reported by Forge and Foster early in November:
Platinum Condominiums, 15 Queen St. S., 282 units, 24 storeys, Coletara Development, completion expected 2021, under construction
354 King St. W., 25 storeys and 12 storeys, Vrancor Group, completion expected 2023, under construction
154 Main St E, 267 units, 25 storeys, Vrancor Group, completion expected 2021, under construction
Cobalt, King St. E., King William Street and Hughson Street, two 30-storey towers, 525 units, LIUNA, under construction
McMaster Graduate Residence, 191 King St. W., 644 beds, 30 storeys, Knightstone Capital, completion expected 2023, under construction
Marquee Residence, 20 George St., 203 units, 32 storeys, Vrancor Group, near completion
PRE CONSTRUCTION/PERMITTING STAGE
Beasley Park Lofts, 134 Mary St., 366 units, 20 storeys, Stinson Developments, completion expected 2023, pre-construction
Television City, 163 Jackson St. W., 642 units, two 32-storey towers, Lamb Development, approved
Hamilton City Centre, 77 James St. N., 2,068 units, three 30-storey towers and one 24-storey tower, IN8 Developments, under review
71 Rebecca, 437 units, 30 storeys, Sonoma Development Group, under review