Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday January 25, 2020
Could Hamilton’s Lime Ridge arena rejection cost city nearly $1 billion?
When city council voted 11-3 last week to kill the idea of any further consideration of a 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall, it leaned heavily on a staff report urging such a decision.
Not to worry, the report implied. Having a rink downtown is way better. Besides, it won’t affect Cadillac Fairview’s plans to spend $890 million redeveloping the Mountain property. Might delay it a bit but that’s it. So go ahead and vote against it. All is well.
Not so fast, the executive vice president of Cadillac Fairview says.
“I think the short answer to that is, yes, it is at risk,” Wayne Barwise says.
Not just short term. Completely. As in, potentially no 1,250-unit residential development, no hotel, no expanded office space, no new jobs. None of it. Because what would lure people there?
“People have not traditionally chosen to live at a shopping centre,” he says. “We’re trying to transform the shopping centre into more than a shopping centre so it’s a mixed use community. So you need other things. You need catalysts.”
This should be concerning to everyone in Hamilton.
For the better part of a decade, this town has turned itself into a pretzel over the LRT because of the billion dollars of someone else’s money it could bring into the community that would transform part of the city. Supporters — including many at city hall — say it’s essential. Politicians and bureaucrats have spent thousands of hours working to make sure that desperately needed cash infusion comes here.
Yet when a company says it wants to invest nearly an equal amount elsewhere in the city, there seems to be a whole lot less urgency.
This is troubling. Even more so when one of that company’s top executives argues the numbers the city is relying on to make its decision are “plain nonsense.” He says the real amount the proposal would cost the city wouldn’t be well over $100 million but closer to $27 million.
Without the arena — or something like it — nothing will happen at the site in the next three to five years, Barwise says. Doing it at any point will require “substantial positive market growth.” A sports and entertainment complex would lure people to the area and create that, he says.
Ironically, that’s pretty much exactly the city’s reasoning for wanting the entertainment district downtown.
“I think they made the wrong decision,” he says. “I think the decision lacks vision and I think it’s short sighted.”
Of course he’d say that, some will say. He’s got an interest in this. Which he does, of course. Even so, this seems rather too large a potential investment to be something we’d take for granted.
That LRT billion? City changing. This $890 million? We’ll get back to you. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)