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  #1  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2007, 1:08 AM
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Royal Connaught Hotel | ? | 36 fl, 33 fl, 24 fl & 13 fl | U/C

Consortium 'pretty close' to finding backers for Connaught project, Battaglia says


Massive renovations are planned for the Royal Connaught Hotel, the 1916 downtown landmark.

Consortium 'pretty close' to finding ...Group insists downtown venture still a go despite cash woes

Nicole Macintyre
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 24, 2007)

Nearly three years after promising to revamp the Royal Connaught Hotel, investors are still trying to find financing for the project.

"We're pretty close," said Tony Battaglia, spokesperson for the group behind the massive renovation.

Rumours have been swirling for months that the hotel is for sale or the project is in trouble, forcing Battaglia to continually reaffirm the venture is still alive.

"It's frustrating, but rumours are part of life," he said.

Gord Moodie, the city's co-ordinator of downtown municipal incentives, remains optimistic about the project, which is seen as a key part of the downtown plan.

"I think the next couple of months will tell the story."

But even if the project falls through, Moodie said he's already talked to other hoteliers who are interested in the property. "Either way it's going to fly."

The Connaught went into receivership and closed its doors in November 2004. A couple of months later, the local consortium bought the 1916 landmark for $4.5 million.

The group -- including businesspeople such as Battaglia, hotelier Oscar Kichi, builder Ted Valeri, union head Joe Mancinelli and banker Mario Frankovich -- promised to return the hotel to its former glory.

Since then, the project has encountered numerous design challenges, which have now been settled, said Battaglia.

The current plan includes a revamped hotel under the Renaissance name of the Marriott chain and a condo tower at the back.

In August, the city approved a $3.4-million downtown revitalization loan for the condo portion of the project. The money doesn't flow until the construction is well underway.

Finding financing for the hotel portion of the costly project has been a challenge, forcing the group to expand its search for a willing investor, said Battaglia.

"It's a complicated project."

The businessman recently moved his office out of the Connaught.

He said the move would have been necessary during renovations and he preferred to leave now, instead of the winter.
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  #2  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2007, 1:46 AM
raisethehammer raisethehammer is offline
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yea sure...just like they "were close" the other 6 times the Spectator has interviewed them.
It's the new model in Hamilton - buy a heritage building, gut it and sit around waiting for government money to come to the rescue before the wrecking ball arrives.
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  #3  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2007, 1:56 AM
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I would hope that the city would be riding their ass' about this one...
Didn't they already give them $2mil for the gutting?

If Keg is out, rth, have their been any other names thrown around?
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  #4  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2007, 1:57 AM
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nope...nobody will firm up until something actually happens.
Keg is opening in stoney creek and waterdown instead.
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  #5  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2007, 2:03 AM
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Originally Posted by raisethehammer View Post
nope...nobody will firm up until something actually happens.
Keg is opening in stoney creek and waterdown instead.
Obviously like a Big Box bldg in the middle of a lot, right?
Please tell me I'm wrong and that they're locating in Olde Town Stoney Creek???? a-la Old Powerhouse????
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  #6  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2007, 2:35 AM
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I would take the Keg opening in Stoney Creek and Waterdown to mean they are likely opening in the respective power centers being built in both locations. The Keg downtown is not an utter and complete impossibility--we have fairly recently acquired a Keg in Downtown Windsor.
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  #7  
Old Posted Nov 1, 2007, 3:38 AM
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Building it back up
This block is key to renewal. It’s a focal point of the downtown, housing the grand Connaught. But like the Connaught, it’s mostly hollow today. Slowly, quietly, businesspeople are trying to pull it back together, believing vibrancy can be restored.

PAUL WILSON
Hamilton Spectator

Let’s take a walk around the block.

It’s an old one, bounded by King, John, Main and Catharine.

For nearly a century, this block has been dominated by one hulking feature — the Royal Connaught Hotel, with marble-pillared lobby, spectacular ballroom, cocktails on the rooftop garden.

And at street level, the Connaught housed many shops. If we strolled that stretch of King 60 years ago we would have passed Raphael-Mack Ladies Wear, Dack’s Shoes, R.B. McLelland’s menswear, Liggett Drugs, Powell Photo.

Immediately east, on what is now the Connaught parking lot, was a building called the Secord Block. Down at street level were Bert Rymal Appliances, Robertson and Turner Jewelers, The Travel Shop, Empire Shoe Rebuilders, Courtland Steam Baths.

Upstairs were all manner of enterprises, including the Studio of Popular Music. Chris Lovett taught there. Paul Daniels taught people how to sing. J.R. McLachlan, dentist, gave them a winning smile.

If we walked along John, the western edge of this block, we would have passed the Connaught’s coffee shop, then Nick Corrado’s tailor shop, Miss Emma Schuler’s hat shop, Sekeshon’s Fashion Salon. Over these stores, on floors two, three and four, was Connaught Bowling & Billiards, with 26 alleys, five tables and a lunch bar.

Next door, the Merchants’ Store Fixtures building. And at the corner of John and Main, the Bright Spot restaurant, a printing company above it.

Just east on Main, operations on the block included Livingstone Stoker Sales, Connaught Motor Sales, Lennox Service Station.

In short, it was a bustling block with a long list of businesses.

And how many enterprises operate on that block today? Precisely one.

“Call me crazy, but I love downtown,” says Murline Mallette. She and husband Gene have been running Liaison College of Culinary Arts at 27 John South for 10 years.

The location is handy for students, and the Farmers’ Market is handy for fresh ingredients. Mallette says they’re staying downtown. She believes the cancer around her is about to be cured.

So does her landlord, Glen Swire. “Call me crazy too,” he says. Swire is part of the family that first brought Colonel Sanders and his secret herbs and spices to town in the early 1960s.

Sometimes the colonel even slept at their house.

The Swires had Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets all over the city. Thirty years ago they decided they needed one downtown, and Swire put up the building on John South and opened a 92-seater in 1978.

At that time, the post office was right across the street. Everybody went there in those days, and hundreds worked there. That KFC closed in 1996 — downtown was deteriorating, the post office moved to Stoney Creek and McDonald’s and Wendy’s left their locations across from Gore Park.

Swire, 57, values Liaison as a tenant and has no plans to sell. “I’ve got another 20 years to hang on,” he says, but predicts downtown will be a better place inside of 10 years.

He’s heartened by what’s happening one door south, at John and Main.

Whistler-based Gibbons Hospitality Group has bought a 157-year-old stone building for $500,000 and is spending $2 million to turn it into a 900-seat club, complete with what could be downtown’s only rooftop patio. The London Tap House opens soon.

Matt Gibbons looked on the Mountain. “But it’s more of a strip-mall feel up there. The history’s down here.”

One door east on Main, the BFT Group (Building for Tomorrow) is putting the finishing touches on a $200,000 renovation of what long ago was the site of the Lake & Bailey flour mill.

Brent Coleman of BFT — a young local group — says it’s their first venture downtown. The building, purchased last year, has café, office, loft potential.

They’ve moved stairways, installed heavy structural beams, struggled to get permits.

Coleman is sure it’ll be worth it. “I think this block is key. Five years from now, it’ll look significantly better than it does today.”

One door north of Liaison College is the four-storey building that once housed that bowling alley and billiards.

It’s in bad shape and has been mostly empty for years. There was the seedy Crazy Horse Saloon, whose rough patrons caused Liaison many headaches.

The saloon’s recent death is good news.

Now the building — bowling lanes long gone — is for sale. Mississauga realtor Anastasia Tolias has the listing.

She doesn’t know much about Hamilton, but “I don’t like what I see in the downtown core … Everybody needs to come together and kick it up a couple of notches.”

She has the property listed at $800,000, ambitious indeed. The building’s owned by a numbered company.

Ted Mammas of Mississauga, one of the principals, says they simply bought it as an investment. They’re not interested in developing the building, just selling it.

So that’s four properties on the block. The fifth, last not least, the great beast, Lady Connaught. After she slipped into receivership in 2004, five local businessmen bought her for $4.5 million — Tony Battaglia, a founder of Hamilton airport’s TradePort; Plaza Hotel owner Oscar Kichi; Ted Valeri of T. Valeri Construction; Labourers’ International Union vice-president Joe Mancinelli; and Mario Frankovich, president of Burgeonvest Securities.

They said they would make the Connaught royal again. They thought it would be done by now, but the job of rebuilding has not yet begun. They can’t find the financing.

The plan morphed into a mammoth project that would see the Connaught buy the other four properties on the block, knocking them down and putting up two 18-storey condo towers behind the renovated hotel.

According to Battaglia, lead hand for the Connaught ownership group, two of the four parties were “totally unreasonable” in what they wanted. So that plan died this summer.

The current plan is to do the Connaught with offices on floors two, three and four and put guest rooms on the other eight.

“The cost of renovating is more expensive than a brand-new building,” Battaglia says, “and the final appraisal shows a value that’s lower than the cost. Lenders just can’t wrap their heads around that.”

So the search for money goes on.

Battaglia says the ownership team may have to ante up more money. And they may now have to go to second-chance lenders, who charge higher interest.

Battaglia says there’s been no surrender.

“I’m disappointed, but not defeated. I still think this is a great project.”
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  #8  
Old Posted Nov 2, 2007, 3:24 PM
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this is the next Lister. sitting empty to rot for years, while LIUNA tries to burn it down. They don't have enough confidence to invest their own money in the project.
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Old Posted Nov 2, 2007, 10:11 PM
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^^ you're totally right, Realcity.

Quote:
“The cost of renovating is more expensive than a brand-new building,” Battaglia says, “and the final appraisal shows a value that’s lower than the cost. Lenders just can’t wrap their heads around that.”
r u kidding me??? So how many arson attempts does everyone figure will happen over the winter? And I'm sure they'll blame it on the squatters (just like Lister).

This city is starting to get to me!
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  #10  
Old Posted Nov 3, 2007, 1:39 PM
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you're not the only one. i'm usually good for 3-4 years at a time and then i have to leave. i always come back, though. i always come back.
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  #11  
Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 1:47 PM
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POSSIBLE SALE OF LISTER AND CONNAUGHT??

http://900chml.com/news/news_local.c...news_local.cfm
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  #12  
Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 3:19 PM
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Just make sure y'all brush up on your Connaught history...

http://forums.uncharted.ca/about90-15.html
http://www.uncharted.ca/content/view/228/35/

Now that Stinson has replaced the ex-priest as the 'front-man', the story might get too big before you have a chance to catch up.
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  #13  
Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 7:46 PM
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yea we know....some of that stuff was posted on a different thread in this forum last week.
welcome to the world of development in Hamilton....sounds like Italy eh?
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  #14  
Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 8:20 PM
markbarbera markbarbera is offline
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Angry

Qualify that last comment please, RTH. The development scene in Hamilton may have elements that may be similar to organized crime, but not a specific nation. Many nations have an organized crime element, why say Italy? Would it be okay to say 'sounds like Russia', 'sounds like Jamaica', or 'sounds like Korea'? There are as many honest, law abiding citizens in Italy as there are in any of these other countries, including Canada. Why perpetuate bigotry?
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 9:16 PM
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God I hope Stinson buys the Lister and Connaught. LIUNA and Hi Rise are nothing but big talkers.

Stinson said on CHML today that people will pay a premium to live/work in an older renovated building that has character and class. So redevelop the Lister to its original state and sell the space as residential units over retail. He said 'give the market a chance to prove it'. He talked to the local developers the usual suspects and all they say is "you can't build that in Hamilton, nobody wants that" He replies "have you ever tried" and they of course haven't. They just keep perpetuating the same old song in Hamilton that you can't do that here... blah blah blah. but no one has ever tried.

So Harry will come along and prove those deadbeats wrong. Build big Harry Build Big. PLEASE. One King West for the Hammer. or the Sapphire. something to give us a new tallest.
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 9:33 PM
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Originally Posted by markbarbera View Post
Qualify that last comment please, RTH. The development scene in Hamilton may have elements that may be similar to organized crime, but not a specific nation. Many nations have an organized crime element, why say Italy? Would it be okay to say 'sounds like Russia', 'sounds like Jamaica', or 'sounds like Korea'? There are as many honest, law abiding citizens in Italy as there are in any of these other countries, including Canada. Why perpetuate bigotry?

My family is from Italy and it's common knowledge who all the 'mob' guys are and how powerful they are. More powerful than the police in the area of Sicily we come from.
Perhaps there are areas in Russia or elsewhere with a similar mob history/present, but I'm not knowledgable enough to know. Obviously no bigotry intended...my main point was how eerily similar a lot of the backroom dealings are, and the number of unsavoury characters that hang out with our development industry and city hall leaders. My wife can share stories of the mob coming through their homes and every home in the area tearing everything apart looking for someone. Obviously it's not that bad here, but you'd have to bury your head to not know of Hamilton mob history and very much alive mob present
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 9:36 PM
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Originally Posted by realcity View Post
God I hope Stinson buys the Lister and Connaught. LIUNA and Hi Rise are nothing but big talkers.

Stinson said on CHML today that people will pay a premium to live/work in an older renovated building that has character and class. So redevelop the Lister to its original state and sell the space as residential units over retail. He said 'give the market a chance to prove it'. He talked to the local developers the usual suspects and all they say is "you can't build that in Hamilton, nobody wants that" He replies "have you ever tried" and they of course haven't. They just keep perpetuating the same old song in Hamilton that you can't do that here... blah blah blah. but no one has ever tried.

So Harry will come along and prove those deadbeats wrong. Build big Harry Build Big. PLEASE. One King West for the Hammer. or the Sapphire. something to give us a new tallest.

He made it quite clear today that he will build big. He said he's got no use for small projects. Did a small infill in TO and said it was just as big a hassle as his mega-towers.
Your dream of a new tallest might be coming to pass....and a LOT sooner than I expected.
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 9:39 PM
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every culture and country has OC. Mark took a particular offense, I know RTH and he's the opposite of a bigot. We do need to be sensitive re: cultural issues. Remember DiIanni taking it from Fred at his roast.. totally uncalled for and unfair.
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 9:45 PM
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thanks Realcity, and once again, I certainly intended no harm. I guess it's not a taboo topic for our family...at family gatherings someone always has the newest batch of mob stories to share from back home. Everyone laughs and has a good time....we don't sit around talking about those 'blankety-blank Italians' That'd be us! lol.
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2007, 9:55 PM
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Yeah I heard him say that about small projects. He said they're just as much work as big projects. So why bother with small?

Hamilton are you listening? Stop saying mega-projects don't/won't work. They damn work well. NYC downtown was shithole until they built the World Trade Center and it seeded the entire area. Little fuckin parkettes and planters aren't going to change anything. If we are going to take babysteps then take big babysteps and take one every week. Not a small baby step once every mayoral term and think that's enough to transform downtown.

Do it Harry. Go Big in the Hammer.
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