Developer to build $700M retail, condo space at Hamilton City Centre

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A Toronto-based development firm with a new vision for a downtown Hamilton structure is just over a month away from completing its purchase of City Centre Mall. IN8 Developments is planning to take on an ambitious re-development of the property on James Street North between King Street East and York Boulevard, according to company president Darryl Firsten. “Location, location, location. It’s an incredible location, ” said Firsten. “We also like the fact that it’s big. It’s three-point five-four acres, and it has the ability to be more than a tower.”  

Firsten told Global News that the plan is to knock down the current structure and build five residential and commercial towers in stages to the tune of about $700 million.

However, Firsten says this won’t happen soon. He says it will likely be more than two years down the road as IN8 plans to do some research to see what Hamiltonians want in new downtown development.

“This is not happening in the next year. This is not happening in the next two years. It’s a few years down the road before something starts,” said Firsten.

In early November 2019 CBRE Limited announced Hamilton City Centre up for sale, positioning the 3.5-acre property on James Street North as a solution to the “significant demand for new housing and mixed-use space” in the city core.

The sale price to IN8 has not been disclosed but the sale is expected to be completed on Dec. 12.

The landmark was built in 1990 by Cadillac Fairview and originally known as the Eaton Centre. It includes more than 550,000 square feet of commercial area and employs several hundred people.

Firsten says the part of the development they are least worried about is the residential spaces.

“The one that we’re least concerned about is people being interested in buying or living here. That is the least concern for us. We believe the demand is there.”

Hamilton’s Director of Economic Development Glen Norton agrees with Firsten saying the new condo units should not only provide supply for those who need a place to live – since they are expected to have a lower price point than a single-family home – but also provides a good launching point to travel around and out of the city.

“The downtown is becoming more attractive, partly because of the ability to travel to where you want to go. You know, you’ve got the LRT coming, you’ve got your HSR routes and you’ve got the Metrolinx into Toronto.”

Manager of Urban Renewal Judy Lam says a big part of enticing developers, like IN8, to take on projects in downtown Hamilton was the announcement of the Hamilton LRT – set to run between McMaster University and Eastgate Square.

“I think you have to plan for the future and the fact that less and less people will want to use their car,” said Lam. “Now that it’s getting close to fruition – construction will actually start in some time now – you even see more interest because they see it as a reality.”

When construction begins, IN8’s Firsten expects it to be business as usual for current store operators in the facility. Firsten says they will work with existing tenants to improve their businesses during each phase of the City Centre development.

“As we phase through the project, we’re going to create new commercial space, which will add opportunities for new businesses to come in and some businesses to move around the site,” said Firsten.

“We do respect and appreciate all the businesses that we currently work with, both in our mall or what will be our mall and around us.”