MIP leading the way for Hamilton’s surging innovation district

Brought to you by Forge & Foster Investment Management.

While Pier 8, the Hamilton airport, and the proposed film district have each received much-deserved attention when it comes to major redevelopment projects in Hamilton, another key area in the city’s future is quietly being assembled under the name West Hamilton Innovation District.

The scale of this district is massive and with its ambition comes the potential of becoming Hamilton’s next economic powerhouse.

Located right off the Highway 403 ramps, the West Hamilton Innovation District is split into two main components: McMaster Innovation Park & the Annex.

As the name would suggest, the McMaster Innovation Park side primarily consists of buildings from McMaster University including the McMaster Innovation Park Atrium, McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), and the recently acquired Westinghouse Corporation factory.

Ty Shattuck, CEO of McMaster Innovation Park, referred to their portion of the West Hamilton Innovation District as a 2.8 million square foot Life Sciences ‘MegaHub’.

A long-awaited road connection of Frid Street to Longwood Road will unite McMaster Innovation Park with the rest of the innovative companies operating on the other side of Frid Street, aka the Annex, which is nearly entirely powered by investment management group Forge & Foster.

The result will be an innovation supercentre that will truly encourage collaboration between industry and academia.

With the enormous amount of activity anticipated for this district, we’ve highlighted the anchor buildings and businesses leading the charge in the West Hamilton Innovation District.

 The Atrium

The Atrium was MIP’s first multi-tenant building and is located in the only remaining office building that was part of Camco’s nearly century old manufacturing plant. The Atrium was the first structure in the master plan that showcased what this area could become.

This building now houses over 114 tenants, ranging from start-up companies and accelerators to research labs.

One of the tenants, Fusion Pharmaceuticals, recently made national headlines having received US $105 million from international investors for its cancer treatment clinical trials. That funding is on top of earlier investments of $46 million, making it the largest single investment ever in a Canadian startup.

 Hyatt House

A new six-storey Hyatt hotel located right off of Longwood has been highlighted as priority in order to offer visitors opportunities to stay on site while they are attending conferences or supporting the launch of a new business. The proposed hotel will contain 144 units.

 MARC

This existing building is known as the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre, or MARC for short, and it’s one of Canada’s leading research facilities based around electric and hybrid vehicles.

The 90,000 sqft, two-floor building allows for both collaborative and private spaces to develop, design, and test hybrid technology. Plans for the area call for greater expansion into the parking lot behind the building.

 New office buildings

Two 4-storey office buildings will be located south of Frid Street.

Gowlings law firm has publicly announced that they are anchoring one of the buildings in a move to “strengthen [Gowlings’] ability to enhance strategic partnerships by staying close to those who are driving progress – the researchers, the engineers, the designers.”

 CCRM Building

Late last year, CCRM announced that they had signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to partner in the development of a biomanufacturing campus at MIP focused on regenerative medicine-based technologies and cell and gene therapies.

The new building is envisioned to be Canada’s largest and most advanced Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO).

 Building 606 and Glass Warehouse

One of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the city will see the former Westinghouse Corporation factory site turned into a creative and collaborative work space.

Currently called Building 606 and Glass Warehouse, this 350,000-square-foot project will be flooded with natural light and effectively act as the heart of the new McMaster Innovation Park campus.

 

 

 New parking garage

The influx of people to the area necessitates more than just surface parking. As such, a parking garage containing 550 spots will be constructed.

 44 Frid St

After purchasing the former Hamilton Spectator HQ for $25.75 million, McMaster announced last March that it plans to turn the building into a life sciences innovation megahub, having already landed their first tenant.

Laurentis Energy Partners, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation, will be operating out of the building for at least two years as part of a research collaboration with MIP to advance nuclear energy innovations.

Expect lots of groundbreaking work to come out of this building over the coming decades.

 ANNEX70

Neighbouring the former Hamilton Spectator building, 70 Frid St contains a collection of buildings and businesses that have been servicing Hamilton for the past several years such as Gravity Climbing Gym.

With the growth of MIP, innovative businesses such as North Marketing Solutions and m-Health Solutions are beginning to call the ANNEX home.

ANNEX70 also possesses 5 acres of vacant land for future development.

 ANNEX150

Located at 150 Chatham St, ANNEX150 mostly consists of a single-storey 44,000 square foot flex building, along with a three-storey 35,000 square foot brick-and-beam building.

Similar to ANNEX70, 150 Chatham St is also witnessing a renaissance of knowledge economy people and businesses that are looking to participate in the exciting community growing from the WHID, including Mabel’s Labels.

Earlier in 2020, Hamilton’s own Lester Coloma produced an engaging mural celebrating the budding scientific change developing at the ANNEX.

 LRT Storage Facility

Metrolinx acquired this 14.5 acre property in 2019 as the future site of the Hamilton LRT Operations, Maintenance, and Storage Facility (OMSF).

While the LRT’s future is uncertain, the City of Hamilton’s website states that “Metrolinx and the City are working collaboratively with McMaster University to ensure the facility fits well into their vision and master plan for the area.”


In summary, West Hamilton Innovation District is poised for huge redevelopment over the coming decades and will become one of Hamilton’s strongest sources for job growth. The number of diverse companies, innovation, and research that will be concentrated into this district is staggering.

We are very confident that this new district will become a national player for Canada and we couldn’t be happier that it’s happening right here in Hamilton, Ontario.

Read the article on the Urbanicity website here.

If you’re looking to keep your finger on the pulse of all Hamilton residential and commercial real estate projects and trends, subscribe to Forge & Foster’s free weekly newsletter here!

Header image courtesy of McMaster Innovation Park.

How has Hamilton’s commercial real estate held up in 2020?

Brought to you by Forge & Foster Investment Management.

It isn’t news to anyone at this point, but 2020 hasn’t been the greatest year for a wide variety of business ventures.

Lockdowns, closures, restrictions, and uncertainties have done a number on countless Hamilton residents, institutions, businesses, and enterprises; and though a vaccine is poised to eventually mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

However, in spite of the considerable struggles of this year and a number of heartbreaking local closures, Hamilton has nonetheless seen the steady birth of numerous new businesses and a continuing rise in the investment in commercial real estate within the city, despite a downward trend when the pandemic first touched the city back in March.

To learn more about it from the inside, I spoke to Alex Manojlovich, Strategy & Acquisition Associate at Hamilton real estate investment firm Forge & Foster.

Here is what Alex had to say about the state of commercial real estate in Hamilton for 2020.

What is your opinion on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the commercial real estate market? 

Alex: From the outset of the pandemic in March and April, Hamilton witnessed the volume of commercial real estate (CRE) transactions dwindle, but it didn’t take long to ramp back up in the summer and fall months.

Initially, there was a lot of uncertainty and some skepticism, especially with businesses facing restrictions stemming from COVID-19, but the government’s fiscal policies and programs have done a good job so far of floating most local business and subsequently associated CRE value.

Thankfully, we are currently seeing a stable market for the most part.

Are there any specific trends in commercial real estate you’ve noticed this year?

Alex: This year, we’ve seen massive demand for the multi-residential and industrial asset classes and a decline in retail. We’d been witnessing this trend before COVID-19 struck, and it’s only been exacerbated now due to social distancing measures. Not just Hamilton, but all of Ontario is still facing an affordability crisis for residential living, so demand for overall living space has remained strong.

I’ve noticed a bifurcation of the industrial asset class. On one hand, the demand of e-commerce has accelerated the need for distribution, fulfillment, and overall warehousing; something Hamilton’s currently witnessing at the Hamilton Airport with the Panattoni, Amazon, and DHL developments.

On the other hand, smaller industrial spaces that once may have been a car garage or paint shop are now catching the eye of general employment and are transforming into “flex” spaces. Breweries, tech companies, retail businesses, office users, and more are looking to these spaces mainly because industrial units possess more affordable rents.

As the need for a brick and mortar retail space declines and the necessity of an online presence rises, owning a retail space on a traditional high street for triple the rental rate of an industrial space isn’t as vital. I believe in-person retail will survive, but will be buoyed by local neighbourhoods in high density areas.

To me, office space is the big question mark. The appetite for it has been paused as the work-from-home movement has produced a murky future for the necessity of office space. However, it’s my opinion that offices will be fine for the most part, as people still value social in-person interaction. It’s also great to see office developments in the core progressing, specifically Core Urban’s Olympia Club and Effort Trust’s office on the corner of Hughson Street and King Street East at Gore Park.

I’m personally getting drained by Zoom meetings and I think most people are feeling similarly and will welcome a return to some face to face time. That said, it’s my belief that the current experience of working from home will open the door for greater flexibility in the future for employees.

What were some of the biggest acquisitions of the quarter?

Alex: Overall, Hamilton’s commercial real estate market for the third quarter witnessed over $322 million transact — one of the largest quarterly volumes we’ve seen in the last several years.

The largest transaction this past quarter was by InterRent REIT’s acquisition of three multi-residential towers: 600 John Street North, 35 Brock Street and 100 Main Street East (Landmark Place) for $27 million, $33 million and $76 million respectively. 600 John Street North and 35 Brock Street are located near Pier 8, and 100 Main Street East is kitty corner to the upcoming Royal Connaught developments so overall, all three assets are located in what’s presumed to be high growth areas of Hamilton.

Another notable acquisition this past quarter was 1842 King Street East, better known as Brock University’s Hamilton campus, for $11,250,000 by builder New Horizon Development Group. Given the history of the purchaser and the price point of $1.6 million per acre, it fits to be a future low rise residential development.

What area of development in Hamilton has you most excited?

Alex: There’s a lot to be excited about! The airport has attracted large suitors, some I mentioned before and some of which have not yet been publicly revealed. Downtown Hamilton is finally witnessing cranes in the air for Cobalt, Kiwi, and Platinum Condos and many more projects are in the pipeline.

However, for me, the most exciting area is the West Hamilton Innovation District (WHID), which is the McMaster Innovation Park (MIP) and Frid/Chatham Street lands (see header image). To the best of my knowledge, this is the only area of the city zoned for M1 – Research and Development, which permits tech and innovative uses and we’re subsequently witnessing fantastic growth in this regard.

MIP is a huge success story for the city and continues to grow with the purchase of the former Hamilton Spectator building, the intentions for 606 Aberdeen and Gowlings new office, and most recently their massive partnership with CCRM to construct a global biotech campus that “will be the first of its kind in the world“.

MIP tenant Fusion Pharmaceuticals has received over $150 USD million from international investors for its cancer treatment clinical trials. And if the LRT project ever kicks off, the WHID will also be home to the Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility. It’s fantastic to see world leading innovation and development occurring in Hamilton and it’s only going to continue to grow.

Finally, how can people stay informed on Hamilton’s latest commercial real estate news? 

Alex: If people are interested in staying in touch on the Hamilton commercial real estate market, we create a weekly email newsletter that highlights the latest transactions, relevant news, trends and developments. The subscription link can be found here.

Feel free to reach out to me personally at alex.manojlovich@forgeandfoster.ca

Read the article on the Urbanicity website here.

Photo of Hamilton's upcoming tower projects

A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF HAMILTON’S UPCOMING TOWER PROJECTS

Brought to you by Forge & Foster Investment Management.

If you’ve noticed an uptick of cranes in the downtown core, you’re not alone.

In recent years, Hamilton has attracted the talents of many developers – both local and international – who will be adding some much-needed density to Downtown and the surrounding area.

Below is a list of noteworthy projects coming to Hamilton’s lower city as of October 2020. Towers outside of the lower city have been excluded from this list.

Kiwi Condos

Location: 212 King William St, Hamilton
Size: 266 units
Height: 14 storeys
Developer: Rosehaven Homes
Completion: 2023
Current status: Under construction
More info

Platinum Condominiums

Location: 15 Queen Street S, Hamilton
Size: 282 units
Height: 24 storeys
Developer: Coletara Development
Completion:  2021
Current status: Under construction
More info

Beasley Park Lofts

Location: 134 Mary Street, Hamilton
Size: 366 units
Height: 20 storeys
Developer: Stinson Developments
Completion: 2023
Current status: Pre-construction
More info

354 King St W

Location: 354 King St W, Hamilton
Height: 25 storeys & 12 storeys
Developer: Vrancor Group
Completion: 2023
Current status: Under construction
More info

154 Main St E

Location: 154 Main Street E, Hamilton
Size: 267 units
Height: 25 storeys
Developer: Vrancor Group
Completion: 2021
Current status: Under construction
More info

Gore Park Lofts

Location: King St E & Catharine St
Size: 40 units
Height: 6 Storeys
Developer: Scholar Properties Ltd. and The Effort Group
Completion: 2021
Current status: Under construction
More info

Cobalt

Location: The block fronting King St E, King William St & Hughson St
Height: Two 30-storey towers
Size: 525 units
Developer: LiUNA
Current status: Under construction
More info

McMaster Graduate Residence

Location: 191 King Street W, Hamilton
Size: 644 beds
Height: 30 storeys
Developer: Knightstone Capital
Completion: 2023
Current status: Under construction
More info

Television City

Location: 163 Jackson Street W, Hamilton
Size: 642 units
Height: Two 32-storey towers
Developer: Lamb Development Corp.
Current status: Approved
More info

Locke Street Lofts

Location: 85 Poulette Street, Hamilton
Size:  27 units
Height: 4 storeys
Developer: Dawn Victoria Homes
Current status: Under construction
More info

282 MacNab Street North

Location: 282 MacNab Street N, Hamilton
Size: 89 units
Height: 10 storeys
Developer: St. Jean Properties Inc. and Durand Development Corporation
Current status: Approved
More info

Hamilton City Centre

Location: 77 James St N, Hamilton
Size: 2,068 units
Height: Three 30-storey towers and one 24-storey tower
Developer: IN8 Developments
Current status: Under review
More info

71 Rebecca

Location: 71 Rebecca St, Hamilton
Size: 437 units
Height: 30 storeys
Developer: Sonoma Development Group Inc
Current status: Under review
More info

235 Main St W

Location: 235 Main St W, Hamilton
Size: 331 units
Height: 23 storeys
Developer: Belmont Equity
Current status: Under review
More info

1 Jarvis

Location: 1 Jarvis St, Hamilton
Size: 375 units
Height: 14 storeys
Developer: Emblem Developments
Current status: Under review
More info

41-61 Wilson St E

Location: 41-61 Wilson St E, Hamilton
Size: 962 units
Height: Three 29-storey towers
Developer: Parcel Developments
Current status: Under review
More info

The Connolly

Location: 98 James St S, Hamilton
Size: 315 units
Height: 30 storeys
Developer: Hue Developments and LCH Developments
Current status: Under review
More info

Corktown Plaza Tower

Location: 225 John St S, Hamilton
Size: 769 units
Height: Two towers of 27 & 14 storeys
Developer: Slate Asset Management
Current status: Under review
More info

Metro Condominiums

Location: 307 John St S, Hamilton
Size: 773 units
Height: Three towers of 22, 24 & 25 storeys
Developer: Spallacci & Sons Ltd.
Current status: Under review
More info

Jamesville Lofts

Location: 15 Cannon St W, Hamilton
Size: 40 units
Height: 6 storeys
Developer: Areacor Developments
Current status: Under construction
More info

The House Theatre

Location: 434 King St W, Hamilton
Size: 9 units
Height: 6 storeys
Developer: Lyrical Investments Inc.
Current status: Proposed
More info

Onyx Condos

Location: 17 Ewen Road, Hamilton
Height: 10 storeys
Developer: Coletara Development
Current status: Under review
More info

McMaster Undergraduate Student Residence

Location: Main Street West & Traymore Avenue, Hamilton
Height: 15 storeys
Developer: Knightstone Capital
Completion: 2024
Current status: Under construction
More info

1107 Main Street West

Location: 1107 Main Street W, Hamilton
Size: 310 units
Height: 15 storeys
Developer: IN8 Developments
Current status: Under review
More info

Columbia International College Student Residence

Location: 925 Main Street W, Hamilton
Size: 456 units / 910 beds
Height: Two 15-storey towers
Developer: Plaza Imports Limited
Current status: Under review
More info

600 James St N

Location: 600 James St N, Hamilton
Size: 55 units
Height: 8 storeys
Developer: Pinemount Holdings Ltd.
Current status: Under review
More info

16 Cannon St E

Location: 16 Cannon St E, Hamilton
Size: 134 units
Height: 16 storeys
Developer: Birch Tree Developments (16 Cannon) GP Inc.
Current status: Under review
More info

Royal Connaught Phase 3

Location: 112 King St E, Hamilton
Height: 36 storeys
Developer: Spallacci Homes
Current status: Under review
More info

Effort Trust Offices

Location: 46-50 King Street E, Hamilton
Height: 6 storeys
Developer: The Effort Group
Current status: Under construction
More info

Gore Block Apartments

Location: 18-30 King St E, Hamilton
Height: Five buildings, each of 5 storeys
Developer: Wilson Blanchard Management
Current status: Under review
More info

Royal Oak Dairy

Location: 225 and 247 East Ave N Hamilton
Size: 95 units
Height: Six storeys
Developer: Indwell
Current status: Preconstruction
More info

James & Strachan

Location: 225 and 247 East Ave N, Hamilton
Size: 113 units
Height: Six storeys
Developer: Indwell
Current status: Preconstruction
More info

The Brockton

Location: 117 Forest Ave & 175 Catharine St S, Hamilton
Size: 78 units & seven 3-storey townhouse units
Height: 10 storeys
Developer: The Effort Group
Current status: Under review
More info

Barton & Wellington

Location: Barton St E & Wellington St N, Hamilton
Size: 79 units
Height: 7 storeys
Developer: 467052 Ontario Limited, c/o Steven Joyce
Current status: Under review
More info

77 Leland

Location: 77 Leland St, Hamilton
Size: 124 units
Height: 5 storeys
Developer: Prica Global Enterprises Inc.
Current status: Near completion
Completion: 2021
More info

Marquee Residence

Location: 20 George St, Hamilton
Size: 203 units
Height: 32 storeys
Developer: Vrancor Group
Current status: Near Completion
More info

Vista Condos

Location: 467 Charlton Avenue E, Hamilton
Size: 153 units
Height: Three towers of 6, 6 & 5 storeys
Developer: Van Kleef Group
Current status: Near completion
More info

Waterfront Shores

Location: Pier 8, Hamilton
Size: 1,292 units w/ 95,981 sqft of commercial and institutional
Height: 19 buildings varying in height between 4 to 8 storeys
Developer: Waterfront Shores (Cityzen Development, Fernbrook Homes, GFL Environmental)
Current status: Under construction
More info

On the Radar

220 – 222 Main St W
Tivoli Theatre
Beverly Hills Apartment Addition
The Oxford

If you’re looking to keep your finger on the pulse of all Hamilton residential and commercial real estate projects and trends, subscribe to Forge & Foster’s free weekly newsletter here!

Read the full article on the Urbanicity website here.

Murals

HAMILTON’S MURAL ARTISTS SEE THE CITY AS THEIR CANVAS

 

Brought to you by Forge & Foster Investment Management.

Like any other urban centre, much of Hamilton’s geography is a sea of blasé building facades, unremarkable cement exteriors, and bare brick walls.

Some locals may see them as little more than the utilitarian structures they are. But for Hamilton’s multitude of muralists and visual artists, they become colossal canvases with limitless creative possibilities.

Today, Hamilton has become a hotspot for countless public murals – from stunning painted landscapes to eye-popping abstract or conceptual renderings – created by a vast variety of local independent artists and art collectives.

“Fox” by Richard Mace

You may have even been lucky enough to stumble upon one of the city’s visual artists at work, balanced on scaffolding and using their tools of the trade to turn drab buildings into one-of-a-kind visual gems with their own unique stories to tell.

One such prolific practitioner is Lester Coloma, a local award-winning mural artist & illustrator and graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) who’s left his mark on multiple parts of the city. Born and raised right here in the Hammer, Coloma has been an active visual artist since he first picked up a brush and created his first murals in 1996; but his first creative impulses came much earlier.

“Communicating visually was always a strong interest since my early childhood,” says Coloma, adding that his father was one of his first influences in teaching him the fundamentals of composition, proportion, and perspective.

Even if you don’t know Coloma’s name, there’s a good chance you know his eye-catching work. Locals who eat at King William Street’s ever-popular taco restaurant The Mule are readily greeted by some of Coloma’s visual flair with a striking, atmospheric mixed media art piece on the wall featuring painted renderings of man and woman with vibrant sugar skull heads surrounded by blazing halos of light.

“Raise” by Lester Coloma, located at 1 West Ave, Hamilton

Coloma is also one of the creators behind Raise, a gorgeous visual representation of Hamilton’s reputation as an ambitious city built on scrappy hard work. Designed by Coloma’s brother Norman and realized by both artists on the three-storey building at 1 West Avenue South, the towering mural depicts workers hoisting rope to the heavens against a stark white backdrop.

But most recently, Coloma was commissioned by Hamilton’s Forge & Foster to create murals at 400 Wellington Street North and 150 Chatham Street. The former, a Nikola Tesla themed work, was inspired by Tesla’s innovations in electricity supply and Hamilton’s reputation as the first Canadian city to be powered by an electrical grid.

With Coloma’s ambitious concept to “represent Tesla in a Prometheus-like manner,” the mural features grey diagonal shapes wrapping around the building to represent the wires that originally carried electricity to Hamilton from the Decew Falls Generation Station in St. Catharines.

In contrast, Coloma’s mural at 150 Chatham pays homage to local innovation and discovery via the beauty of the city’s more natural elements, capturing the aesthetics of the Bruce Trail and the Chedoke area’s famous waterfalls while depicting images of a forest worker, lab technician, and craft brewer.

Mural by Lester Coloma, located at 150 Chatham, Hamilton

“The added illusion of depth with painted cast shadows gives the plant imagery a lived-in look, harmoniously unifying nature with technology,” explains Coloma.

Of similarly prolific note in Hamilton’s robust street art scene is Richard Mace, the artist behind Street Art Hamilton whose work features prominently at numerous notable locales including the Mexican-inspired murals adorning the walls inside Mezcal Tacos & Tequila and the gangster-themed graffiti within the soon-to-be-open Dukes Pub Pasta & Pizzeria on Barton Street.

Though much of Mace’s art is unmistakable for its vivid and busy bursts of colour, one of his most striking recent works is the minimalist mural art on the exterior of 140 Caroline Street South, now home to the brand new Chantilly Lace Bridal Boutique; and it also happens to be one of Mace’s personal favourites.

“I wanted to create something for the neighbourhood that would lift spirits and inspire optimism,” he explains. “The return of more birds of prey to the Hamilton area in the last 10 years is a remarkable story, and I view their re-emerging as representative of Hamilton’s rebirth and reinvention.”

A stark white background sits under massive monochromatic birds with wings spread in flight, accompanied by typewriter-style typography capturing messages such as ‘I told you that we could fly. We all have wings.’ 

Mural by Richard Mace, located at 140 Caroline St S, Hamilton

This artwork has struck a chord with countless Hamiltonians, including building tenant Chantilly Lace’s owner, Chantel Powley, who commissioned a replica of the outside mural to be painted by Mace on the interior walls of her brand new bridal boutique.

But Coloma and Mace are just two of many examples for Hamilton’s bursting visual art scene. Hamilton public artists, from individuals like Coloma and Mace to collaborative cohorts such as Clear Eyes Collective and Vermillion Sands, aren’t just responsible for brightening up the city’s neighbourhoods; they also help to cultivate local pride and unity.

“Public art and murals can help develop a sense of pride and ownership which, in turn, builds strong communities,” says Coloma. “Many people approach me as I work to convey their feelings of pride and happiness towards the mural. They also relate their personal stories of their first-hand experiences pertaining to their neighbourhood.”

Artwork by Richard Mace

In many ways, the continued rise of street art and mural work in Hamilton feels like a perfect cultural match for the city’s own scrappy, gritty identity.

It brings bursts of colour, local history, and evocative imagery to otherwise blasé and utilitarian storefronts, alleyways, tunnels, residences, restaurants, breweries, and businesses. It chips away at visual art’s most pretentious preconceptions, giving the joy and soulfulness of art to the people of Hamilton in ways that are truly public and fully accessible to anyone.

Hamilton’s public art is loaded with distinct personality. Just like the city itself.

Lead Photo by Robyn Gillam

If you’re looking to keep your finger on the pulse of all Hamilton residential and commercial real estate projects and trends, subscribe to Forge & Foster’s free weekly newsletter here!

Read the full article on the Urbanicity website here.

The Hamilton condo boom has arrived

The below article was originally written in Urbanicity, a Hamilton-based news outlet, by Robert Cekan as part of a series of sponsored articles focused on the future of Hamilton and the ambitious city builders continuing its urban resurgence.

The Toronto condo boom that started in the 90’s has made its way to Hamilton.

For the past three years, Hamilton has seen an explosion in its demand for condominiums, both new and old.

According to data from the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB), since September 2017 the average price of apartment-style properties have increased from $290,575 to $377,004. That increase is equal to 22.9%, which is significant for a Hamilton real estate class that has seen very modest growth for the past two decades.

While this data is a strong indicator of the overall trend toward apartment-style living, what it fails to account for are the sales figures of pre-construction condominiums yet to be completed. This is because the data from RAHB almost exclusively deals with resale properties.

In the Hamilton region, there are at minimum 19 apartment-style condominium projects actively being constructed or selling. There are at least 7 more similar projects currently in registration.

From a city whose skyline has remained unchanged since the 1970s, the 2020s will be the decade Hamilton finally grows tall.

Much of the initial demand for increased housing in Hamilton began in the mid-2010s from Toronto-based families who were priced out of their local market.

As immigration fueled and continues to fuel steady demand for the Toronto metropolitan area, the fastest growing metropolitan area and city in North America, a spillover into surrounding communities forced many residents to travel down the QEW for a price and location better suited to their lifestyle.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s rise in work-from-home offices has opened up many new housing options for those that have GTA-based jobs who no longer feel the need to live close to their workplace. GTA homeowners are using the opportunity to cash out and relocate to nearby cities where their dollar goes farther.

For renters paying over $2,000 per month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment, Hamilton’s average price of $1,500 for the same one-bedroom is mighty attractive when commuting to work is a non-factor.

When looking at Golden Horseshoe cities that offer a lifestyle that’s similar to Toronto, the City of Hamilton truly stands out. It offers historical charm, a vibrant restaurant scene, nightlife, rec centres — all amenities Torontonians are used to and would expect, just on a smaller scale.

Hamilton is also home to the Niagara Escarpment, which has created a network of trails, waterfalls, and outdoor amenities — features many residents of the GTA find persuasive after living amongst busy streets of concrete and glass.

But as is the case of all growing cities, there comes a time when demand exceeds supply and the notion of everyone owning a detached home is no longer feasible. Limited land and the need to be in close proximity to amenities necessitates high-density towers. There’s no way around it — condominium towers are the best answer in accommodating the swaths of incoming residents to Hamilton.

When asked why condo living has become so popular, Rudi Spallacci Jr., Project Manager of Spallacci Group and developer behind the Residences of the Royal Connaught, said that he believes people are looking at ways they can simplify their lives.

“I believe some people like the convenience of not having to maintain and clean their own yards, I believe some people enjoy having amenities at their doorsteps (gyms, theatre room, party room, outdoor skydeck) without having to drive to those amenities if they live in a home,” said Spallacci. “Not having to drive long distances to run errands or do the things you enjoy simplifies a person’s life.”

On a price per square foot basis – the most commonly used metric of an apartment’s value – the argument is even more compelling.

As of September 1st 2020, there are exactly 247 condominiums in Toronto with an average price per square foot of $1,000 or higher with average prices maxing out at $1,876 per square foot.

Now compare that to Hamilton where the most expensive condominium – 101 Locke Condos – sell on average at just over $800 per square foot, according to recent RAHB stats. This building in particular began its occupancy mid-2019, making it a healthy benchmark for luxury apartments in Hamilton.

The GTA area as a whole averaged $1,108 per square foot in 2019, for comparison. That may indicate that Hamilton is severely underpriced relative to it’s 416-area code counterparts.

In Hamilton, the stretch of King Street E between Wellington Street and James Street has particularly caught the attention of many developers. Along this corridor (or very nearby) can be found the construction sites of KiWi Condos and 1 Jarvis right beside it (currently in review), Residences of the Royal Connaught Phases 3, 4 and 5, Cobalt Towers, Gore Park Lofts, and The Connolly.

Further west at the corner of King & Queen Streets is the site of Coletara’s new 24-storey Platinum Condominiums with Vrancor’s new hotel and residential complex located at the opposite corner. South of this site is Brad J. Lamb’s upcoming Television City condos on the site of the former CHCH headquarters, originally planned to be a 40-storey and 30-storey tower, now revised to be two twin 32-storey towers.

Over the course of the next decade, a community at Pier 8 will slowly take the shape of the winning development Waterfront Shores, which will completely overhaul the city’s waterfront premiere waterfront destination to an area filled with residential, commercial, and recreation all in one. The plans call for 1,292 condo units including 65 affordable housing units spread across 20 buildings. The harbourside community will have themed street-level retail while ensuring that each building is architecturally diverse.

Toronto has set a high watermark for how expensive condos can rise, and as more people discover the amazing quality of life Hamilton has to offer, it won’t be long until we too pass that $1,000 per square foot benchmark.

If you’re looking to keep your finger on the pulse of all Hamilton residential and commercial real estate projects and trends, subscribe to Forge & Foster’s free weekly newsletter here!


Author: Robert Cekan
Editor-in-chief: Robert Cekan
https://urbanicity.com/

What is Urbanicity?
We are Hamilton’s community hub, publishing news you can use and curating Hamilton’s best local activities. Use Urbanicity to discover everything the city has to offer and make Hamilton truly feel like home

Looking for news on the Hamilton real estate market? Click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

Read the full article on the Urbanicity website here.

Hamilton’s embrace of bicycles marks the beginning of a new era

The below article was originally written in Urbanicity, a Hamilton-based news outlet, by Michael Kras as part of a series of sponsored articles focused on the future of Hamilton and the ambitious city builders continuing its urban resurgence.

There’s a vehicle that is currently revolutionizing local travel, both in Hamilton and worldwide.

It’s smaller than a Smart Car. The maintenance is minimal. It won’t soak you for $50 of gas money every week. Riding it isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for you.

Oh, and it’s also over 200 years old.

There’s no denying it: bicycles are back and better than ever, and their popularity in urban centres like Hamilton is only growing stronger.

Part of this new surge of cyclists can be attributed to the current unprecedented realities of the COVID-19 era. As car-less commuters seek safer ways of getting around during the pandemic, bicycles have stood out as a compact, eco-friendly, reliable, and affordable mode of transportation that not only cuts down on carbon emissions, but also provides the safety and flexibility needed to navigate a city in the modern era.

Nowadays, Hamiltonians can’t get enough of these timeless two-wheeled transporters, and there’s no stronger evidence for that than the citywide backlash that emerged as SoBi, the city’s popular bikeshare program, suddenly faced possible extinction after its parent company, Uber Inc., announced that it would be halting operations and maintenance of the program by June of this year.

With SoBi’s clock suddenly ticking loudly, a swift community uprising – which included action from city staff, local advocacy group Cycle Hamilton, and a growing list of over 26,000 local bike share users – ended up raising enough money through fundraising to revive SoBi and support it for at least the next year under the operative hand of not-for-profit group Hamilton Bike Share.

Now, with SoBi bicycles back on the streets and ridership on the upswing, Hamilton is doing more to support a bike-forward vision for the city’s transportation infrastructure.

One of 130+ SoBi bike hubs located in Hamilton.

As the COVID-19 era sees more and more people prone to pedalling their way around, the city is investing just under $50,000 into improving its existing bike lanes with the addition of measures such as bumpers, curbs, and barriers that will keep cyclists safely separated from vehicular traffic.

The construction of the upcoming Jay Keddy Trail along the Claremont Access – a new multi-use trail that will connect cyclists and pedestrians through a continuous route between the escarpment and lower city – is a prime example of City initiatives being put to work.

Pegged at $6 million, construction for the project began July 6th and will open by November, both unifying our city’s geographical elevations and providing some much needed safety barriers for cyclists and pedestrians alike. In fact, the trail pays tribute to Jay Keddy, a cyclist who was killed by a motor vehicle while riding up the Claremont access in 2015.

There’s even the possibility of an extensive, bidirectional bike lane getting temporarily added on a stretch of King Street West between Locke Street and Highway 403; and if bicycles become even more popular in the near future, it’s not unlikely we’ll see Hamilton become increasingly bike-friendly as time goes on.

For prominent Hamilton cycling advocates like Jay Krause, who co-chairs local group Cycle Hamilton, the reasons for a rise in biking are clear; especially relative to this particular moment in time.

Dedicated bike lanes along Cannon Street.

“It has been clear that COVID-19 has been a massive driver for increased numbers in walking and biking trips,” says Krause. “Early on, the City reported massive drops of 60 to 90% in public transit and driving & parking numbers, while cycling trips were stable.”

However, according to Krause, the health implications of cycling go beyond simply avoiding potential exposure to COVID-19 on other modes of local transportation; they’re also a key part of the new ways countless urban residents are adjusting to life and self-care in the middle of a pandemic.

“I live in a small apartment in downtown Hamilton with no outdoor space and work from home full-time. Being able to get out on my bike has been an essential part of my new routines to maintain my physical, mental, and emotional well-being,” he explains.

Those health implications are even larger than some may immediately realize. In fact, a report published this year by Toronto Public Health explains that around $1.6 billion of Canada’s annual health care costs are directly related to health issues stemming from physical inactivity.

Dedicated bike lanes along Bay Street.

With cycling shown to reduce the risk of potentially fatal conditions such as cancer, stroke, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as improve general physical health & wellness, the impact of a rise in biking could potentially save Canada’s healthcare as much as $150 million annually.

Thankfully, then, Hamilton isn’t the only Canadian locale expecting a bike-forward future. Neighbouring municipalities like Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, and Newmarket are also investing in developing transportation infrastructure that better accommodates cyclist and pedestrian traffic, building bike lanes and centering bicycles as an unprecedented transit priority.

This trend isn’t just region-wide or nationwide, either: the cycling revolution is becoming a worldwide phenomenon, with cities across Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Hungary, and beyond reporting significant spikes in cyclists for 2020 and responding by pouring resources into building cycling infrastructure.

As the world adjusts its approach to transportation, places like Hamilton can keep the wheels turning by investing further in bike lanes safely separated from vehicular traffic, ensuring the city’s bike network is properly maintained and usable during the harsher winter months, and even incentivizing biking through measures such as reducing insurance premiums for cyclists or tax deductions for related purchases.

A bike box is a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclists with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase.

Hamilton has lots of work to do before any of this is made a reality, but local cycling advocates like Krause believe the impact could be substantial.

“Our top priority remains developing a protected and connected cycling network,” he says. “In the short term, there is a massive opportunity for the City of Hamilton to follow the lead of cities such as Toronto, Brampton, Montreal, and now countless others, which have undertaken meaningful initiatives to rebalance streets and find opportunities to develop new infrastructure to meet the immediate need and will continue to pay dividends in the long-term.”


Author: Michael Kras
Editor-in-chief: Robert Cekan
https://urbanicity.com/

What is Urbanicity?
We are Hamilton’s community hub, publishing news you can use and curating Hamilton’s best local activities. Use Urbanicity to discover everything the city has to offer and make Hamilton truly feel like home.

Looking for news on the Hamilton real estate market? Click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

Read the article on the Urbanicity website here.

Lights, Camera, Hamilton!

The below article was originally written in Urbanicity, a Hamilton-based news outlet, by Michael Kras as part of a series of sponsored articles focused on the future of Hamilton and the ambitious city builders continuing its urban resurgence.

Crimson Peak. The Shape of Water. IT: Chapter Two. The Handmaid’s Tale. The Umbrella Academy. American Gods. The Good Witch. The Boys. Murdoch Mysteries. The list of film and television content shot right here in Hamilton keeps growing at a thrillingly rapid rate.

Our buildings have been visited by superheroes, malevolent ghosts, historical figures, and Chris freaking Evans. Our streets and neighbourhoods themselves have played parts from major metropolises to small, folksy townships. Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro has repeatedly sung our city’s praises. The movies and television series shot in Hamilton have won Oscars and Emmys, and penetrated pop culture on an international level.

Hamilton is now one of the country’s hottest hubs for the film & television industry.

The overwhelming commitment to cementing our city’s film & TV scene speaks for itself. As a city with plenty of diverse shooting locations and a whole lot of character, the Hammer has long been a spillover spot for film productions coming from the oversaturated film scene in Toronto, quickly turning Hamilton into a major industry hub in its own right. The influx has now made the city the second largest in Ontario and third largest in Canada.

In fact, Hamilton is home to 9,140 talented people who work in the film industry as well as home to 902 film-related businesses. In 2019, Hamilton received $60 million in ‘direct spend’ from productions on things like hotel stays, prop and equipment rentals, and services such as traffic control.

With a glut of heritage buildings, sprawling urban exteriors, and greenery spaces, Hamilton’s appeal for location scouts makes plenty of sense. Recognizable local landmarks regularly show up on large and small screens, like City Hall’s front-and-centre appearance in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water, Dundurn Castle’s key role in the gothic horror period piece Crimson Peak, and multiple downtown core locations featured in the Amazon Prime superhero series The Boys.

Hamilton isn’t just a prime spot for on-location film shoots, though. Not only are we also home to some small film studios and production companies, but we’ve recently been singled out by Aeon Studio Group for an over $100 million project to develop a 200,000 square-foot film studio and residential complex sitting on between 12 and 20 acres of the Barton-Tiffany lands.

Upon its eventual completion, the gigantically ambitious Aeon Studios is proposed to not only house multiple soundstages and studio spaces, but also post-production facilities for visual effects and animation, a crew training facility, retail space, residential towers, creative incubation workspaces, and office space for film, media, and tech companies.

Though the finished product is likely a long time coming due to the enormity of its scope, the Aeon Studios project promises resounding impact on our city’s cultural footprint and job market upon its completion.

Until then, the city still has smaller-scale hubs already making major waves in the city, including the Hamilton Film Studios — a newly-established film studio and production supply retailer with an already-sizeable footprint after only a year since they opened their doors.

Camera cases are among some of the many film-related gear you can pick up at Hamilton Film Studios

“As soon as we got the keys, the door was being knocked on,” says Zach Zohr, who co-owns the Hamilton Film Studios with partners Graham Purdy and Ken Woychesko.

All three owners are industry veterans with extensive backgrounds in film & television production, and they noticed an immediate need to fill in Hamilton. Not only that of studio space and location support, but also a local retail shop so production teams shooting in Hamilton would no longer need to make obnoxious trips into Toronto for necessary supplies and equipment.

The daily foot traffic at Hamilton Film Studios speaks to how essential they are to the city’s growing film scene. From shoots in need of space, to location scouting, to emergency shopping trips for supplies, there are “at least a half-dozen” productions that come through the HFS’ doors daily, according to Zohr.

One of Hamilton’s Film Studios television sets

Those productions have been everything from commercial shoots, to music videos, to television series shot for prominent streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Hamilton Film Studios was also home to the production of the independent feature film White Lie, which performed to critical acclaim at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and is notable for not only being filmed in Hamilton, but also directly set in our city too.

Hamilton Film Studios isn’t the city’s only production resource, however. Barely a five-minute drive from the HFS building sits Digital Canaries, which resides along Burlington Street East and currently holds the title of Hamilton’s largest shooting space.

A film studio that offers flexible space for productions, Digital Canaries sets itself apart from the neighbouring Hamilton Film Studios by having over 50 impressive standing sets available ranging from office replicas, to prison corridors, to courtrooms, to hospital operating rooms, and beyond. On top of that, Digital Canaries also features green screen facilities, as well as an extensive prop and wardrobe house that carries well over 100,000 items of all sizes and types for production use.

Between the rich offerings of the two current spaces, Hamilton Film Studios and Digital Canaries have jointly made Hamilton an even more attractive locale for local, national, and international film & TV production; even ahead of the construction of Aeon Studios. Growth continues at a rapid rate, and according to the folks at Hamilton Film Studios, it shows no signs of slowing.

“We’re never going to be Toronto; that’s the mecca,” says Zohr, while noting that, as vacancies at Toronto’s film facilities are getting scarcer by the day, Hamilton’s status as Ontario’s second busiest centre for film production will likely continue to hold steady. “Filming permits are up every year. As long as people are watching movies, the industry is going to grow.”

Those filming permits are indeed on the rise. In 2019, the city saw 14% more filming days than it did in 2018, which itself was a record-breaking year that saw a 50% increase over the year before in film permits issued.

Hamilton now gets to play a leading role in that growth, simultaneously attracting huge investment and talent to the city on its way to becoming the new Hollywood.

Click here for our tenant spotlight on Hamilton Film Studios.


Author: Michael Kras
Editor-in-chief: Robert Cekan
https://urbanicity.com/

What is Urbanicity?
We are Hamilton’s community hub, publishing news you can use and curating Hamilton’s best local activities. Use Urbanicity to discover everything the city has to offer and make Hamilton truly feel like home. 

Read the article on the Urbanicity website here.

The future of tech lies in Hamilton

The below article was originally written in Urbanicity, a Hamilton-based news outlet, by Michael Adebo as part of a series of sponsored articles focused on the future of Hamilton and the ambitious city builders continuing its urban resurgence.

It’s a new decade and looking back, ten years ago seems so far away. Our world, and by extension, our lives have changed at a faster rate than ever before, and we have a boom in technology to thank for that.

For better or for worse, technology is here to stay — and it’s embedded in nearly every facet of our lives. From smartphones, to smart homes, to Bitmojis dancing in your living room — don’t believe for a second that we’re even halfway through the Digital Revolution. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

The way we work is where we’ll feel the impact of technology the most. Technology is changing the landscape of employment as we know it. As we progress into the next decade, we’ll see an abundance of jobs become automated or operate under the watch of artificial intelligence (AI); intelligent machines that work almost like humans — and I’m not talking about Siri.

These alterations in employment are happening all around us. In fact, as we enter the new year, well-known supermarket chain Loblaws announced the closure of two distribution centres in Laval, Quebec, and Ottawa, Ontario respectively, impacting 800 workers. The vacancy will transform distribution centres by adding robotics and machinery, and move away from a traditional warehouse look which Loblaw’s hopes will modernize their business.

In some cases, rather than being replaced, we’ll work alongside technology in the form of robotic arms and AI software. However, this doesn’t come without complications. Our AI co-workers are so efficient that there’s been cause for concern about the pressure it puts on human workers to increase their performance. For Amazon and their warehouse fulfilment centres maintaining one- and two-day delivery means enormous pressure on workers to operate as fast as machines, which is punctuated by growing human burnout and safety concerns.

AI is also capable of operating independently through machine learning. Machine learning provides artificial intelligence systems with the ability to automatically learn by recognizing patterns or characteristics. Anytime you’re recommended a new product on Amazon, a new show or movie on Netflix, or even certain ads on Instagram, machine learning is at work. Conversely, it’s been recorded as early as 2011 that shopping malls have been tracking customer behaviour through their smartphones to determine the length of stay and consumer shopping patterns, such as comparing items and prices between stores and whether or not people go out of their way to visit a specific store. This insight allows companies and those with access to AI technology to better target their intended audience.

If these revelations are stirring mixed emotions and apprehension, that’s understandable. If the popularity of Black Mirror is anything to go by, there’s an endless source of films, television, and other media that have conditioned us to be cautious of the control we relinquish to technology.

But maybe it’s a matter of perspective — rather than dreading how AI and automation will change our industries and displace us in the job market, it may be an opportunity to shift our skills to accommodate a digital future for the better. It’s what we’ve always done after all — change and adapt. When speaking about electronic hotel check-ins and the diminishing amount of human interaction, Toronto real-estate developer Brandon Donnelly stated that the change is inevitable. “We used to have elevator operators. Now we don’t. We used to have people shoveling coal into furnaces. Now we don’t. And I think that’s okay. We created different jobs. The same is likely to happen with Uber/Lyft drivers”.

The collection of skills required to find work in today’s market is indicative of a transition from a jobs economy to a skills economy, one that values critical thinking, interpersonal skills, problem solving, and above all — digital literacy. Digital literacy doesn’t mean that we’ll all become programmers and coders; instead it’s an understanding of and familiarity with tech in the same way that we value reading as a literacy skill. Think of it as the difference between your little cousin and your parents when they get ahold of an iPhone; one flourishes, the other is deeply confused. As it turns out, we’re not prepared for this shift. A 2018 RBC report on the future of work illustrated that neither the Canadian education system or employers are ready to train and help Canadians – specifically youth – navigate a skills economy.

So, where do we go from here? The future is always uncertain, but Hamilton is stepping up as a leader in our new, tech-filled future.

Not only do we have a robust collection of adult learning initiatives that are delivering digital literacy and computer skills programs, like those offered by Mohawk City School and St. Charles Adult Learning Centres across the city, we’ve also seen the beginnings of industries adapting to disruption closer to home.

By now we’ve all heard whispers of self-driving vehicles over the last few years. As of late 2019, an opportunity is on the horizon for Hamilton to be at the forefront of the incoming autonomous car wave. Starting later this year, several Hamilton Mountain streets will become testing areas for research into the cars’ sensor capabilities in a city environment — with a back-up safety driver behind the wheel of course. Research and development in this area continues to be made locally through the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre as well. Following our recent transportation woes, I’m inclined to agree with councillor John-Paul Danko, who’s stated this is a win for the city that “speaks back to our history as a manufacturing city”.

Several Hamilton Mountain streets will become testing areas for autonomous car research in 2020.

Speaking of which, Hamilton’s reputation as a manufacturing city will certainly remain intact. Another opportunity has risen in the form of modular construction. Modular design allows for a building to be 90% completed within indoor facilities, which are then assembled and completed on-site. ED Modular, a subservice of the construction company EllisDon, plans to capitalize on this technology by opening the biggest modular building facility in Canada — right in Stoney Creek (pictured in the cover photo). Modular construction is especially viable because of its environmentally-friendly methods and the speed at which modular buildings can be built at. Furthermore, shortened timelines and indoor construction are great news when confronting long, often harsh Canadian winters.

Stelco, one of Hamilton’s largest employers, is in the business of making steel — not an industry that comes to mind when we think tech. And yet this steel plant is at the forefront of deploying AI in day-to-day steel operations by partnering with Canvass Analytics for optimizing the steel production process using reinforcement learning. Stelco’s CEO, David Cheney, has noted that the implementation of AI has led to “reduced waste, improved quality and optimization of asset utilization.”

Many other industries are being disrupted by tech and several of those tech companies are flocking to Hamilton as their base of operations. Not only has the tech scene in Hamilton been named top 2 in North America for tech opportunity, we’re also Canada’s fastest growing mid-sized city for tech according to a report released by CBRE in 2018. In fact, this past month the techfin company Q4 Inc., a cloud-based investor relations platform, and Ackroo, a customer loyalty and gift card service announced that they will be launching Hamilton offices in 2020.

Then there’s McMaster Innovation Park, which acts as a support network through their affiliate tech hubs The Forge, Innovation Factory, and the soon to be built Emerging Technology Centre, where once finished, will act as a beacon for young professionals from across Canada and the world. McMaster is certainly leading the charge for exciting and fresh ideas, from becoming the new home for law firm Gowling, to biotech start-up Fusion Pharmaceuticals.

Fred Wilson, an American venture capitalist predicts that a shift to automation will lead to “experiments in reallocating wealth and income”. It’s very possible that retooling how we approach tech as workers and as a city is vital going forward. Rather than fear the Digital Revolution, perhaps we should get ahead of disruption, become acquainted with technology and start the decade on the right AI-assisted foot.


Author: Michael Adebo
Editor-in-chief: Robert Cekan
https://urbanicity.com/​

What is Urbanicity?
We are Hamilton’s community hub, publishing news you can use and curating Hamilton’s best local activities. Use Urbanicity to discover everything the city has to offer and make Hamilton truly feel like home.