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Lister Block

6248 Views 57 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Tuscani01
After years of false starts and dashed hopes, it looks as if the crumbling but iconic Lister Block is finally going to be reborn.

Joe Mancinelli, vice-president of Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA), which owns the decaying heritage building in the downtown core, says he's on the verge of unveiling a major redevelopment project.

"We're just kind of dotting the i's and crossing the t's and, hopefully, within the next month we will be ready for a more formal announcement."

Mancinelli declines to go into details but he credits Mayor Larry Di Ianni with being a driving force and offers tantalizing hints of more "juicy stuff" coming.

Mario Joannette, the mayor's executive assistant, confirms Di Ianni has been huddling with LIUNA and other players to find a solution, but he's tight-lipped about what's in the works. "We're anticipating an announcement but Joe Mancinelli will have to be the one who makes that."

Mancinelli says there are two phases to the project.

"Phase 1, we're almost there. That's why I'm talking about being weeks away from an announcement.

"But Phase 2 will take this from a great project into a spectacular project, and that has components that are quite frankly not complete yet and require other levels of government to participate. That's something the mayor has been working on relentlessly."

Mancinelli says if Di Ianni lands the big fish, it will be a much bigger story than redoing the Lister.

"We're talking economic development, we're talking new jobs, we're talking all the real juicy stuff."

Nonetheless, Mancinelli is acutely aware the rotting, six-storey landmark at James North and King William has become the poster child for what's wrong with the downtown.

"It's become a psychological symbol of downtown decay and once the announcement's made, within a 24-hour period, it will turn into a psychological symbol of renewal."

Councillor Bill Kelly, former chair of the city's economic development committee, suggests the breakthrough has been signing major tenants, the absence of which has been a stumbling block in getting a project going to save whatever architectural features are still salvageable after years of neglect.

"Obviously it's going to be an office complex or condos, one or the other," said Kelly.

In any case, Kelly hopes the long-awaited revitalization of the eyesore, which has been vacant for about 10 years, will be the catalyst for other developments in the core.

But he also notes that previous false starts have left many skeptical about the Lister, which went up in 1924 after a fire gutted the original 1886 building. Certainly there have been more than a few disappointments since LIUNA bought it in 1999.

The first blow fell in late 2000 when Ottawa chose to build the new federal building on a parking lot across from Copps Coliseum instead of at the Lister, a failure some attributed to then Heritage Minister Sheila Copps not paying close enough attention to the selection process.

That was followed a year later by the so-called Kittling Ridge proposal for a $78-million hotel-condo-office tower complex, which included the controversial idea of moving the farmers' market and Canadian Football Hall of Fame to the site.

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was financing troubles and legal action by the owners of Jackson Square, that also went off the rails -- despite last-ditch attempts in 2002 by Copps to snag some federal tenants, including the National Archives and a call centre.

Things have been pretty quiet at the derelict building since then, other than for a small fire last year and the bitterly ironic news its boarded-up facade is a popular moviemaking location.

But we shouldn't forget that LIUNA is the outfit that saved the city's old CN station by converting it into a stylish banquet centre.

They're part of the consortium that is redeveloping the landmark downtown Royal Connaught Hotel. And they're still working on a multimillion dollar proposal for a European-style residential and commercial project on Pier 8 in Hamilton's west harbour.

Clearly nobody should underestimate their ability to get things done in this town.
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So happy to hear about this. Once Lister Block gets redeveloped it will be a symbol of renewal.
this is really good news Steeltown.

Whatever happened with the Music Hall of Fame? Wasn't that to be announced in January??
CARAS said they would announce the winner of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame bid in February but then they delayed the announcement until Spring.

I have a feeling CARAS will announce the winner of the bid during the Juno Awards on April 3rd.
Steeltown said:
CARAS said they would announce the winner of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame bid in February but then they delayed the announcement until Spring.

I have a feeling CARAS will announce the winner of the bid during the Juno Awards on April 3rd.
envelope please.

and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame goes to.... Hamilton! Yay!
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algonquin said:
envelope please.

and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame goes to.... Hamilton! Yay!
Hell ya

:pepper: :cucumber: :banana: :rock:
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I hope we finally see some action here, i love that building!
That is awesome news for the Lister block. Think about this, not only will be that be good, but for the entire block of that place, that will create a spinoff of good things for that section of downtown, you think? If it is restored, it will look beautiful on those tree-lined streets.

Is Hamilton really getting the Canadian Music Hall of Fame? If it is I officially call Hamilton, "Canada's Cleveland, Ohio".
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From the sound of this article, which came from the Hamilton Spectator, I think Lister Block will be both a mixture of condo and office space. LIUNA credited Mayor Di Ianni in helping Lister Block redevelopment so that’s a signal to me that Larry Di Ianni is going to give LIUNA some money from the residential loan program. The residential loan program is a program where the city gives incentives to developers to build or convert a building into a residential building in downtown Hamilton. Which is a successful program, examples are, the Annex, Cityview Terrace, Chateau Royale, Century Theatre, Core Lofts and Trinity Landing.

Then when you read on it says that the Lister Block redevelopment will create new jobs so I’m taking that as a hint of office space in Lister Block.
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Jaybird said:
Is Hamilton really getting the Canadian Music Hall of Fame? If it is I officially call Hamilton, "Canada's Cleveland, Ohio".
Yes it's down to Hamilton and Toronto for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame bid. Toronto won this bid a few years ago but never built the Hall of Fame so CARAS started another bidding war. Last time Hamilton was in 2nd place.

Check out to learn about Hamilton's bid.

It's pretty much identical to Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where Hamilton's proposal will be located next to the waterfront on Pier 8.
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Steeltown said:
Yes it's down to Hamilton and Toronto for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame bid. Toronto won this bid a few years ago but never built the Hall of Fame so CARAS started another bidding war. Last time Hamilton was in 2nd place.
what happened to Wienerpeg?
Winnipeg missed a submission deadline and has been dropped from a short list to house the centre.
Let's hope that they will find ways to restore it, it's just a shame to leave such a beautiful building in downtown abandoned like this.

BTW, I heard from my friend in Hamilton that the Royal Connaught in downtown had folded? Can anyone confirm that? I would be sorry to see it go. It has a nice building and lobby for a budget hotel (the interior was terrible though).
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The previous owner of the Royal Connaught went bankrupt. But then I think 4 or 5 months later a bunch of local developers purchased the hotel. The groups are called the Royal Connaught Development Group.

Members of the Royal Connaught Development Group:

Tony Battaglia - President of Tradeport and in charge of the development group
Joe Mancinelli - boss of LIUNA, will help give advise in restoring the Royal Connaught
Oscar Kichi - owner of Ramada Plaza Hotel, experience in running a hotel
Ted Valeri - T. Valeri Construction Ltd., will be in charge of the construction
Mario Frankovich - President of Burgeonvest Securities Ltd., will be in charge of financing

The Royal Connaught development group plans a massive 10-million dollar redevelopment of the landmark including a new first-class hotel, condominiums and office space.

Spokesman Tony Battaglia hopes for a re-opening date of June 5th of 2006 which will be Royal Connaught 90th anniversary.
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Thanks for answering, Steeltown, I'm glad to hear that. ;)
Lister update

It's rumored that the Lister announcement might have something to do with the City Hall renovations. What does that mean? something about displaced workers, a revitalized Lister Block, City Hall gets fixed, workers move back in, and the Lister gets taken over by City Hall.
Good work Hamilton!
I'm no fan of Hamilton but being such an older city it does have a lot of good older archetecture. I hope more of this takes place. There are too many gems in Steeltown, I would hate to see them come down for a glass box.
Lister a Go… If City Signs On
Council to vote on tenancy that would cement revival of downtown landmark

The long-awaited redevelopment of the Lister Block hinges on the city becoming a tenant in the downtown landmark.

A rental proposal from the Labourers International Union is being considered by city hall and will dictate if the project goes ahead, said LIUNA vice-president Joe Mancinelli.

“If we can negotiate something with the city, the project is a go immediately,” he said.

Mayor Larry Di Ianni said late last night he doesn’t want to discuss details, because of ongoing negotiations. The decision rests with city council, he said. Council is expected to vote on the proposal May 9.

Mancinelli said the redevelopment would be mainly commercial. He called the city an “important tenant” that would convince already interested businesses to sign on.

“When you have the city as a tenant, they all come to the table,” he said. “They’re ready to go. That’s how close we are.”

“I think it’s going to be a win-win.” Said a hopeful Mancinelli, adding councillors will look like “heroes” if they help restore the decaying 1923 building.

The Lister Block proposal is just one positive sign for downtown. A striking purple façade on a new upscale restaurant and a soon-to-be removed For Sale sign on two landmarks are also raising hopes for the core.

Room 41 has opened its door in the former location of La Costa on King William and there is news that the long-abandoned Victoria Hall and MacKay buildings – collectively known as Foster building – have been sold.

In addition, the ongoing restoration of the landmark Royal Connaught, the upcoming opening of the new Art Gallery of Hamilton, the conversion of the Bank of Montreal building on James Street into a law office and a host of new condo projects – the Core Lofts, Chateau Royale, the former federal building at Caroline and Main and the old Spectator building on King William – are all boosting morale of those who care for the downtown.

Councillor Dave Mitchell said yesterday he understood the prime tenants in a redeveloped Lister Block would be large private companies and that the city is being asked to rent “a certain amount of space just to show good faith.”

Mitchell said the city would not be a key player and the project does not depend on the city’s involvement.

Di Ianni said he couldn’t reveal much because negotiations are at a delicate stage.

“All I can say is council has expressed unanimous interest in seeing the Lister Block redeveloped and there are negotiations to see whether there would be a city role and what if would be.”

LIUNA, which turned the former CN station on James Street North into the Liuna Station banquet centre, is also part of the group that recently bought the bankrupt Royal Connaught Hotel with plants to renovate and reopen it.

John Dolbec, chief executive officer of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said he has heard lots of rumours about the development.

“To have some thing happen to the Lister Block is absolutely critical to the city.

“If you are in love with the architecture or not, and many people are, to have a big building at a major intersection derelict and abandoned is a billboard for downtown decay.

“It would be a tremendous shot in the arm for this community, a signal we have finally turned the corner on downtown renewal.”

Dolbec said the wave of condominium development downtown is “overshadowed be that monolithic, derelict building boarded up.”

Project manager of the Foster Building, James Tran, confirmed his Toronto clients have purchased the building and intend to convert the 118-years-old Victoria Hall into a professional office for lawyers or doctors. The MacKay building will become work-live lofts, said Tran.

The pair of buildings face Gore Park on the south side of King Street East just west of John Street.

Previous buyers also had big plans for restaurants, offices and condos there but Tran says his clients – whom he declined to name – are pushing forward with cleanup.

The buildings have been vacant for more than two decades. That means there is a lot of mess inside, he said.

“They are eager to get this going. It’s looking really positive.”

Showpiece buildings like the historically designated Victoria Hall and the MacKay building will be key to brining the Gore Park area back to life, said Councillor Bob Brantina, who represents the area.

Barry Michael, co-owner of Room 41, is a downtown cheerleader. Born in Hamilton and raised in Burlington, he says he sets out to land the location as soon as he heard La Costa was heading out last July.

He and business partner Brad Lomanto injected a lot of chase and a bold splash of colour into the historic building with the round façade.

“It’s such a beautiful old building. I knew I could do something spectacular with it.

“I believe in Hamilton. It’s got its problem but it’s a big city. There is a wall of graffiti or a homeless guy on the streets in Toronto and no one thinks anything of it. Here, it’s a big deal.”

Sak Jar, who opened neighbouring Thai Tamarind in the basement where The Rude Native used to be, is also high on his new home. He could have opened a restaurant anywhere but he chose Hamilton, he says.

“If we help each other, Hamilton will be booming again.”

But there are problems. He doesn’t think the city should allow prime downtown property to be swallowed up by a bingo hall and he’s angry about vandalism in the area.

The commercial vacancy rate in the core sits at about 29 per cent, amounting to 789,000 square feet, says realtor Dave Blanchard.

The big hits came from operations moving out of the Standard Life Building and the Stelco Tower last year, says Blanchard, president of a yearly vacancy report.

But things are looking up, he says.
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