Hamilton city council has unanimously approved a more than $400-million private-sector redevelopment of the city’s downtown entertainment venues.
The winning bidder is The Precinct Group, a consortium that includes Carmen’s Group, LiUNA, Fengate Capital, Meridian Credit Union and Paletta Group.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger says it’s a historic deal that will include a $50-million modernization of FirstOntario Centre, and tens of millions of dollars in renovations to the downtown convention centre and concert hall.
The plan also includes a significant investment in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and new residential, affordable housing through the construction of at least three residential towers.
The mayor calls it “monumental change for our downtown facilities and certainly gets them into a status that is going to be not only viable, but competitive and without any cost to the taxpayers in terms of capital costs or operating costs going forward.”
A 2019 study by Ernst and Young estimated that privatizing the operation and maintenance of the entertainment venues will save Hamilton taxpayers $155 million over the next 30 years.
In addition to taking on all capital costs for the renewal of Hamilton’s downtown entertainment facilities, the Precinct Group would take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre and the FirstOntario Concert Hall for a period of 99 years and of the Hamilton Convention Centre indefinitely, without any monetary contribution from the city.
Next steps include negotiations between the city and The Precinct Group to create a “master agreement,” which is expected to be finalized in late 2020.
Eisenberger says arena renovations could begin in the fall of 2021.
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge says taxpayers are “the winners” in the deal.
The Hamilton Bulldogs are also voicing support for the plan.
A statement released on Friday by Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer, says he is pleased to see the City of Hamilton move forward with the redevelopment of the downtown entertainment precinct.
Andlauer adds that “I look forward to the next steps for planning and working collaboratively with this group and the City.”
He stresses that keeping the Ontario Hockey League club in Hamilton has always been his “priority” and he looks forward to a plan that “keeps us here for decades to come.”