Downtown boom town: ‘Hamilton is the new Brooklyn’

Since 2017, over $733 million in residential and commercial building permits were issued in the city’s core.

The smiles on the faces of Judy Lam and Norm Schleehahn gave the glorious sunshine a run for its money on May 12 as the city’s two top downtown revitalization leaders stood beside Hamilton’s Gore Park fountain and turned slowly to take in the nearby forest of building cranes reaching into the sky.

“Last year was the highest number of residential unit building permits downtown ever,” Schleehahn, the city’s director of economic development, said. “The developers have really seized an opportunity.” In fact, 2021 hit a record $2 billion in building permits across all of Hamilton, he said.

He and Lam, the city’s manager for commercial districts and small business, are helping to usher in an unprecedented highrise building boom that’s transforming Hamilton’s downtown from a commercial real estate dead zone a little more than a decade ago to today’s construction bonanza.